Gov. Perry's Remarks at the 2006 Texas Boys State
Thank you, Robert (Jackson, chairman). I am honored to be here with so many great American patriots – the ones who defended freedom in years passed, and who continue to safeguard freedom by investing in the leaders of tomorrow – my fellow members of the American Legion.
And to the young Texans who have inherited the freedom they purchased, the citizens of Boys State: Thank you for making the most of freedom’s gifts, and seizing this opportunity to begin a lifetime of leadership. I want each of you to know that you’ve made the right choice by being here. Boys State is important. It’s not a summer camp where kids learn how to weave wicker baskets; it is a training camp where young men learn how to be the leaders of America.
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 man. Public service, whether it is in the military, a local police or fire department, or in the halls of the capitol is an honorable calling that must be answered by honorable men. 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 man 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.
It could be a scientific breakthrough, a book that challenges contemporary thinking on an issue of great importance, landmark legislation authored by your hand, or the example of a faithful husband and loving father that inspires others to follow. Whatever your dream, pursue it with vigor and integrity, use it to better America and don’t be frustrated by the naysayers. There will be some who will write you off because you are young. That’s OK, because you will be in good company.
Alexander the Great was 16 when he began his conquest of the world, Joan of Arc was 19 when she was martyred for her courage, and William "Buck" Travis was a mere 26 when he commanded that band of brave soldiers who died defending Texas at the Alamo. Nothing reinvigorates the American spirit more than youthful idealism.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to 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 back down. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain. But in our democracy, profound change doesn’t occur from the sidelines, but 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. Many were not much older than any of you, in the prime of their lives with families that loved them, and with their own hopes and dreams for the future. 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.
Thank you, and may God bless you.
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