Gov. Rick Perry Speaks at Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education Issue Summit
Thank you Justice Guzman. One of the great opportunities I have as governor is the ability to appoint highly qualified men and women who want to give back to this state, Texans like Justice Eva Guzman, Justice Elsa Alcala, Massey Villareal, Bob Estrada, Raul Gonzalez, Jose Cuevas, and Hope Andrade. These men and women are among the many Hispanic Texans I have asked to serve, and who have answered the call to build a better state and nation.
My vision for Texas in the 21st Century is a state that welcomes all and includes all, a state that recognizes no status or class, but the hopes and dreams of all of our people, a state that rewards hard work and sacrifice, and that allows people of every origin and creed to realize their great potential. That is my vision, not just for the Hispanic community, but for all Texans. No longer should we accept the politics of the past, the politics that divide us based on outward appearances, when we should be focused on what unites us all as Texans. We all seek to live in safe communities, to have access to good jobs and benefits, to be able to send our children to the best school possible, and when they graduate, to be able to afford to send them to college. We all want economic security as we look to the future, and, to know that if we work hard, play by the rules and save for the future, then that future will be worth saving for.
My commitment to these common hopes and dreams is rooted in who I am, and where I come from, a small farming community called Paint Creek. We didn’t have a lot of material things, but my sister and I had two parents who loved us and taught us the importance of hard work and a good education. I listened to their advice: as a member of a class of 13 students, I’m proud to tell you I finished in the top ten of my class! I was part of the first generation in my family to attend college, and after graduation I left to serve this nation in the United States Air Force. Those many experiences taught me that it’s not where you come from that matters most, but what you dare to dream about the future.
As a state, we have a vested interest in the hopes and dreams of all of our children, not just those from certain parts of town. The great social equalizer is education. An educated Texan is the best economic development tool we have. Let me say something about our public schools, we have no Republican schools, no Democrat schools, only Texas schools. Our children are more important than politics, because they represent nothing less than our future. We may disagree from time to time over issues in Austin, but we must all unite to make public education the best that it can be. Over the last four years, our public schools have received $6 billion in new funding, and our colleges and universities $3 billion in new funding. Despite a $10 billion budget gap this last legislative session we managed to increase funding for public education by $1.3 billion. We also increased funding for TEXAS Grants, the college scholarship program that allows Texans of modest means to pursue their college dreams. We have focused new resources on the teaching of core subjects, math, science and reading. According to the Princeton Review, our school testing system is one of the best in the nation. I believe we must know what our children know, and that means we must test and measure progress.
These reforms have improved Texas schools, but I am not satisfied. As long as there remain pockets of this state where children do not learn, where a diploma means little, where dropping out is preferred to staying the course, we cannot be satisfied, we must not be satisfied. As parents, business owners and community leaders, you are the stakeholders in your local schools. You have every right, and you should exercise your right, to voice concerns when children are not learning, or when you feel education dollars are not spent in the right way. As concerned citizens, you cannot take the view that someone else will address problems, if you want change, you have to be the agent of change.
HOPE was formed to mobilize Hispanic Texans to become more engaged in the political process. I am asking you to consider getting involved in a number of ways and to become agents of change. Your local schools, and your elected officials will respond to you, but only when they hear your voice. Getting involved may mean working in campaigns or even contributing to them. It also may mean running for office yourself. In a state with an Hispanic population growing leaps and bounds, we need more Hispanic leaders running for offices like school board and city council, and like my friend Orlando Sanchez, running for mayor. We need more Hispanic citizens running for state office, for the legislature, our courts, even the governor’s office, though you may want to give that last idea some time. I am always looking for leaders who are willing to serve in an appointed capacity, men and women who offer a different perspective based on different experiences. We cannot expect change unless we are milling to make change, and unless you are willing to serve. And we cannot change laws, or remove obstacles to opportunity, unless you decide to get involved.
And don’t ever fall into the cynicism of some in the media who say that we can’t change the system. We can. Let me give you a good example of how it can be done. Over the last three years, we have seen more doctors run out of this state than you could shake a stick at. Doctors across Texas have been shutting down their clinics and leaving hospitals because of frivolous lawsuits and skyrocketing insurance costs. We had a health care crisis brewing where patient access to care, especially specialist care, was in jeopardy. Neurosurgeons were leaving operating rooms, and OB-GYNs were starting to refuse to deliver newborn babies because of the cost of insurance and the risk of being sued. So we did something about it. We mobilized doctors, nurses and hospital leaders across the state to help pass needed reforms. Legislators listened and responded by passing caps on non-economic damages, those arbitrary awards for categories like pain and suffering. And we placed an important constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall, Proposition 12.
And do you know what gave Proposition 12 the margin of victory? It was the voting precincts all along the border region of Texas with large Hispanic turnout. Why? Because they got sick and tired of traveling from town to town in search of a doctor to treat their loved one’s illness. They got tired of seeing closure notices on their doctor’s door, or being told that a certain medical procedure was necessary, but they would have to go see another doctor to have it done. I have found that Hispanic Texans, like all Texans, are more interested in who will work for good policy than what political party a leader belongs to. When Texans are adversely affected by the status quo, they will support the effort and leaders that give them clear change.
We have gathered today because we want to empower and embolden your voice and your vision for the future. I want you to know that I, along with leaders like Representative Phil King and Representative Geanie Morrison, am greatly interested in what you have to say, and what issues you want addressed. My focus will always be on extending opportunity to more Texans by ensuring we have great schools and good jobs. I am working to grow this economy, not the size of government. My philosophy is that government should create an environment in which businesses and families can grow and prosper. That’s why I have opposed tax hikes. We can’t create jobs by passing the tax hikes that kill jobs. We can’t ask families to sacrifice even more just so government doesn’t have to. In tough economic times, state government should do what each of you do at home: set priorities, and fund what’s important.
My priorities have been, and will continue to be, the health and education of our children, the creation of jobs, and strong fiscal discipline with taxpayer dollars. I want to work with the men and women in this room, and Hispanics across this state, to build a better Texas. I don’t care if you’re a card-carrying Democrat, a rabid Republican, or a proud independent. What matters to me is that we work together to achieve the common good: that we improve schools where children are not learning, that we make it possible for small businesses and big businesses to hire more workers instead of having to hire more lawyers to defend themselves in court, and that we make the Texas Dream open to all, and achievable for all.
A better Texas can be built one involved citizen at a time. We need the active participation of Hispanics across Texas in the democratic process. I welcome your ideas, and value your input. Together we can make a difference for our youngest generation, and generations not yet born. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless Texas.
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