Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks to the League of United Latin American Citizens Legislative Gala

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Thursday, February 15, 2007  •  Speech

Thank you. I am so honored to be with you, the distinguished membership of a group that fights for equal opportunities and envisions a Texas that is ample in opportunity. It is good to see so many legislators, including several honorees tonight, Senator Zaffirini, Representative Gallego, Representative Noriega and Representative Anchia. They are good and decent Texans. Even though we don’t share a party, I am proud to serve by their side. I am particularly proud of another one of your honorees because he and I spent a year together traveling Texas as he served as my administrative assistant. Now he is the leading voice for the Texas Motor Transportation Association, John Esparza. If only his Red Raiders would stop beating my Aggies the world would be perfect.

It was nearly 80 years ago when a national movement began in Corpus Christi, they called themselves the League of United Latin American Citizens. Today, their vision is alive and well, and you are the living embodiment of it. And while we have a ways to go in tearing down barriers to opportunity, I have never felt better about the future of Texas because this is a state that welcomes all and includes all. And anything is possible in Texas for those who study hard, work hard and aspire to succeed.

Dr. Robert Schuler once posed the question: “what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” As we look at the final 100 days of this legislative session, I pose the same question: what would we attempt to do together if we knew we could not fail? Would we invest in health insurance for millions of Texans who are one life-threatening illness away from both medical and financial disaster? Would we invest in research that could not only stimulate our economy but create cures for cancer that could save lives? Would we make our colleges and universities more accessible through investments in financial aid?  Would we bring the best researchers in the world to our university labs to not only create new innovations, but new industries and economic engines? With a record surplus and a growing economy, with a bold vision and sheer belief in a better tomorrow, and with a bipartisan approach marked by civility and consensus, I believe anything is possible.

I believe the pillars of prosperity are great schools, good jobs and accessible healthcare. We invest in education, not to build nice buildings, but to improve lives. Our institutions of higher learning should not be open only to those who can afford it. In a global economy, where knowledge is more valuable than raw labor, a college diploma is the ticket to opportunity. I saw a slide show the other day that asks you to name the following country, and then listed a hand of attributes: richest in the world, largest military, center of world business and finance, strongest education system, world center of innovation and invention, currency that is the world standard for value, and the highest standard of living. The answer?  England- in 1900. If England was the world leader at the dawn of the 20th Century, and America is the world leader at the dawn of this century, who will hold such an esteemed place in the 22nd Century. The same slide show points out that the number of Chinese with an IQ in the top 25 percent of the nation is more than the number of people that live in North America. In India, the same can be said of the highest 28 percent.

We live in a globally interdependent world that knows no borders or barriers, and the solution is not to build walls but to build great schools. America has succeeded because we have always been on the leading edge of creating the next big thing. Our advantage is not that we can build things cheaper, but better, and that we are always thinking of the next great idea, whether it is a faster and smaller computer chip or new genetic therapies that can save lives. An investment in higher education is an investment in a future of unlimited prosperity. To do it right, we must leave no one in the shadows of opportunity. That is why I am asking legislators to make a monumental one-time increase in financial aid of 60 percent. And I can think of no one better to push this through the senate than Judith Zaffirini.

Let’s also tie additional funding to the very goals we have identified for higher education: improved student retention and graduation rates, and graduating more students in critical fields like science, computer science and engineering. Today our economy demands 11,000 graduates a year in the fields of electrical engineering, engineering technology and computer science…while our colleges produce half that number. Why not fill those jobs with Texans instead of outsourcing them to India and China? That’s why we have created a $40 million Texas Technology Grant proposal, so students will have access to not only the jobs of the future, but the skills that will prepare them.

One of the best ways to improve our economy is to improve access to health insurance for our workers. We have two million working Texans with a family income below 40,000 who are uninsured. They are just one accident, one bad diagnosis away from financial ruin. I believe we must use our moment of prosperity to ensure their long-term fiscal and physical health. I have proposed the sale of the Texas lottery for one reason and one reason only: to invest in our future. With a conservative estimate of $14 billion from such a sale, we could create a trust fund for the uninsured that would generate close to a quarter billion dollars every year in perpetuity. This is money that could provide premium assistance for private and employer-sponsored policies. I also believe we must take the national lead in investing in cancer research. This issue hits home with me. My sister is a cancer survivor, my mother is a cancer survivor, my father is a cancer survivor.  Dad was the fifth straight generation of Perry men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the only one to survive it. Every year 95,000 will hear those terrible words from a doctor, “you have cancer.” 34,000 will die too young. We have made great progress in some areas, but all too often we still don’t know what causes it to spread. I believe we must offer hope to those who face this terrible fight by investing $300 million a year in collaborative research projects that can develop the therapies needed to fight this disease, and the cures needed to one day prevent its development.

We can only achieve that which we envision. I stay we set our sights on the stars, and live by those words of Dr. Schuler: “what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Let’s dream big- Texans deserve no less. Thank you, and God bless you all.

Governor's Initiatives:
Cancer Research Initiative »
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