Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks at the 40th Anniversary of the Governor’s Commission for Women
Thank you Anita. I often said during the last campaign that the best reason to re-elect me governor is so Anita Perry can be your First Lady for four more years. It is great to see such dedicated, visionary women standing up for a better Texas and offering themselves in service, such as Justice O’Neill, Chairman Morrison and each Texas woman who serves honorably on the Texas Women’s Commission.
A lot has happened in the past 40 years. The first woman ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, served our nation for close to a quarter century before recently retiring. More women than ever before are serving in Congress and as the heads of corporations. Our places of work have been transformed by family-friendly policies that recognize the dual role of worker and parent played by many women in our society. And they even play women’s hockey in the Winter Olympics. The point is, I believe I can look a young woman in the eye and truthfully tell her that she can be anything she wants to be in the Texas of the 21st Century. I’m not sure John Connally could have said the same when he formed the Governor’s Commission for Women in 1967.
One of the central focuses of this commission over the last six years has been on the issue of women’s health. With a domestic violence awareness campaign you distributed 20,000 bumper stickers that said, “no excuse for abuse.” You provided cell phones to domestic violence shelters, and were part of an information campaign to distribute information to law enforcement and service providers concerning domestic battery. And you have no greater partner in ending the tragedy of domestic violence than First Lady Anita Perry. You have helped launch an awareness campaign to increase childhood immunizations. I am proud that this effort, along with an executive order of a couple of years ago, has played a crucial role in drastically raising childhood immunization rates in Texas. And you have helped women battle the tragedy of breast and cervical cancer, highlighting the importance of annual check-ups and good preventative care. And as a state we have provided funding for this effort to ensure more women get an early diagnosis and a fighting chance against the disease of cancer.
Let me talk a little bit more about the importance of fighting this dreadful disease. There is hardly a person in this room who hasn’t been touched in some form or fashion by this disease, whether it is a neighbor or co-worker, a mother or father, a precious child, or your own struggle against this disease. 95,000 Texans will hear those awful words this year, “you have cancer.” 34,000 will lose the fight, leaving empty the dreams of a fuller life. I have proposed a $3 billion research fund because, while progress has been made, there is a ton of promising cancer research that goes unfunded every year. With $300 million a year over ten years, we can put enough money into this fight to create large collaborative research projects amongst our medical institutions. This kind of research synergy is vital. I proposed a method of finance that, unlike a bond proposal, doesn’t dry up after ten years- the sale of the lottery. With the estimated return on the sale of the lottery, we can earn $300 million more on interest payments than we get each year from the lottery itself. And that is without touching the corpus of the fund. The alternative proposal, which is to sell bonds, just came back with the fiscal note. Because of the great cost, 50 percent of the money would go to cancer research and 50 percent would go to private bankers. With the sale of the lottery, transaction costs would only represent about one percent of what we would generate for cancer research over the next ten years. And the fact is lottery revenues have a proven track record of declining with time. Investing sales dividends in the markets is a much surer bet with a proven record for growth over time.
But even if you put the money aside for a second, think about the difference we can make. 40 years ago we hadn’t even put a man on the moon. Today we have so many scientific advances from the space program it’s hard to even quantify. If we invest in cancer research, who knows what medical advances we will pioneer, who knows what gene therapies we will develop and what treatments we will create that will save lives forty years from now. I think of little Marin McGrath. At the age of two she was diagnosed with brain cancer. A year or so later the doctors told her family that she was cancer free, only for it to return and her young life, and all her potential to be lost at the precious age of four. I think of someone in the limelight like Elizabeth Edwards whose cancer just returned, or former presidential candidate Paul Tsongas who we lost to cancer. And I think of Ann Richards, who sadly lost her battle last year to cancer of the esophagus. Cancer doesn’t discriminate based on age, income, race or fame. It destroys our wealthiest families and our poorest homes. It is a state, national and international tragedy. So I say, for those 95,000 Texans, let’s do something about it. Let’s fund the research that can give them hope, and that can save our loved ones.
I would be remiss if, in mentioning Governor Richards, I didn’t also mention the school that bears her name: the Ann Richard’s School for Young Women Leaders. As part of the Austin Independent School District, and through the help of private funding, this school will open its doors this fall to 800 young girls. With a rigorous curriculum, high standards, and a focus on the developing sciences, it will prepare the young women leaders who will one day run our state and nation, our schools and our corporate board rooms. In recognition of their efforts, I want to ask Ellen Richards, as well as Commissioner Keely Appleton, Justice O’Neill and the First Lady Anita Perry to join me on this stage for a special recognition.
Today Ellen we would like present $1,000 check on behalf of the Governor’s Commission for Women, as well a porcelain memento, in memory of your mother, Governor Ann Richards and in support of this new school. Thank you, and God bless you.