Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry: The Call to Public Service Must Be Answered By Honorable Men and Women

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Monday, June 23, 2008  •  Austin, Texas  •  Speech

Thank you, Kelly [Norton, Speaker of Girls State House of Representatives]. I am honored to be here with the future leaders of Texas, the elected leaders and citizens of Girls State. As governor, I want to thank you for seizing this opportunity to begin a lifetime of leadership. And as a lifetime member of the American Legion, I want to offer my deepest appreciation to the individuals who made this opportunity possible, the women of the American Legion Auxiliary.

As part of your visit to Austin, I would love to take you for a walking tour of the Governor's mansion, but, as you've heard, it's in tough shape right now. But I want to assure you and all Texans that the fire may have damaged the mansion's structure, but it has not touched our state's spirit of independence or our pride in our shared history. We are Texans and we do not let the trials of life get us down. Working together, we will rebuild the people's house, we will restore its beauty, and we will remind the world what Texas is all about.

I want each of you to know how proud I am of each and every one of you for being selected to participate in Girls State-it is an important experience. It is not a summer camp where young girls learn how to fingerpaint or work on their tans, it is a training camp where young women learn how to be the leaders of America. The description for Girls State describes it as "a mythical 51st state," but there is nothing mythical about the skills you're developing and the relationships you're building. Your presence signifies that you have already learned one of life's most important lessons: that what matters most is not what you get for yourself, but what you give back to your country, and to your fellow Americans.

Public service, whether it is in the military, a public school classroom, a local police or fire department, or in the halls of the capitol, is an honorable calling that must be answered by honorable men and women. For centuries, decent Americans, of all ages, backgrounds, and heritages, have made this nation great, and achieved the highest levels of personal fulfillment, by following the simple principle that others should come before self.

Don't be fooled when the culture sends a different message. Those who define success by material possessions, job titles and first place ribbons will be severely disappointed when they realize they can't take any of it with them when they die. All each of us can do is use the one life we have, the one opportunity we are given, to leave a lasting imprint on the world around us.

Every young woman here has something to contribute to the world, a way to make a difference using the unique talents and gifts that God has given each of you. Your gift to the world might be a scientific breakthrough, a book that challenges contemporary thinking on an issue of great importance, landmark legislation that transforms government, or the example of a loving mother that transforms the life of a child. Whatever your dream, pursue it with vigor and integrity, use it to improve our state and make a better America. Know that there will be naysayers, but there is just one way to respond to them: ignore them.

There will be some who will write you off just because you are young. That's OK, because you will be in good company. Joan of Arc was 19 when she was martyred for her courage, Alexander the Great was 16 when he began his conquest of the world, and Elizabeth Tudor was just 25 years old when she became Queen of England. Their age could not restrain their God-given purpose, their commitment to a higher ideal or the contribution they were ready to give the world. As the Apostle Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy "do not be ashamed of your youth." And do not be afraid to take a stand for what you believe is right, even when the critics pressure you to sit down, be quiet and don't try so hard.

The critics have it easy-it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to sit on the sidelines and complain. But in our democracy, profound change isn't achieved on the sidelines, it is achieved in the arena of ideas. The freedom to participate in our democracy is not just a right, it is a responsibility, and a precious gift bought at great price. America is free today only because brave men and women have answered their nation's call in times of war. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom left behind parents and children and spouses that loved them dearly, and they laid down their own dreams for the future so that others might pursue their dreams in freedom. Though we can never repay such great sacrifice, we must live as if we could: by making the most of the gift of freedom, by protecting that gift for future generations, and by living lives that reflect the honor with which they lived.

Being here with you today gives me great optimism for the future. Texas needs your leadership, your perspective and your idealism. Keep making your voices heard, and keep making a difference. When you return to your homes, stay in touch with your new friends so you can remind each other of the lessons you learned and challenge one another to remain strong. Finally, keep a strong grip on your ideals. They set you apart from the crowd.

Good luck to you all. May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.

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