Jeb delivers most substantive, reformist speech at CPAC
Jeb Bush is addressing the CPAC Ronald Reagan Dinner tonight. So far, the crowd is attentive, but quiet, because this is no standard red meat CPAC speech. Nor is the former Florida governor a strong speaker. Never has been. Still, His was the most substantive and reform-minded speech I've heard so far.
"Our central mission as conservatives is to reignite social and economic mobility in this country."
Here's the text as prepared for delivery:
Sam, thanks very much for that kind introduction. I want to especially thank my
old friend Al Cardenas for his selfless dedication to the American conservative
union and the conservative cause.
It’s a pleasure to be here tonight at a dinner honoring one of America’s greatest
presidents – Ronald Reagan.
I’d like to begin by expressing my deepest appreciation for the kind thoughts
and prayers for my dad. He got out of the hospital a little more than a month
ago. As he so aptly said, “put away the harps!” He’s back at home and doing
well. His only problem now is that his current care provider won’t be pampering
him like the nurses in the hospital. Her name is Barbara Bush and she is tough!
This is proof positive that no matter what your age, and even if you were once
the leader of the free world, life has a way of keeping us humble.
Sometimes in our lives we even get to cross that thin line between humbling and
A couple of weeks ago Peter Hamby of CNN tweeted a picture of me from 1970
with what appeared to be a catcher’s mitt on my head.
I still have that sport coat, by the way.
Hamby felt compelled to comment on my hairstyle and said that I was wearing a
mullet. I responded, of course, that it wasn’t a mullet, just an unruly head of
Hamby’s response was even better. He said, “Technically you’re right. There’s a
party in the front and a party in the back.”
I find Hamby’s comment strangely relevant to us tonight because, if you think
about it, the same could be said of the Republican Party.
We used to be the party in the front.
After the last election, we’re the party in the back.
The question is: how do we get to be the party in the front again?
That’s what I’d like to talk about tonight. How do we start once again to elect
Republican Presidents in the mold of the great man we honor tonight? But before
we answer that question, I’d like to share some of the things I have observed
As some of you may know, I had the privilege of serving as Florida’s governor
for eight years, but since 2007 I’ve been involved in education reform and
pursuing business opportunities that take me around the globe.
I travel a lot, and I’ve seen firsthand the explosive economic growth in places like
China, Singapore, and Brazil. In some of their cities on any given day you can
see dozens of cranes building modern skyscrapers, and the streets bustle with
people alive with the energy of commerce and innovation.
When I return home, the mood is different.
Different and worse.
Americans have the sense that our economy is fragile, its rewards are unfairly
tilted toward the few, and that the greatest prosperity in this century will be
enjoyed by other people in other lands and not by our own children.
But tonight I’m here to tell you that this conclusion is 100% wrong. We
potentially find ourselves at the threshold of our nation’s greatest century. We
can, as President Reagan did, restore, "The great, confident roar of American
progress and growth and optimism."
Tonight as surely as you sit here the fundamentals are aligning in a way that
could allow us to race past our global competitors
And usher in a true American Renaissance for the next hundred years. It’s there
for the taking if we have the courage to grab it and push beyond the problems
that now divide us.
Consider the facts.
Take energy. With our new drilling technologies, America will soon have an
energy surplus. This means trillions of dollars in new wealth for Americans and
a foreign policy not overly influenced by oil.
How about food? America will be the Saudi Arabia of grain in a century when the
world is clamoring for more food. Just as crude oil determined the wealth and
power of nations in the latter part of the last century, food will do so in this
Technology. Wireless communication, artificial intelligence, and rapid advances
in life sciences are transforming at a breathtaking pace every facet of American
business and daily life.
Manufacturing jobs that were shipped to china a decade ago are now returning
to America, but this time the work is being performed by our robots. But, the
good news is that they’re our robots built in America by American workers and
along with low energy costs, create the potential for a new wave of
manufacturing jobs in this country.
Entire classes of diseases are on the verge of being eradicated by manipulating
individual molecules on the surfaces of living cells.
Driverless vehicles will flawlessly move people and products across our
highways, never getting lost, never having accidents. Already a prototype
driverless car has traveled more than 300,000 miles in the crowded maze of
California streets without a single accident.
3d printing machines are being developed and downscaled for home use that
will allow you to instantly create thousands of objects at the touch of a button.
Already cars are being designed and built that are printed from a computer.
Or how about our youthful potential? As a nation, if we get immigration right,
we’re going to stay young. By 2050 china will have more old people than
America has people.
America remains younger than all industrialized nations.
These are but a few of our advantages, and collectively they point toward a
century of prosperity and world leadership that is unparalleled in human
But, there is a very dark cloud on the horizon. All of these advantages are at risk
if the federal government continues on its arc of irresponsibility.
Our federal spending addiction and a lackluster system of public education are
the two greatest impediments to achieving our potential in this century.
Conservatives have the solutions to these problems, and liberals have proposals
that only make them worse. I know. As governor of Florida I balanced our
budget for eight years in a row while cutting taxes every year, and I have
dedicated much of my adult life trying to revolutionize our schools so they serve
children and parents and not an indifferent bureaucracy.
But you must know this: all of our successes at the state level can be undone if
we continue to lose presidential elections.
We’ll forfeit our ability to chart a better future for our republic. This would be
tragic in every sense of the word.
And so when I think about our options going forward, I think about Sam
Palmisano who was kind enough to introduce me tonight. As you know, Sam is
the former CEO of IBM and probably the best CEO in America in the last decade.
Sam’s also just a great human being. Easy to talk to, but also a visionary and a
leader. Sam told me an amazing story.
He was deeply involved in assembling the team that created Watson, a
supercomputer that can understand natural language with all the ambiguities
associated with human speech. Watson can breeze through more than 200
million pages of text to find an answer in less than three seconds.
So what do you do when you have this amazing capability at your fingertips?
Naturally, you appear on a TV game show! Watson competed on the game show
jeopardy and easily defeated the all-time human champion, Ken Jennings.
Do you know what Watson is doing today? Watson is saving lives. Watson is
now being used in research hospitals like Sloan-Kettering to diagnose and
suggest treatment options for desperately ill cancer patients. Watson is able to
look at all the available information, listen closely, and make critical medical
recommendations without the personal biases that afflict mere mortals.
The thing that most astounds me is that Watson can learn from its past mistakes,
and every decision it makes helps the next decision to be a little more accurate.
The first round of jeopardy ended with Watson tied for first place with $5,000 in
winnings. By the time the second match ended Watson had won over $77,000.
Ken Jennings had won only $24,000. A little scary, right?
Well, I wonder what Watson would say if he brought all that computing power
to bear on the political future of the Republican Party?
First, Watson would probably note that Republicans lost the popular vote in five
of the last six presidential elections.
In those six elections Watson would be quick to point out that non-Republican
candidates received a total of 26,220,840 more votes than our Republican
candidates. That’s a staggering number.
How can that be?
If Watson were to read the blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts that mention the
Republican Party, it would find that all too often we’re associated with being
“anti” everything. Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-
immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker…and the list goes on.
Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates because those voters
feel unloved, unwanted and unwelcome in our party.
And so tonight my thought is this: if Watson can learn from its past mistakes, so
This means that we must move beyond the divisive and extraneous issues that
currently define the public debate. Never again can the Republican Party simply
write off entire segments of our society because we assume our principles have
limited appeal. They have broad appeal.
We need to be larger than that.
For exactly the same reason that millions of immigrants were drawn to our
shores from every nation, we need to draw into our party people from every
corner of society because conservative principles, and not liberal dogma, best
reflect the ideals that made this nation great. We should be united in the
principle that everyone should be given the opportunity to rise to the top, to
raise a family, and to be free. Our core principles --greater individual
responsibility, more personal freedom, smaller and more effective government
— are the only principles that can offer our children the full measure of their
potential in the greatest of American centuries.
I’m here to tell you there is no ‘us’ or ‘them.’ The face of the Republican Party
needs to be the face of every American, and we need to be the party of inclusion
and acceptance. It's our heritage and it's our future and we need to couch our
efforts in those terms.
As Republicans, we need to get re-acquainted with the notion that the
relationships that really matter are not made through twitter and social media.
Real relationships take time to grow, and they begin with a genuine interest in
the stories, dreams and challenges harbored within each of us.
When I ran for governor in 1998, a woman named Berthy Aponte, the mother of
a developmentally disabled child and at the time a complete stranger to me,
stood up in a meeting and challenged me to help children like hers. I’m sure I
said something pleasant in response, but it wasn’t good enough for Berthy. She
wouldn’t let me up for air. Over the months that followed I traveled south
Florida with Berthy and visited group homes and talked to parents who feared
nothing more than having their disabled child outlive them and become the
ward of an uncaring state. When I became governor, we had a renewed focus on
helping the developmentally disabled, and in elevating their lives I found that
we elevated the lives of all Floridians. All this flowed from my personal
connection with Berthy.
We used to be the party that understood personal connections matter. We need
to be that party again.
And when we speak to people and make the case for conservative principles,
you should know that the happy exception does not always prove the rule. It is
not a validation of our conservative principles if we can only point to the
increasingly rare individual who overcomes adversity and succeeds in America.
Here’s reality: if you’re fortunate enough to count yourself among the
privileged, the rest of the nation is drowning. In our country today, if you’re
born poor, if your parents didn’t go to college, if you don’t know your father, if
English isn’t spoken at home, then the odds are stacked against you. You are
more likely to stay poor today than at any other time since World War II.
Unfortunately, the great tragedy of the past decade is that liberals have
channeled the anger and frustration that comes from this oppressive dynamic
and used it as an opportunity to attack the very idea of success itself. In their
view, anyone who has climbed to the top 1%, top 10%, or top 20% has committed
some form of gross social breach, and they deserve our scorn.
This is enormously short-sighted because in a fair capitalist system, financial
success should be the by-product of innovation and achievement, and without
innovation and achievement we no longer move forward as a nation.
And so our central mission as conservatives is to reignite social and economic
mobility in this country. It's called the right to rise. There are many facets to our
mission, but let me briefly mention four.
First, we need to reestablish in America the idea that success is a good thing.
Rather than being viewed with distaste and suspicion, success desperately needs
to be cool again. We need to offer the citizens of our nation role models who
demonstrate that success isn’t about taking. It’s about creating something where
nothing before existed. It’s about the way wealth ripples from a bold idea to
spread to every part our nation.
Second, we need to equip every child with the best tools to rise. Each child in
America deserves the best education on the planet. Why not? We’re already
paying for it. We spend more per pupil than any other country in the world.
And yet, our kids frequently rank in the bottom quartile on math and science
scores. I could stand here all night and tell you about the details of a system that
will get us there --don’t worry, I remember I’ve got only 25 minutes—but we
need to have the leaders and the authority to put that system in place.
Somewhere in America a child is being born who will design and build the next
and better version of Watson. His or her creation may save your life or the lives
of your children and grandchildren.
It may save the lives of millions. The tragedy is that for every child who reaches
their full abilities, who builds that Watson, there are a hundred who could have
done the same thing but are stuck in failing and indifferent schools. We are
squandering America’s greatest resource, and I believe only reform-minded
conservatives have the resolve to confront and end the single greatest waste of
human potential in the history of the world.
We need a transformation of education based on standards benchmarked to the
best of the world;
A system of no-excuses accountability that refuses to accept failure and that
rewards improvement and excellence; a culture based on empowering parents
with an abundance of choices for their children’s education and a deep
understanding of the transformative power of digital learning.
Third, we need to have a government that allows both small people to rise and
large businesses to fall. Government should help create a level playing field,
maximize the opportunities for the players, and then step back. This doesn’t
mean government plays no role in regulating business, but it does mean that
government doesn’t pick the winners and losers or create such huge cost that
only the large can comply.
And finally, we need to realize that each of us in the conservative movement has a
far greater role to play as a private citizen than as a part of government or as its
critic. There is a political realm and a social realm, and we shouldn’t confuse the
two. We shouldn’t rely on government bureaucracies to instill virtue in people.
Government should fill potholes. It is our individual duty to fill the holes in the
human heart. As conservatives, we need to recognize the limits of government
and the much more powerful influences of parents, churches, charities, and role
We can do so much more by setting an example and living by our principles than
by merely talking. We need to be out in our communities helping our neighbors,
mentoring our children, and demonstrating that generosity, compassion, and
human potential are immensely more powerful than a thousand government
So, I see our path forward as conservatives, and I believe the future is
extraordinarily bright. I’ll end where I started: as to the rumors of the demise of
the conservative movement, as my dad said, “put away the harps!” We have
within our grasp the means by which our country will reclaim its momentum,
leave its indelible imprint on this remarkable century, and secure a better future
Let’s do it!