Saturday, April 11, 2009

What a Great Guy

I just want to make a comment about great guy who is a personal friend of my dad's. Former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer is probably one of the more upstanding people out there. Not five months ago, he was Agriculture Secretary for the United States of America. He left that prestigious position once the new administration took over, yet here's a picture of him helping out with the flood relief efforts in North Dakota this spring. This is a man who held one of the higher positions in our nation, yet he does not feel he's above the task of being a simple truck driver delivering sand and dirt:

He also gives a great message for conservatism, which he detailed in a speech at a recent Republican Lincoln Day Dinner gathering:

My fellow Republicans. Legislators, state wide officials, party officers, fund raisers, volunteers, workers and cheerleaders all, we gather here to recognize the man--- Abraham Lincoln--- who envisioned our Republican party.

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty" he said. And he pursued a political organization that was committed to maintaining the principles of freedom.

* The freedom to create a life from individual endeavor and the reaping of its rewards.
* The freedom from government restraint.
* Freedom of the press.
* Freedom from oppressive taxes and government intrusion.
* Freedom to shape and nurture our government and the freedom to control it.
* The freedom of personal liberty.
* Freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, freedom of expression and opposition.

We are indeed blessed to live and work in a nation conceived in liberty.

That is why I champion so much our great state of North Dakota where the freedoms we are assured have generated hard working people -- honest, courageous, moral and just. We lend a helping hand to those in need and take pride in families and communities. We love God.

These are the principles of the Republican Party --- principles we must, must preserve and protect! These are the principles that made America great and allow the pursuit of what we call the American dream. The dream of individual responsibility, individual performance and individual reward.

I have lived that American dream. I started in the mail room and worked my way up to the President of a multinational consumer products company. Of course, having my dad own the company helped a bit!

But when I thought I could use my experience and background in business to help make our government better, I had the freedom to pursue that too. When I first ran for office, most people didn't think I had a chance. But we were able to convince the Republican Party that I stood for their principles---that was one of the toughest challenges! And then we were able to convince the voters to turn out those who had controlled the Capitol for over 30 years and accept new Republican leadership.

Our party was in a pretty sad state back then. I became the third statewide elected official. We enjoyed just a slim majority in the House, and the Dems owned the majority in the Senate.

But you all remained enthused, worked hard and gradually the citizens embraced our Republican principles. When I left office eight years later, our party had super majorities in both houses of the legislature and the opposition only held three statewide offices. A complete turnaround.

Now they only have one! And in the words of Howard Dean---Yee Haw!

How did this happen? It happened because Republicans gave the people a government they wanted. A government that was less intrusive, more efficient and less costly! We removed regulations, lowered taxes, encouraged investment and stood strong on our principles.

We delivered responsible and prudent budgets that held steady with economic growth.

We resisted the desire to spend money on budgets we could not sustain knowing that the cyclical nature of our economy will come to bear someday. We lowered the cost of government by cutting budgets even in times of prosperity and yet we increased spending for the principles Republicans stand for: the education, health and safety of our citizens!

I have to tell you, and legislators in the audience already know this, it was hard work. When public opinion polls and the media and special interest groups -- most of which depend on government--- drive the process, it is easy to veer off course, to bow to the pressures, to abandon what you believe in order to remain popular. But we were able to stand firm on our Republican principles.

I know this is a Lincoln Day dinner, but I just have to quote Theodore Roosevelt here.

He said of his Presidency, "I am not here to represent public opinion, I am here to represent the public, and there is a wide difference between the two."

During my time in office we were able to walk that fine line of balancing the wants with the needs of the population.

But you know, there is nothing so quiet as yesterday's applause.

President Lincoln put it best when he said, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew."

He also said, "Our important principles may, and must, be inflexible."

So now is the time, my fellow Republicans, for us to craft once again the government that people want -- one that meets the needs of today but remains steadfast in our principles of limited government and individual liberty.

When I left the Governor's office the party gave me a pair of running shoes. Drew Wrigley, then the Executive Director, encouraged me to keep running. Not running for office, I had already made that decision, but running to advance the Republican Party and its principles. And I have tried to do that.

Here they are. The heels are worn out, the cushioning is gone and the flex is stiff. And the smell? Well, we won't go there. But I brought them tonight because they tell a story.

Most of you know I use to run a lot. And when you log 70, 80 and sometimes 90 miles a week, shoes are very important. And they wear out pretty fast. After trying many different brands and models I found a great pair of running shoes. They fit my foot, enhanced my foot-strike and gave me good stability. These were the things I was looking for in a shoe.

After 12 or so pairs of this model, I saw an ad that piqued my interest and I tried a different one. I was surprised how much better I thought they were than my previous model, the ones I was "used to!" But something just wasn't quite right with the new fit.

And then I remembered that the principles of what I was looking for in a shoe hadn't changed, but over time, the quality of my favorite model had deteriorated. The manufacturer had looked internally and changed materials and procedures and the original design was changed. I hobbled along somewhat satisfied with the new model, but it wasn't until the original shoe was reinvented, that I went ahh, this is right! And I was comfortable again.

The moral of this story is that the principles of what I was seeking in a shoe hadn't changed, but over time, Nike had compromised their product. But somewhere along the line, they realized their customers weren't entirely satisfied---probably because sales were slipping! They needed to go back to the original-update the shoe to the original quality and design to satisfy me as a customer!

I share this story because I believe it illustrates where we are today as a political party and with delivery of government in this state and nation. We are content with what we have even though principles have gone a little soft. We have strayed from what made this party and its candidates attractive to voters. People are comfortable with what they are getting but are inherently uncomfortable with the direction in which our government is going. And I'm worried that an alternative is being developed that might be more attractive to the voters!

As we see people reject Republicans over and over today, don't you think it is time we turned back to our tried and true principles and craft a government that people are asking for?

Abraham Lincoln said, "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it." But he also told us the way to proceed. "What is conservatism?" he said; "Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?"

We have only to look at the last election to see what happens to Republicans when we abandon what we are supposed to stand for!

Which party now controls the White House? Which party is directing Congress? We lost election after election all across this country---we lost our position of comfort with the electorate.

It pains me to hear Republicans champion confiscatory tax measures directed at people who are successful! And my heart sinks when I see Republicans project the theory that we can take our hard working men and women's taxes and spend our way into prosperity!

So I ask you all tonight to recommit to the tried and true principles of the Republican Party: limited government and individual liberty.

Liberty brings us freedom and freedom gives rise to prosperity.

Prosperity improves the lives of our people and when we improve the lives of our citizens, we strengthen our state and our nation.

Nancy and I had the opportunity to have a private, behind the scenes tour of the Lincoln Memorial in the District while we were there. As we stood in front of, underneath and beside this grand statutory, we were able to absorb the magnitude of the man Abraham Lincoln.How he believed in freedom and how he stood fast for what he believed.

He endured the tears and heartbreak of torn families, split communities and a divided nation. When others waivered, divided and separated, he remained true to our nation, true to our people. People hated him, spat on him and eventually took his life.

But he saved our nation and even today he stands as a rock for the principles of a limited government and individual freedom. We must remain steadfast in our efforts to continue President Abraham Lincoln's commitment to a better government. For as he said a "Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth."

I want to thank God for leading me here tonight and as we go, let us reflect on Lincoln's words once again. "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."

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