Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Dumas Chamber of Commerce Annual Ag/Industrial Banquet

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Monday, November 26, 2001  •  Speech

Thank you David.  In David Swinford, the people of Moore County have a real friend.  And as chairman of the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, he is a real advocate for you.

Your Senator, Teel Bivins, is also doing outstanding work for you, especially for the school children of this state.

I want to tell you it’s good to be back where the air is clear, the stars come out at night and the people are just a little more friendly…what I call home, West Texas.

The state constitution forced me to move to Austin, but I will always call West Texas home.  Whenever I get sick of sitting in that Austin traffic, my mind wanders back to the days when I was riding that tractor on the family farm in Paint Creek and not another car was in sight.

I always enjoy getting out to rural Texas.  The values here are tried and true.  They don’t come and go with a good northern wind.

It was growing up in rural Texas where I learned lifelong lessons- that neighbors always lend a hand, that families stick together regardless of how tough times may get, and that there is nothing more sacred than your word.

Feelings of honor, duty and country run strong in our small towns, especially right now.  Have you ever been more proud to be an American?  And aren’t you glad that a good West Texan is leading this nation through this crisis.  George W. Bush gives more than us Texans comfort right now: he will not let this nation down.

In the days and weeks since that dark day in America, I have seen a side of our people that gives me great hope that the fabric of this nation is whole.  Terrorists can crumble our buildings, but they will never crumble our nation.  They may wound our hearts, but they will never weaken our will.

I am glad to see such a great turnout tonight because it tells me Texans are not bowing down to fear and panic.  We are moving forward with our lives, not in an attempt to forget the unforgettable, but to show the forces of evil that we will not willingly surrender the blessings of freedom.

I am delighted to be in the company of the hard-working business owners, the farmers and oil field workers who make this community strong.  I understand you also play a pretty mean game of volleyball out here- I hear the Dumas High Girls Volleyball Team is set to make waves in the upcoming playoffs.

As I look around this room, I see men and women sweat and toil every day to produce the corn, wheat and soybean that Texans need, as well as the oil and gas that keeps this economy moving forward.  You also pay taxes, support your local schools and do a pretty good job of supporting the pheasant hunting industry too.

The Texas economy has diversified, with the growth of technology helping to lead the way, but agriculture, and oil and gas, are still vital to Texas.  As your Agriculture Commissioner, I was a big proponent of value-added production in Texas.

We know that for every percent of value we add to our products, it means another $2 billion to the Texas economy.  If you are producing the wheat here, why shouldn’t we also turn it into bread here?  If you produce corn, why shouldn’t we also look at turning some of that corn into ethanol right here in Texas?

As Texas moves forward in aggressively luring jobs in the technology sector, we must also concentrate on making the most of our agricultural and oil and gas resources.

My number one priority will always be the education of our children.  An educated child is the best economic development tool, and the best crime prevention tool we have in this state.

Education is the critical foundation for success in life, and the great social equalizer, because it recognizes no race, ethnicity or creed.

We have seen reading scores increase after focusing greater resources on early childhood literacy.  In an economy dominated by technology, we must now do for math what we have done for reading.

The Math Initiative I proposed this last session will help transform our math classrooms.  It provides teachers with greater scientific tools to teach math, while also giving struggling students extra help so they can catch up.  It provides diagnostic testing tools to identify learning challenges, and rewards expert math teachers with a $5,000 increase in their annual salaries.

It means more children will enter high school confident to take on algebra, instead of frustrated by increasingly difficult equations.

Fifty percent of all new jobs require technology skills.  Not only will math help our young students so they are prepared for the opportunities of the future, but so will the expansion of engineering and computer science programs at our institutions of higher learning.

But before we can teach our young Texans at our colleges in universities, we need to make sure they can afford to attend.

We tripled funding of The TEXAS Grant Program to $300 million this past session recognizing that no child should be destined to underachieve simply because their family lacks the resources to pay for college.

100,000 young Texans will be able to pursue their dreams because they will be able to attend college.

This worthwhile program says to those deserving young Texans, “we don’t want your future to be limited because your finances are limited.”

As the son of tenant farmers in rural West Texas, I know the value of a college education.  It opened the door of opportunity to me, and I want every young Texan with strong resolve and a fertile mind to be able to pursue whatever dreams they may have.

Government should effectively address limited priorities, education being the most important, but infrastructure being a close second.  I won’t go into great detail about it tonight, but I hope everyone votes in the upcoming constitutional election on November 6th, and I hope you all say “yes” to propositions 2 and 15.

It’s not a bad football record, it’s a winning combination for our future, because it will build the roads we need to move people safely, and commerce reliably.

The future of this state is truly in your hands, the people who churn the engine of the economy, who volunteer in our public schools or mentor a child, and who teach your children the difference between right and wrong.

When you get down to it, there is not a Texan in this room without hopes and dreams of a brighter tomorrow.  The greatest hope for tomorrow is sitting in those classrooms right now learning their ABC’s and fractions.

Each morning they head off to school with backpack in hand, and the whole world in front of them.

We must bond together as private and public citizens, Republicans and Democrats, to make our every day worthy of their tomorrow.

Thank you, and God bless you.

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