Gov. Perry Addresses the Opening Ceremonies for Houston's India House
Celebrates the contributions of "Indo-Texans"
*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Thank you, Durga [Agrawal, President of India House] for that kind introduction and thank you to the dancers for that wonderful display.
I am very honored that you would invite me to share this moment, as you begin a new chapter of compassion in the life of this city.
As we gather here today to celebrate the impact that India House will have on Houston, it is compelling to reflect on the impressive contribution that Indo-Americans have made, and continue to make in our nation and in our state.
Your organization celebrates key values that I have worked so hard to apply in my personal life and impress upon the government of our state.
A friend recently shared with me the Indian proverb, "There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self."
That passion for continuous improvement is what makes any person, any people, any nation great. Like you, I am a firm believer in self-determination, the freedom of the individual to work their hardest and reap the rewards of their toil.
I believe that government's role is not to overly restrict or excessively reward, but to establish basic protections then get out of the way.
My goal for the landscape of our state's economy is a reasonably level playing field, on which people win or lose based on their own merits, learning much from either experience.
If you ask me, there is no better place to do those things than Texas. I have lived in this state for more than fifty years and have enjoyed the remarkable freedom it offers a person to pursue a dream.
It is the kind of state where you can be born on a tenant farm in a remote, agricultural area and end up sitting in the Capitol as governor.
It is the kind of state where you can be born in Lakhanpur, India, complete a doctorate at the University of Houston then build an incredibly successful pipeline supply company like Durga Agrawal did.
Texas is about opportunity so much that I would have thought Romain Rolland [French playwright] was describing the Lone Star state when he wrote:
"If there is one place on the face of this Earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home, from the very earliest day when man began the dream of existence, it is India."
I believe that India and Texas have much in common besides blistering heat in the summer months.
In both places, you find a strong emphasis on self-determination, a vigorous blending of cultures, and a high priority on family.
In both places, you will find a dedication to hard work in the pursuit of economic success, and an admiration for those who have succeeded, and created opportunity for others in the process.
In the midst of a national dialogue about economic turmoil and bailouts and stimulus packages, I hear very few voices standing up for entrepreneurs, those among us who actually create jobs, give to charity and invest in their communities.
People like those of you who are investing in India House, giving of yourselves to help those around you, and sharing the beauty of your culture with this city and our state.
Tonight, I am surrounded by people who have worked their fingers to the bone, taken great risks and reaped great rewards for their toil.
You may sometimes refer to yourselves as Indo-Americans, but I would invite you to adopt the title "Indo-Texans" because you are so essential to the success of our state.
As the global economy continues to struggle, Texas is enjoying a degree of strength that most states would be hard pressed to match.
Our success is built, first, on hardworking Texans like you, who have thrived on that level playing field, one shaped by our efforts to keep government spending low, taxes down and regulations predictable.
That approach has drawn jobs from other states, investment from other countries, and more international trade than any other state.
For years, Texas has been the top exporting state in America. In the first three quarters of 2008, we exported more than $1.5 billion in goods to India, a 36% increase over the same period in 2007.
While Texas is shipping chemicals, computers and transportation equipment to India, those materials are passing iron, steel and organic chemicals heading toward us from the opposite direction.
We pride ourselves on our exports, but I hope we can continue to increase our imports, especially my favorite import: direct foreign investment.
When overseas companies invest in Texas, build manufacturing facilities and establish a presence, they not only create new jobs for Texans, but also enrich our corporate culture with innovative technologies and fresh perspectives.
So we court that investment, we pursue those companies, we invest in those programs that increase the magnetic pull of our state's business climate.
One of those efforts is our Emerging Technology Fund which allows us to invest in smart people, helping them turn the ideas they hatch in university laboratories into products that might transform our world.
Earlier today, I had the opportunity to announce a $5.5 million investment in a partnership between the University of Houston and the Methodist Hospital.
This partnership will focus its research and development on the nuclear receptors that switch diseases on and off at the cellular level.
That's fancy talk for this animal science major, but I do know that project can not only lead to technology that will bring a return on our state's investment, but discover therapies that can save lives.
That is the sort of insight and innovation that sets Texas apart and I hope we see more of it, because our state is gifted with more than our share of brilliant people, many who came here from India to seek opportunity.
According to a reputable source, there are roughly 3 million people of Indian descent in the U.S, comprising roughly 1% of our nation's population. We are fortunate that about 300,000 live in Texas.
To those who would turn immigration discussions into attacks on ethnic groups, I would argue that our country has been fortified by the contributions of legal immigrants since the very beginning.
Whether your ancestors got here by land bridge, steam ship or 747, we are all part of a richly diverse Texas culture, one that will grow even stronger with the infusion of new ideas as we move into this new millennium.
If you ask what you can to do make Texas even stronger, my answer is a simple one: keep doing what you're doing.
Keep working hard at building your business and creating new jobs.
Stay involved in the community with efforts like India House.
Share your culture with your neighborhoods and the city so that our cultural tapestry can be enriched with your history that stretches back thousands of years.
Invite your friends and family to come to Texas and take part in this bold experiment in democracy and self determination.
I'm told that most Indo-Americans who seek opportunity in the United States often head for the biggest cities, to New York or Chicago. Tell them how great things are in Houston, Dallas, Austin or San Antonio and the opportunities they have to succeed.
Finally, speak up. You have a right to be heard in the conversations of how your city, state and country will be run.
Understand that your personal values not only matter in the conduct of your daily life, they also matter deeply at the ballot box, and in your legislators' mailboxes.
Thank you for your commitment and contribution to Texas.
I commend you for your important work with the India House and wish you blessings as you open its doors and welcome your neighbors.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.