The following speech was delivered by RNC General Chairman Senator Mel Martinez at the annual State Chairmen's Meeting. He discussed the optimistic Republican vision for the future, a future in which lower taxes keep the economy growing, in which America stays on the offense in the War on Terror, and a future in which we secure our borders and reform our broken immigration laws.
Senator Martinez: Thank you all very much. Good to be with you today. Thank you, thank you very very much for the warm welcome. And thank you Mike for the very kind introduction it’s mutual we didn’t really know each other and we’ve developed, I think, a very good working partnership for the benefit of the party and I think ultimately for the benefit of our country. I’m proud to work with you in all that we do as Republican leaders at this very important time. And I also want to congratulate Chairman Dawson for a fantastic week you have hosted here for our party you’ve got to be very proud of the way the debate came off and I saw it on TV and it looked great and we’ll talk more about that too in the course of my conversation with you this morning but really thank you and kudos for a great week.
Thanks to all of the RNC staff who have worked so hard to make this meeting a success.
I want to thank most of all, all of you members of our Republican party who every single day are out there spreading what our party message is and making democracy work at the grassroots level and all that you do in your states. Recruiting candidates and volunteers and beefing up our organizations and grounds operations and for giving the special advice and counsel that you give all of us. Sometimes it comes louder than we want but for the most part it’s a good thing to have. And thank you for also talking about our vision for America, the Republican vision for America. That vision is why we’re gathered here today and why we have dedicated ourselves to the hard work that is ahead of us
In January of 1981, when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office as President for the first time, he spoke to a nation that was thirsting for new leadership …a nation that had witnessed gas lines and stagflation … that had seen the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and American hostages being held in Iran.
It was a nation that was wondering if it had lost its way.
But President Reagan knew better.
That morning, he said to the American people, “We have every right to dream heroic dreams.”
Even in challenging times – and our nation has known many of those – America stands for something wonderful and powerful.
A nation of strength … freedom … of hard work … rugged individualism … and yes, also hope.
It is part of the American spirit: the belief that no challenge cannot be met, and that the future is always bright.
Today, we as Americans are once again being challenged and tested.
And today, we must once again meet those challenges head on, with the fierce devotion and powerful optimism that has defined this nation since its founding.
On Tuesday, you saw the Republican candidates gather together here in South Carolina.
It was really an exciting night.
It’s hard not to be impressed with a slate of candidates that are out there touting our principles.
Think about what we heard them talk about:
The power of entrepreneurship … and how we can continue the historic economic and job growth of the last four years.
Individualism and self-government … and the importance of judges who understand that their job is to interpret the law, while ours is to govern ourselves.
And most importantly, how we can and must continue to protect America as we fight a very real war against a very real enemy.
What we heard on Tuesday was an optimistic vision for a bright future.
It was a Republican vision for an America that is both freer and stronger … more prosperous and more safe ... an America of compassion and also of individual responsibility … an America that can and will meet its challenges that we face head on.
Compare that to the Democrat debate a few weeks ago.
Their vision was really far different.
The Democrats talked about America as a land of disappointment and surrender.
They saw an America that was downtrodden and depressed.
In 18 months, we will elect our next President.
In 18 months, we will decide who will control and lead our Congress.
In 18 months, we will choose a vision.
And I believe that only one Party has shown it has a strong, positive vision for America.
My friends, I believe that is our Party …
… the REPUBLICAN Party …
… the Party of Lincoln, the Party of Reagan, the Party of George W. Bush …
The Party of optimism, vision, and determination … ready, willing, and able to make a real difference on the issues that matter the most to the American people.
There are many challenges we face as a nation that need our attention.
We must reduce our dependence on foreign oil, so that people like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela cannot threaten our economic vitality.
We must reform our entitlement programs, so that we do not leave our children and grandchildren buried under a debt that we have created for them.
And we have to talk about how we reform our border security and our immigration laws. And let me touch on that in a little more of a personal way. As you know, yesterday we made news by a compromise that a group of us Senators made in working with the White House. This is a subject that is very personal to me. I’m an immigrant to America. I understand what the American Dream is about. I have an understanding of what it means to become an American, to stand there one day and raise your right hand and abhor and abjure, which is what the oath say, any allegiance to any other foreign land and become an American. I respect what that means. I came to this land at the age of fifteen and I did not know a word of English. But I knew that English was the language of this country and if I was going to succeed in America, then I would have to learn the language. I know the value of not only learning the language of this country but more importantly learning what it is to be an American. And that is an essential part of what we have to have going forward as part of our immigration discussion. This country is a blessed land, a land that has welcomed immigrants to its shores from its very inception. But it’s also a country that respects the rule of law. That’s why it’s so tragic that for more than twenty years we have allowed a broken down immigration system to exist. That has then garnered in twelve million people that are living in this country illegally and living in the shadows. It’s a problem that must be fixed. I was thinking this morning how I might explain to you why we are in the mess that we are as Republicans; because we took on a tough issue. And I have to go back to the first days of this administration, I remember that as a very fresh and new to Washington person I was sitting around the Cabinet table and I remember very distinctly President Bush saying to us, at the very first days of his administration, “we are here for a limited time frame, for a limited period of time, we came here to make a difference we came here to solve problems.” See we were following a Presidency and an administration that had taken one tough problem after another and set them aside. Whether if this fellow Bin Laden was a threat or not, that wasn’t a big problem because it was too controversial and potentially too troubling so we set it aside and didn’t deal with it and like that a multiplicity of other problems. One of those problems that have piled up at our doorstep is the problem of immigration.
And this is a President who really believes that we’re there in office, in power, to make a difference. So he has chosen to tackle this issue and I give him great credit. I’ve tried to do my part to make a contribution to something that I would be a little less than honest if I didn’t, as the only immigrant in the Senate, roll up my sleeves and go to work and see what we could get done to solve a problem for this country. A problem that begs for an answer, and it’s not good enough to simply say “what you’ve done is amnesty.” It’s easy to call anything we might do amnesty what it is, is what is your solution to this difficult problem and let me try to explain to you because it’s so important that you understand what the facts are. Already this morning we’re seeing emails saying, “please email us and tell us whether you agree with this new proposal or not.” And I was thinking, “I don’t know what’s in it, how can they be telling, you know, emailing what’s in it and whether they agree with it or not.” So let me try and explain it to you. You’re so important to our party, you’re important to our President, you’re important to me. I need for you to understand what we’re trying to do. Agree or disagree here is what we’ve tried to do.
First and foremost, put border enforcement first. Build the fence, it’s being built, it takes time to acquire the land, to buy the supplies, to get the contractors, but it’s being built. Building a fence where it needs to be built across the border, hiring more border agents and doing all the things it takes to secure our border. That will take place before any of the other things that happen with this bill will take place. So border security first, Johnny Isaacson from Georgia last year insisted on some triggers. We made the mistake of not following his advice, this year we’ve taken his advice and the fact is that there will be triggers and those triggers have to be pulled before any of the other portions of the act come into effect.
The second thing is, we will have an effective tool for employers to verify whether their employees are here legally or not. There’s a way to do that. Biometrics with tamper-proof I.D. cards every employee will have to show a tamper-proof I.D. to their employer, and the employers will be held accountable and will be prosecuted if they do not adhere to the law.
Next, we’re going to create a temporary worker program for two reasons. Number one because our nation needs the temporary workers. And the second one is because if we don’t provide a safe outlet for people to come here and work where work is needed and workers want a job, we’re going to continue to have an illegal system of entry. So we’ve got to provide a relief valve, a safety valve for people to come into the country legally and that’s a temporary worker program. But the temporary worker program actually means temporary. It is not a vehicle for immigration. It is for people to come here for two years, work and return home. They can renew that for a couple more times, but each time has to go home for a year. They have to keep their nose clean and they have to be readmitted. And it has to be for a job that no American would want to take. Now there are liberals who are touting this as a terrible thing because they want this to be a vehicle for immigration. We’re going to have another way of immigrating; I’ll touch on that in a minute. There will be no amnesty for illegal immigrants. Those that are here now, the twelve million, will get a probationary card if they come out of the shadows. We need to know who they are, we need to register them, we need to check their backgrounds, we need to do a criminal background check, they need to pay a fine. If they do that, they get a probationary card. They have broken the law, they go on probation, they pay a fine. They then keep their job if they continue to do the things we ask of them, like learn English, like learn about our culture, and like continue to be employed and be a contributing part, then they can apply for what we are calling a Z visa and they can then stay here until they can renew that visa again in four years. If they want to become a citizen, there is no automatic path to citizenship. They have to return to their home country, they have to apply the legal way. If they apply legally then they will also go to the back of the line. And all those that have legally applied will be cleared out of the backlog before we let anyone who came illegally take advantage of that precious privilege of becoming an American citizen. So they will go to the back of the line. They will have an opportunity but only if they leave the country, apply outside the country by legal means and wait their turn in line in addition to fulfilling their fines and all the other requirements.
But we’re also going to strengthen the assimilation of the immigrants. I get excited about this because this is what my life has been about. It’s about becoming assimilated as an American. I did this as a fifteen-sixteen year old on the baseball field in Orlando, FL with kids that taught me how to be an American. Who would make fun of me when they would teach me some words that I later would find out from my foster mother that they weren’t what they were telling me they were. And it’s a true story, they told me bastard was a real compliment, so I went home to my foster mother and with a very sweet face I said to her, “you’re such a bastard”. And, it wasn’t a good day. Anyway, we assimilate we become Americans, we learn your humor, we know what you’re about. And we at the end of the day become a part of the American dream, and apart of this great melting pot that so many have done in so many different ways through different generations, from different parts of the world. And then you know one other thing that is so important that I have not heard one single word about on the TV’s since I came here last night, and that is we are changing the paradigm of immigration to America, which has been a family based deal. A family is important. No one knows that better than I. I spent four years separated from my family when I first came to this country. Family unification is a big deal. It’s important. But the system today is all about family. What we’re going to do is have more of a merit based system. Now you will still have a nuclear family if you come together, if they immigrate to America. Husband and wife, minor children, but today you have a no good brother-in-law who, because he’s your brother in law can come. We want to start having people come that have something to contribute to this country, that will be able to come on the merit system. The engineering minds, the people that are going to help us maintain our competitiveness in the world. We are also going to ask for people that are going to make a contribution. People will get points if they learn English. People will get points if their employer says they are doing a great job. So there will be opportunities, but it will be a merit system. It will have some points for family, but it will not be the ultimate end all. And it will end chain migration. You see one of the problems that we face is, the twelve million that are here, if they can then become citizens, they can then chain migrate four, five, six, seven members of their family. So all of a sudden the twelve million become fifty million. We couldn’t do that, so we’ve ended in this bill, chain migration. And no longer can people chain migrate and you can become a citizen and then maybe your minor child can join you, but it’s not going to be every other member of your family. That’s tough, a lot of liberals don’t like that, it’s part of what we have to do to achieve a compromise that’s going to work for America and be good for our country. I hope that gives you some information on one of the most challenging issues that we face in our Congress and in our nation today, and one that begs for a solution. Before you’re too quick to dismiss it, think what the alternative is, because there has to be another plan on the table. If we don’t pass this bill no one that is in the shadows today will come out of the shadows and be accounted for. No one that is today helping to secure the border, the economy of our country and my state of Florida, the hotels like this will require guest workers to come and do a lot of the work. So there is a lot of needs and a lot of reasons why we have to tackle this problem. It is really tearing our country apart. It is one of the ugliest moments, I mean it is really a difficult time. We as a political party have an obligation to step up and do the right thing. I support our president on this. I hope that we can have your support and I hope at least we’ll have your understanding of what the bill is about.
Now when we talk about challenges America faces there is no one greater than protecting our country from foreign enemies and we face them today.
Republicans are not naïve about what the world is all about. It’s one of the things that really appealed to me about this country because I had lived under a dictatorship, I understood tyranny, I understood there are people in the world who are just simply evil and the Republican party is one that has faced these threats head on. That’s why Ronald Reagan had the courage and that’s why President Bush has faced the Islamic Radicals that we have faced today in the way that he has faced them.
We don’t assume everybody is our friend, and that they respect the same rights we do.
On the contrary: we understand that the world is a dangerous place, and we must stay vigilant and strong.
A little more than five and a half years ago, America was attacked.
And it was not just our fellow Americans who were targeted – it was our very way of life, our freedom and our optimism.
Al Qaeda doesn’t just want to ‘make a statement.
They want to destroy this nation and everything it stands for.
Don’t take it from me or the President.
Take it from what they say themselves. The number two man in Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who said “we want to reinstate its fallen caliphate and regain its lost glory.”
They will not be satisfied until they have remade the world in their own hateful image.
And that is why we are dedicated ourselves to doing everything in our power to stop them.
Over the last six years, that has meant intelligence reform … the creation of the Department of Homeland Security … the PATRIOT Act … freezing terrorist assets … diplomatic work both public and secret … and yes, it also has meant military force. And thank goodness that our men and women in uniform are the most capable people I have ever met and they are doing a fantastic job that they are doing.
We are safer because of every single one of those actions that we have taken.
The terrorists have yet to hit us again on our own soil.
But the future requires more.
It may require a bigger military.
It may require new weapons systems abroad, and new defensive systems here at home.
It may require a new partnerships in the world.
And there is one thing it will definitely require: the leadership and determination to face down that threat and never back down.
Have you ever asked yourself why al Qaeda is making a stand in Iraq?
It is not for any thought or compassion toward the Iraqi people.
Indeed, the terrorists see the Iraqis as tools at best … or as targets at worst.
No, they are making their stand there because the vision of a free, democratic Iraq terrifies them.
And because al Qaeda knows that if they win and we withdraw … they will have a safe haven, a base of operations very similar to what the Taliban had in Afghanistan.
Which is why it amazes me to hear Democrats talk about fighting Al Qaeda, but not fighting in a civil war.
How can they not understand that Al Qaeda is the source of the civil war?
How can they not see that it is our enemies who will be victorious if we are not?
Progress in Iraq is not always obvious, but with the President’s new tactics in place, things are changing.
In Al Anbar province - by the way you may not have heard this in the media, but let me just tell you – in the Al Anbar province murders are down from a high of 108 in the week ending February 23, to just seven last week.
In the Ramadi area, we have taken more bombs and guns out of the hands of the terrorists in the first four months of this year than we did in all of last year.
More and more Iraqi religious and cultural leaders are stepping up the pressure to end the violence.
Are things perfect?
No, and no one knows that better than the President, General Patreus,and our other military leaders and the generals that are fighting this war.
But are we working toward our goals – and it is reaching those goals that will allow us to bring our men and women in uniform home safely, absolutely.
Almost fifty years ago, in his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Today, a half century later, eight Democrats are vying to wear Kennedy’s mantle.
But today it is the Republicans, once again, who understand the importance of guaranteeing the ‘survival and the success of liberty.’
It is Republicans who once again have the faith, the strength, and the vision to make that dream a reality.
Our vision for a better, brighter future is one that applies here at home as well.
Republicans have a vision of a bustling American economy in which a thousand Horatio Alger stories come true every day.
Our vision is that of the American Dream, the dream of limitless possibilities … of a bright future, in which government stays out of the way of the innovation and productivity of the hardest working people in the world.
Our vision is that of an ownership society, one in which the American people have control over their own future.
We don’t believe government can deliver that vision.
We believe the American people can.
That is why our Party and our President cut taxes for all Americans.
And we have been proven right.
Five years of strong economic growth …
More than 7.8 million jobs have been created in this tax cut economy…
Wages are up 1.3 percent in the last year alone ...
We cut taxes and got out of the American people’s way, and all over America, they are doing what they do best: working hard and achieving their dreams.
And yet our Party understands that we can and must do more to make sure our economic strength and freedom continue in the years and generations to come.
We must continue to keep taxes low, and roll back regulations that stifle entrepreneurs.
We must continue to tear down the roadblocks to home ownership for all Americans.
We must continue to expand choice in education and in health care.
We must continue to ask the question our Party has always asked: Who has the knowledge, and who has the right, to make decisions about your life: you, or the government?
We know the answer to that question, and we know that a future with more power in the hands of Americans, and less in the hands of Washington, will be a future in which our economic strength and freedom will continue to grow unabated and unchallenged.
Our opponents have a very different view.
They see dark days ahead. They see only government as the only source of help.
They see an America in which everyone is pitted against everyone else, where no one can get richer unless someone else gets poorer.
Just yesterday, they presented a budget, and that’s why I was late last night for dinner, I had to vote no on this. But this budget perfectly corresponds to their vision … a budget that includes 2.9 trillion in spending, and 400 billion dollars in tax hikes.
Our vision is brighter.
Our vision is of a nation in which dreams are being achieved every single day – and will continue to be, as long as we remember the true engine of our economy and our success: the American people.
Our vision of freedom at home doesn’t end there.
Our Party has another vision as well.
Of all the choices we just talked about, of all the freedoms we value, one towers above all the others: freedom of self-government, enshrined in our Constitution and strengthened every time one of us enters the voting booth to fulfill our sacred duty to ourselves and to our democracy.
Our Party is dedicated to protecting that freedom … which is why our Party believes in a restrained judiciary that leaves the legislating to legislators who are elected by the people.
It brings to mind a little story I want to share with you:
Early one Saturday morning, a few years ago when I was trying to make a decision about what course our future would take we were stuggling on whether I would run for the US Senate or not and on this early Saturday morning at about six AM Kitty woke me up. She had been up already for a couple of hours and she had a yellow pad in her hand and she said: “I’ve made a decision you’ve got to run for the Senate because there’s going to be a vacancy in the Supreme Court during the next term and the president is going to appoint someone to that bench and you need to be there to be a vote to support the president and to confirm the nomination of a conservative justice to our supreme court.”
So you know we put aside a lot of personal plans and perhaps even some personal desires, went back to Florida, began to campaign and the people of Florida rewarded me by honoring me as their senator.
And four weeks ago, I had the satisfaction of picking up the phone about 9:30 in the morning and saying “Kitty we made a difference, because by what we did, we were able to confirm Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, and as of today there isn’t any longer Constitutional right in America to a partial-birth abortion.” Isn’t that great.
It was an abhorrent practice, but it was also more than that. It was something that the American people through the legislative process had decided was not acceptable in our society, and wasn’t it great that we were able to then see that go to the supreme court and the Spureme Court honor the will of the people and not try to supplant their thinking, their legislating for what the people thought.
This is a victory for our vision of democracy, a vision that says that we have the right – and the responsibility – to make our own decisions in a free society.
And now we have go to fight to preserve that vision.
It is our duty to decide who will nominate the next justice to the Supreme Court.
It is our duty to choose whether we want a President who will nominate judges who will make laws … or a President who will nominate judges who will have what Chief Justice Roberts has called “the humility” to understand the role of the judiciary in our democracy.
From strength abroad … to prosperity at home … to the preservation of our democracy … there is one Party that has an optimistic view of the future.
One Party that is using its historic principles to find solutions to today’s – and tomorrow’s – problems.
My friends, there is no other than that party to be the Republican Party.
I was reminded of that recently, when I had the opportunity to take my young son Andrew to the Reagan Library out in California. It’s a beautiful setting, it looks over a valley. You saw the pictures if you saw the funeral on TV, or you might have been there yourself.
But while I was there, I couldn’t help but remind me of the greatness of that man and the greatness of what he brought to America ... his boundless optimism and his belief in the good of the man as well as the good of this nation.
His accomplishments didn’t just transform America during his term, but reverberated throughout the world, and still benefit so many even today.
Our nation is stronger today because of his vision.
Our world is brighter today because of his dreams.
Now, those visions and dreams are ours.
Our beliefs haven’t changed.
And our determination to face our challenges is as strong now as it has ever been.
So now it is our duty.
Now we will carry the Republican mantle.
And now we will look forward with hope and optimism … and dedicate ourselves to continuing to build an America in which every man, woman and child still dreams the heroic dreams of Ronald Reagan.
So thank you for having me this morning, God bless you all as you go forward to do the work of our party. Thank you.