Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks At The Texas Conference For Women

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Monday, October 18, 2004  •  Speech

Thank you, Anita.  Anita and I are honored to once again host the Texas Conference for Women, and I am pleased that this annual conference, now in its fifth year, continues to grow stronger, with 20 percent more women attending than the year before.  The reason for the success of the Texas Conference for Women is simple: Texas women recognize that this is a unique opportunity to learn, to be inspired, to network, and to share experiences, trials and triumphs with others.
There are a great number of women who deserve credit for the success of this event, so many that I can’t single out each individual, but I must recognize one: your host and First Lady, Anita Perry.  She has been a real inspiration to this event, much as she has been my inspiration for the past 22 years.  The Perry family, and the entire state of Texas, is blessed by her work.  Not too long ago Anita made a difficult decision, one I fully support, when she re-entered the workforce to take a job with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.  She is helping women who have been victimized by a cycle of violence, women who need help in picking up the pieces of their lives, and I can’t think of a better person for the job than the First Lady of Texas.

This conference achieves a powerful goal, helping the women of this great state to find greater purpose, fulfillment and success in life.  It has been such a success that a few of my male friends have started ribbing me about starting a Texas Conference for Men.  I can only imagine some of the seminar topics at a conference for men: such as “Expanding your mind: techniques to memorize even more useless sports statistics.”  Or “The foundations of effective communication: what we can learn from the Three Stooges.”  Of course, if it were organized by women, the men’s conference might be a little different, with course titles like: “Overcoming addiction:... how to let go of the remote control.”  Or “Developing true courage: asking for directions is not a sign of weakness.” 

Despite some of the commonly perceived, stereotypical differences in the ways men and women see the world, I believe that fundamentally we have common goals that supersede those differences.  We all want a good education for our children, safe and vibrant neighborhoods for our families, and greater economic opportunity in the workplace.  We all want the chance to live the American dream, and to leave this earth a better place for future generations.  As the father of a wonderful son and daughter, Griffin and Sydney, I want nothing more than to give both of them every opportunity to achieve their dreams. 

Our daughter Sydney is at a key point in her life, a high school senior preparing for college and facing the many major decisions that come at the age of 18.  As a parent, my job is to give her the love, support and encouragement she needs to make the right decisions.  And though I fall short of the goal of being a perfect parent, I want the very best for her, and there is nothing that Anita and I wouldn’t do for her.  I believe every parent in this room would say the same thing, we want the best for our children.  And that certainly is the goal of a governor. 

In some respects, being governor of Texas isn’t that much different from being a dad.  The decisions you make are closely reviewed, and often questioned.  Unfortunately, I can’t tell the critics to go to their room.  All I can do as governor is what each parent here does every day, try to do what is right.  And one of the things I strongly believe is right for our children is for them to learn the basics of reading, writing and math so that they succeed in their education, and later in life

I feel strongly that, this high-tech economy, our students must be grounded in the sciences, computer science, and the latest innovations of the information technology revolution.  We must work to make sure young women are as attracted to the sciences as young men.  Otherwise, a gender gap in the sciences will only serve to perpetuate a salary gap among the next generation of workers.  The global marketplace places a premium on technical skills.  That doesn’t mean we should stop teaching English, the arts and history.  There will always be a need for poets, painters and professors.  But the data shows our economy is increasingly dependent on engineers, lab technicians and technology experts.  And regardless of the field, our economy will always depend upon entrepreneurs, people who risk capital and ideas to start and grow a business.

Texas is proud to have over 430,000 businesses owned by women that generate more than $105 billion in annual sales, employers like Fiesta Mart, which was founded by Trinidad Mendenhall and her late husband over thirty years ago in Houston.  Today, over 50 Fiesta Marts employ more than 6,500 Texans.  Today we are joined by Mrs. Mendenhall, as well as Mary Meyers Rosenfeld, a Russian immigrant who has spent a lifetime helping Texans cope with mental disabilities.  Yesterday, they joined Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs and basketball legend Sheryl Swoopes as inductees to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.  Please join me in recognizing these outstanding Texas women.

Across this state, in the boardrooms of corporate America, in the classrooms of our public schools, in hospitals and home offices, we find women who exemplify everything Texans strive to be: compassionate, hardworking, and dedicated to the cause of making Texas a better state.  Many are pioneers, blazing trails that were once exclusively the domain of men.  Each is a role model, and all are making the workplace a woman’s place.

To the young women in this audience who have yet to embark on a career, you need only to look around this hall to see ample role models in a variety of fields.  They show you are limited only by your ability to dream, dare and do.  Whatever path you are on in life, I want you to know you are in the right place on this day.  Learn as much as you can, and take advantage of the opportunity to get to know other women here who have been in your shoes. 

Second, please know that the State of Texas has resources available to help.  The Governor’s Commission for Women exists to promote opportunity for Texas women through outreach, education, and referral services, not just at conferences like this one, but on a daily basis.  The goal of the Commission for Women is to empower the women of today to shape the destiny of tomorrow.  They can help you start a business, locate a professional mentor, or find the support you need to get through a major life challenge.

Ultimately, this conference is about building a better future for the women of Texas.  We are all a product of our past, but we can’t change one moment in that past.  What we can do, and must do, is live for the future by making the most of each day.  I believe in a Texas that is less concerned about where you come from than where you are going, a state that cultivates every dream and every ambition without concern for your family’s heritage or income.

As I close, let me leave you with this thought.  We are blessed to live in a country where we are all free to take the path of our choosing, where we can chase our dreams without fear of failure knowing that America is the land of second chances.  If you think about it, America was founded on such a notion.  People left every inhabited continent to get a second chance in life, and while they were at it, that diverse breed we call “Americans” gave birth to the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

Each of us faces obstacles in life.  Each of us can point to past stumbles, and even find a critic or two that still points to those stumbles.  But as Teddy Roosevelt reminds us, “it’s not the critic that counts.”  Courage is not the power to criticize but to overcome our fears and obstacles for a worthy cause.  Or as John Wayne put it, “being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” 

I believe in the life-transforming power of redemption.  That idea is central to my faith, and proven each day by heroic men and women who overcome difficulties, addictions and past mistakes to claim a better life and a brighter future.  For so many, the American Dream represents a new day.  And every day represents one more opportunity to live that dream.  One of the great things about the American Dream is that it is not uniquely American, it is truly the hope of all who desire to fulfill their God-given potential as free men and women. 

Our next speaker is a remarkable woman who can testify to the power of that idea, that freedom is the most basic right worthy of all humankind.  Rend al-Rahim was selected by the Iraqi Governing Council to be Iraq’s representative in Washington in 2003.  A native of Iraq, former representative al-Rahim founded the Iraq Foundation and has served as its executive director since 1991, where she has worked with Iraqi communities in the United States, Europe and the Middle East to bring about change in her native land.

In her public comments she has challenged the world community to consider the establishment of democracy in Iraq not only in terms of the benefits it would bring the Iraqi people, but that entire region of the world.  Success in Iraq, she has said, would “disprove the canard that democracy is not a realistic proposition for Muslims or Arabs.”  As we know, the situation in Iraq remains volatile.  And though former representative al-Rahim had every intention of joining us today, she was unexpectedly called back to Baghdad by Prime Minister Allawi.  But nonetheless, she wanted to share a message of hope today, and we’re making that message available to you through a video she recently recorded.

Ladies and gentlemen, the former Iraqi representative to the United States, Rend al Rahim.

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