Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Address to the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Friday, July 27, 2001  •  Speech

Thank you Massey.  It is always good to be introduced by a true friend.

Members of the Legislature, our friends in Congress, Hispanic business owners, my fellow Texans: the face of Texas is changing, and tonight, as I look out into this audience, I see many of the faces that represent that change.

I see business owners who pour every ounce of energy into building a better community through jobs and opportunity, I see proud parents and grandparents whose children and grandchildren may one day find the cure for cancer, inspire future generations of Texans in the classroom, or run the family business that will keep this economy growing.

I see, in this room, a Texas of boundless energy and fresh ideas, a Texas committed to safe communities and good schools, a Texas that is more and more Hispanic with each passing day.

For Texas to prosper beyond our own time on this earth, there are things we must embrace now.  We must embrace our growing diversity as a source of strength and cultural enrichment, not a source of division.

We must welcome more Texans of differing backgrounds to the table of ideas, and to positions of leadership.

And we must stand united behind an agenda of opportunity for every citizen regardless of their financial means, or the sound of their last name.

As a diverse people, we do have differences.  But there is more that unites us as Texans than could ever divide us. 

Who among us does not yearn to be successful and to live the American Dream?  Who among us is not worthy of a good education, and a future as bold and vivid as our capacity to dream?  Who among us does not long for a Texas where our children can thrive, and accomplish things greater than ourselves?

Yes, we may be Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Asian and Anglo, but we are all Texans, and we are united in our common humanity.

This place we all call home, this land we call Texas, must be a haven of opportunity, and a place where people are empowered to pursue the course they will chart.

Empowerment begins with education, and ends without education.  Education is the foundation for success.  With that foundation, a Texan of the most meager means is empowered to rise above their current station in life, and enjoy the fruit of a free society.

I stand before you today, as your governor, first and foremost by the grace of God.  But I also stand before you the son of tenant farmers, and part of the first generation of my family to attend college.  My education has opened countless doors to opportunity.

I work from a very simple premise, whether you live in Dallas, San Antonio or along the Rio Grande, you should have the same access to a quality education in the Texas of the 21st Century.

That starts with good public schools where classrooms are conducive to learning. 

Education has been, and always will be, my top priority as long as I have the honor of serving you in public office.

In 1999, when I served as your lieutenant governor, I initiated a Master Reading Teacher program that recognizes reading is the building block for all later learning.

A child that can master the fundamentals of reading is prepared to take on the principles of math and the theories of science.

This session, we built on our successes in reading, focusing special attention on math.  The Math Initiative that a bipartisan group of legislators overwhelmingly passed focuses on the critical fifth through eighth grade years when children are either prepared to take on tougher courses like algebra, geometry and eventually calculus, or they are left behind, frustrated more and more by those harder math disciplines, and in many cases tempted to drop out.

The Math Initiative gives those struggling students the extra help they need.  When a child drops out, he or she not only drops out of school, they drop out on their future.

Over the last two sessions, we had other landmark accomplishments in public education.  In 1999, we raised salaries for every teacher, counselor, librarian and school nurse by $3,000.  And just recently, we created a $1.3 billion teacher health insurance program that will keep more of our best and brightest making a difference where it matters most: in the classroom.

By improving teacher benefits, providing record increases in school funding, expanding remedial education, and continuing to raise standards while reaffirming local control, we have seen measurable progress in Texas public schools, and it is our children who will reap the benefits for years to come.

Success in Texas, however, does not stop with a high school diploma, it only begins there.  We must encourage our children to pursue the kind of success that comes when they get a college education.

It is not good enough that only one in five Texans has a bachelors or graduate degree, and that an even smaller percentage of Hispanic Texans are participants in advanced education.

In a Texas where knowledge is power, a college degree is the ticket to opportunity.

In 1999, we created the TEXAS Grant Program that says to every young Texan, “we don’t want your future to be limited because your finances are limited.”  And I am proud to say that the most important thing we did this past session is triple funding for this worthwhile program so an additional 65,000 deserving Texans will be able to achieve their dreams.

We also expanded opportunities for Texans to pursue engineering and computer science degrees, the coursework that will prepare them for the jobs of the future. 

And we expanded opportunities for Texans to attend technical and community colleges so more of our citizens can get a skill that will lead to better opportunity. 

Higher education should be open to all, not just an elite few.  It must be responsive to the needs of our growing and changing population, and it must continue to push the envelope of excellence and innovation.

That growing and changing population includes children of undocumented workers, young boys and girls that we serve in our public schools because it is the right thing to do.

I believe it is time they get the same treatment in our colleges and universities.  I signed House Bill 1403 so that young Texans who graduated from our public schools, regardless of their immigration status, will be able to pay in-state tuition and take part in the Texas Dream.

We want bright, new Texans to stay here, and contribute great things to our future.

We also want to ensure Texans of all backgrounds participate in graduate and professional degree programs.  A new law I signed will ensure that graduate schools give weight to socio-economic conditions of applicants seeking entry into their schools, not just test scores.  That is good public policy that will make a difference for Texans from all walks of life.

This last session was also good in terms of expanding access to quality health care.

By simplifying the Medicaid enrollment process, hundreds of thousands of our children will be insured.  They will be exposed to routine and preventative care, and they will be healthy and learning in the classroom.

Between Medicaid simplification, and the new Children’s Health Insurance Program, our poorest young Texans will receive the care they need when they need it.
Residents of the border region will also benefit from a new telemedicine program that will hook them up to specialists in cities hundreds of miles away.  These doctors will be able to diagnose, and recommend treatment, for illnesses that too often go untreated, conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

We also created a colonia road building program that, if approved by voters this November, will help address the infrastructure needs of some of our poorest neighbors.

How can we tell our children to reach for the stars if they cannot reach the classroom after a downpour washes out their roads and keeps the school buses out?

Increases in border infrastructure, health care and education could be as much as $360 million over the next two years.

We addressed the transportation concerns of Texans all over the state.

If voters approve, as I hope they will, we will have a new bonding program to get more roads built sooner.

Just recently I also asked the Texas Department of Transportation to accelerate numerous projects eight years ahead of schedule…$100 million of which would address infrastructure needs along the border and in South Texas.

Every hour you spend stuck in traffic is an hour you could have spent with a loved one or a friend, at a child’s baseball or soccer game, or at your place of worship making a difference for your community.

I have also made a top priority of my administration the expansion of trade and commerce between Texas and Mexico.

We share more than a common border with the people of Mexico, we share a common culture, and a common hope: that more of our people would prosper through new opportunities.

This past March I met with eight Mexican governors to discuss trade, and common areas of concern.  And I can promise you this: I will continue to look south as we continue to seek new opportunities through trade and commerce to the benefit of all of our people.

I mentioned earlier bringing people of different backgrounds to the table of ideas.

I am mindful of one such individual tonight, a Texan from Laredo who is where he is today because the doors of higher education were open to him.

The son of a field worker, Henry Cuellar set his sights on a better tomorrow.  He started with an associates degree, then a bachelors degree, and later a law degree, masters degree and a Ph.D.

Where would the Henry Cuellar’s of this world be if it were not for educational opportunity?

But rather than focusing on what fate he would have encountered, I am proud to mention the fate he earned, becoming your Secretary of State, and my very first appointee.

I will always look to bring to the table of ideas people of impeccable character, people with fresh ideas and a unique perspective, people who represent Texas.

Henry Cuellar, Patrick Cordero, Max Yzaguirre, Adrian Arriaga, Hope Andrade, these are just some of the extraordinary Texans I have called on to serve this state, and who have answered that call with integrity and skill. 

And I want you to be the first to know that these Hispanic leaders will be joined by another strong leader for Texas who will serve on the board overseeing the Texas Department of Economic Development, Massey Villareal.

These leaders are part of a new Texas, and they represent a new day for this state because they invigorate our democracy with fresh blood and new ideas.

I want to join with each one of you in this room tonight, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, to endeavor to make our every today worthy of tomorrow, to draw upon your ideas, and to utilize your skills to make that tomorrow worthy of the children who will inherit it.  Thank you, and God bless you.

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