Office of the Governor Rick Perry

East End Houston Chamber of Commerce

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

Thank you Sonny- it is always good to be introduced by a friend.  Thank you Diane for your invitation to join the members of the East End Chamber. 

Most of all, it is a tremendous honor to be in the company of the hard-working business owners and entrepreneurs of this great city.

You sweat and toil every day to create opportunities for your fellow citizens, you support your local schools as an important part of the tax base, and you are the engine of the economy.

I am proud to be in the presence of such a diverse group, we come from many different backgrounds, but we all share in the hope for a brighter future, and we’re all proud to be Americans.

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 spirit.  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.

And Texas is not standing still in this fight.  I appointed the “Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security” to asses this state’s ability to deter attacks, and to respond to an attack if one should ever occur on Texas soil.

We have also deployed members of the Texas National Guard to dozens of Texas airports.  Early reports are that this has had a calming effect on the flying public, and Texans are getting back to flying, and trying to get back to some semblance of their normal routine.

I want Texans to know that while terrorism could strike at any moment, we’re taking every precaution we can to stop them, and to protect the lives and liberty of our citizens.

It has been an exciting first nine and a half months in office as your governor. 

I believe what Texans want is a state government that is limited in its role and mission, but highly effective in addressing those limited priorities.

Not an “Austin knows best” mentality, but rather a belief that individual Texans, their families, and the government closest to them is best equipped to make decisions that affect their lives.

The things we set out to do this legislative session we accomplished with great success.

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.”

And tonight you are sending the same message to deserving high school students in the East End by raising money for college scholarships: the most significant gift you can give to a 17 or 18-year old Texan.

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.

For our children to be successful, they must not only be educated, but healthy.  By simplifying Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of poor children will have access to the preventative care and immunizations they need.  We increased Medicaid funding by $4 billion, and we also increased funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by more than $900 million.

A new telemedicine pilot project will give border residents greater access to specialists in other areas of the state, meaning that conditions like diabetes and heart disease will be treated.

We also tried to raise the standard of living for some of our poorest neighbors living in colonias. This November, if Texas voters approve Proposition 2, border counties will be able to access $175 million in bond financing to build roads in colonias.

That means after a downpour, school buses, emergency vehicles and postal trucks will still be able to drive into the colonias.  It also means fewer puddles of standing water that attract mosquitoes and pose a health hazard to all residents.
Of course, it’s not just colonia roads that need fixing.  From San Antonio to El Paso to Houston, it is time to get traffic moving again.

Dad told me it’s getting so bad that even out in rural Haskell County he actually has to look now before pulling onto Farm Road 618.

This session, we returned greater authority to regional transportation authorities to address local transportation needs.

We recognized the need to augment our pay-as-you-go system of financing highways.  A new, innovative highway bonding program will allow local communities to get road projects finished six or seven years ahead of schedule so we can keep Texans moving.

Every hour you spend stuck in traffic is an hour you could better spend with a loved one or a friend.  We must keep Texas moving forward by addressing our many infrastructure needs.

We addressed the public education, higher education, health care and transportation needs of this state this session, and we did it without raising gas taxes or nursing home taxes, without repealing the record consumer, small business and property tax cuts of 1999, and without touching the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

As leaders in the business community, you create jobs and opportunity for your fellow citizens, and in the process make a great contribution to society.

Government should effectively address limited priorities, but the future of this state is 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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