February 24, 1995 College Station, TX
Twenty-seven years ago, I drove to College Station, Texas, in a used
Mercury with a back seat full of books to start what would be a
13-year teaching career and a lifelong love affair with Texas
A&M University. It was here that I met and courted and married my
wife, Wendy Lee Gramm. It was here that my two sons were born. It was
here that I came and asked you to send me to Congress. It was here
that I came back and asked you to let me trade in that little shovel
that I was working with in the House for a bigger shovel in the
United States Senate.
And I have come back today to ask you for a final promotion, and I've
come to ask you for that promotion based on the work that I have done
in the House, the work I have done in the Senate and my commitment to
see the job through until it's done.
On Nov. 8, in the most decisive election since 1932, the American
people said to their government, "Stop the taxing. Stop the spending.
Stop the regulating." And they will be stopped. But our job is not
finished. We are one victory away from changing the course of
American history. We're one victory away from getting our money back
and our freedom back and our country back, and that victory is a
victory over Bill Clinton in 1996.
With a love for America and a resolve to make her right again, I
today declare myself a candidate for president of the United States.
I'm running for president because I believe that if we don't change
the policy of our government, if we don't change it soon, if we don't
change it dramatically, in 20 years we're not going to be living in
the same country that we grew up in.
In 1950, the average American family with two little children sent
one out of every 50 dollars it earned to Washington, D.C. Today that
family is sending one out of every four dollars it earns to
Washington, D.C. And if nothing changes soon, it's going to be one in
The odds that a boy born in America in 1974 will be murdered are
higher than the odds were that a serviceman serving in World War II
would be killed in combat. Last year over half of the children born
in our big cities were born out of wedlock, and if this trend
continues as it is, illegitimacy will be the norm and not the
exception in America.
I think the frightening but inescapable conclusion of any honest look
at where we are as a nation has got to lead us to believe that we're
either going to change the way we do our business or else we're going
to lose the American dream.
There comes a time in the lives of families and businesses and even
in the lives of great nations where you have to either face up to
your problems or you're overwhelmed by them. I believe now is such a
time for America. As a nation, we face tough choices. But those
choices are no tougher than the choices that are faced up to and
dealt with by working families and by businesses every day in
We have watched politicians for 30 years wring their hands about the
budget deficit, but all we have to do to balance the federal budget
is to freeze government spending at its current level and keep it
there for three years.
Now, I ask you, how many businesses represented here today have had
to go through a tougher restructuring than that just to keep your
doors open? How many families here today or families in your hometown
have had to make tougher decisions than that when a job was lost or
when a parent died? The difference is that families and businesses in
America live in the real world. Our government has not lived in the
real world for 40 years. And if I become president, that's going to
We need a leader that has the courage to tell our people the truth.
We need a leader who has the vision to define solutions to our
problems, solutions that people can understand and can believe in.
And we need a leader who is tough enough to get the job done. In the
next 20 months, I hope to convince the American people that I am that
I want your vote, and I mean to earn it. But I know you're tired of
promises, and I'm not asking you to accept me on faith. I want you to
hear me out. But before you decide, read my record.
As a Democrat member of the House, I authored the Reagan program.
That program cut government spending, cut taxes and ignited the
longest peacetime expansion in American history, an expansion that
created 20 million new jobs. That budget rebuilt defense and set in
place the cornerstone of a policy of peace through strength that won
the Cold War and tore down the Berlin Wall and liberated Eastern
Europe and changed the world.
Now, America and the people of my district were happy about that
leadership, but Tip O'Neill and the Democrat bosses in the House
hated it. So they took me off the Budget Committee. I felt the people
of my district were being disenfranchised. But I'd been elected as a
Democrat, and I felt if I simply changed parties and stayed in the
Congress, something I had every right to do, that there might be some
people who would feel betrayed.
So against the best political advice, including the urging of my dear
friend Lee Atwater, I resigned from the Congress, came back home and
ran again as a Republican. No Republican had ever gotten more than a
third of the vote in my district. But on Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12,
1983, I defeated 10 Democrats and I went back to Washington to finish
As a freshman senator, when nobody else wanted to face up to the
deficit, Warren Rudman and I wrote the Gramm-Rudman law, which was
the only effort in a generation to do something about the deficit.
And until Congress repealed it in 1990, it did bring the deficit down
and it did slow down the rate of growth in government spending.
And last year, in the darkest hour of the health care debate, when it
looked like Bill Clinton was about to convince America that it made
sense to tear down the greatest health care system the world had ever
known to rebuild it in the image of the post office; when pollsters
were saying it was political suicide to take on the Clinton health
care bill head-on, when 20 Republican senators had signed on to a
big-government compromise that raised taxes, I stood up and said, "The
Clinton health care bill is going to pass over my cold, dead political
I am happy today to say that my political body is alive, the
president's health care bill is deader than Elvis - and Elvis may be
back but the president's health care bill will not be back.
To paraphrase an old country and western song, I was conservative
before conservative was cool. As president, I will balance the federal
budget the way you balance your family budget and the way you balance
your business' budget, and I will do it by setting priorities. And
where no is the right answer, I will say no.
I will look at every program of the federal government and I will
submit it to one simple test. It is a test that by the end of this
campaign every person in every city and town in America will know and
understand, and I call it the Dickie Flatt test. I call it the Dickie
Flatt test in honor of a printer from Mexia that you know because he
introduced me here today. Many of you have met him and know him. Many
of you have heard me speak about him. He works hard for a living. His
print shop is open till 6 or 7 every week night, open till 5 on
Saturday. And whether you see him at the PTA or the Boy Scouts or the
Presbyterian Church, try as he may, he never quite gets that blue ink
off the end of his fingers.
I'm going to look at every program of the federal government and then
I'm going to think about the millions of Dickie Flatts in this
country, and I'm going to ask a simple question: Will the benefits to
be derived by spending money on this program be worth taking the money
away from Dickie Flatt to pay for it? And let me tell you something:
There are not a hell of a lot of programs that'll stand up to that
It's time for America to choose. Are we going to stay on this 30-year
spending spree and squander the future of our country, or are we going
to change policy and save the American dream? If I am elected
president, I will make balancing the federal budget my No. 1 priority
and I will not run for re-election unless I get the job done.
I want to cut government spending, I want to cut taxes, and I want to
let families spend more of their own money on their own children, on
their own businesses, on their own future.
The debate is not about how much money is going to be spent on
education or housing or nutrition. The debate is about who ought to do
the spending. Bill Clinton and the Democrats want the government to do
the spending. I want the family to do the spending. I know the
government and I know the family and I know the difference, and so do
The family is the most powerful engine for progress and human
happiness in the history of mankind, and if I become president, we
will put the family first.
Our welfare system robs poor families of self-respect. It displaces
fathers. It makes mothers dependent. And I mean to change it. I want
to ask the people - I want to ask the able-bodied men and women riding
in the wagon on welfare to get out of the wagon and help the rest of
us pull. We've got to stop giving people more and more money to have
more and more children on welfare. And we will change the welfare
system because it hurts the very people that it's supposed to help,
because it denies our fellow citizens access to the American dream.
And because we love them, we're going to help them get it back.
You know, Bill Clinton still takes the old "blame society first" for
crime. But if social spending prevented crime, Washington, D.C., would
be the safest spot on the planet. I want to stop building prisons like
Holiday Inns. I want to make prisoners work. I want 10 years in prison
without parole for possessing a firearm during the commission of a
violent crime or a drug felony. I want 20 years for discharging it,
and I want the death penalty for killing somebody.
We don't have to live in a country where we open up the newspaper
every morning and read that a robber, or a rapist, or a murder who has
been convicted five or six times is back out on the street and they
killed another child. I know how to fix that. And if I have to string
barbed wire on every closed military base in America, I'm going to put
these people in jail and keep them there.
In taking the oath of office, I will swear to uphold, protect and
defend the Constitution. Our Constitution guarantees equal justice
under law. And, as president, by executive order I will end quotas,
preferences, and set-asides. I will fight for equal and unlimited
opportunities for every American, but there will be special privilege
for no one.
The American dream - the American dream has always been the deeply
held conviction that in America we have a land of opportunity, that in
America hard work pays off, that in America you can do better than
your parents did, and your children will have an opportunity to do
better than you have done.
My wife's grandfather came to this country as an indentured laborer to
work in the sugar cane fields in Hawaii. My wife's father was the
first Asian-American ever to be an officer of a sugar company in the
history of Hawaii. And under President Reagan and President Bush, my
wife served as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,
where she oversaw the trading of all commodities and commodity futures
in America, including the same cane sugar that her grandfather came to
this country to harvest long ago. That is what the American dream is
all about. That's America in action. And it's not the story of an
extraordinary family; it's the story of an ordinary family in an
The United States of America cannot be a passive observer in world
affairs. But we can't be the world's policeman either. For our
children's sake, and for the sake of humanity, we must be the leader
of the world. And to be the leader of the world we must be strong. And
that's why I am committed to the principle that even in a world where
the lion and the lamb are about to lie down together, I want America
to always be the lion.
As president, I will stop the defense cuts. I will provide the pay and
benefits necessary to continue to recruit the finest young men and
women who have ever worn the uniform of this country. And we will
provide them with the finest training and the best equipment that
Americans can build. As president, I will never send Americans into
harm's way unless our vital national interests are at stake, and
unless our intervention can be decisive. And I will never send
American troops into command under U.N. command.
As a Texas senator, I have been called upon to console families of
young men who have given their lives in the service of our country in
Somalia and the Persian Gulf. And I want to promise you here today
that I, as president, will never send your son or daughter anywhere in
the world that I would not be willing to send my own sons.
In the postwar period we have been like a little rich kid in the
middle of a slum with a cake. And everybody's looked at this cake and
they wanted a piece of it, and we've gone around cutting off pieces,
handing it out. And people have hated us for it, because they wanted a
bigger piece than we gave them. But what we have to share with a
hungry world is not our cake, but the recipe that we use to bake that
That recipe is private property, free enterprise, and individual
freedom. And in a Gramm administration we will keep the cake and share
Unlike the current occupant of the White House, I know who I am. And I
know what I believe. And in this campaign I will speak in simple words
that everyone will understand, because I want you to know how I feel
in my heart. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, but my
mother had a dream before I was born that I was going to college. I
resisted. They kept trying to inoculate me with learning. I failed the
third, seventh and ninth grade. But my mama prodded me every step of
the way through college, to a Ph.D. in economics, because in the
America that we grew up in, mothers' dreams did not die easily.
Too many mothers' dreams are dying too easily in America today, and I
want our America back. I want it back for those of us who have known
it, and I want the American dream back for those who missed it the
first time around.
Almost 3,000 years ago, a prophet in Judea named Joel told his people,
Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
America is not through dreaming. I want an America where families are
limited only by the size of their dreams. I believe that America is
worth fighting for, and with God's help I believe that we can and will
win this fight. Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America.