Gov. Perry Gives Keynote Speech at Girls State
*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
I am honored to be here with the future leaders of Texas, the elected leaders and citizens of Girls State.
As governor, I want to congratulate you for stepping outside your comfort zone, setting aside the relaxing pursuits of the typical summer, and seizing the chance to hone your leadership skills.
As a lifetime member of the American Legion, I want to offer my sisters in the American Legion Auxiliary my deepest appreciation for keeping this wonderful tradition alive.
Less than a month ago, Speaker of the House Joe Straus stood in this very room, and struck the final gavel of the 81st legislative session, marking the House's end of what I consider a very successful 140 days in Austin.
As you know from your time together at Girls State, it's not easy to forge consensus across a large group of leaders, but that happened in this building, to the benefit of all Texans.
There aren't too many other states who can claim a balanced budget, extend a tax cut to 40,000 small businesses during tough economic times, or move forward with a multi-billion dollar Rainy Day Fund at the ready in case of real trouble.
That would be a miracle at Girls State, much less the real world, but that is the real story of this last session, one that Texans can be proud of.
Outcomes like that over the years have helped cement our state's position as an economic leader, as the nation's top job producing state, top exporter and home to the most Fortune 500 companies.
Someday, I suspect more than a few of you will return to this building as representatives, senators or even governor, and play a role in continuing the leadership of this great state.
I want you to know how proud I am of each and every one of you, for not only being selected to participate in Girls State, but giving your all throughout the week.
You could have chosen a summer camp where your biggest concern would have been which SPF sunscreen to apply, or what color basket to weave on a given day.
Instead, you chose a place where you would be challenged to listen, challenged to learn, and challenged to lead.
From what I've heard, you met those challenges in true Texas style.
The literature for Girls State describes it as "a mythical 51st state", but there is nothing mythical about the skills you're developing and the relationships you're building.
When this week wraps up and you've said your goodbyes to new lifelong friends, I hope you'll carry these lessons home, and have an impact in your community.
I encourage you to make an impact that reflects your individual, God-given talents, passions and interests.
Over the next year, that may mean taking a leadership role at your high school, on student council, on a sports team or by just setting the example in a rowdy classroom.
In the years to come, you might continue your impact by heading off to college to pursue a degree, entering military service, or taking your place in the workforce.
In the long term, your career path may take you into the private sector, the non-profit world or even public service.
Regardless of where you go, I hope you will remember that the most effective leader is a servant-leader, one who places others' needs above his or her own.
That mindset is the core motivation of true public service, the motivation that has driven so many to serve in this building and in other leadership roles across this great state.
For centuries, decent Texans, of all ages, backgrounds, and heritages, have made this state 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.
The people who define success solely by material possessions, job titles and first place ribbons are in for one of life's biggest surprises, they are no substitute for the love of your family, and you can't take any of them with you when you die.
All any 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.
What shape will your imprint on the world take?
Will you lead a business like Maria Teran of El Paso and create jobs for your fellow citizens, win a Silver Star defending your fellow soldiers like Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown of Lake Jackson, or carry significant legislation that reforms state schools like Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound?
Whatever your dream, pursue it with vigor and integrity, use it to improve our state and make a better America.
Just know that you'll encounter your share of naysayers along the way.
When you run into those people who say "it'll never work", "you'll never make it", "quit while you're ahead", I suggest a simple response: ignore them.
Instead, take a stand for what you believe is right, and speak your mind in the face of unfairness, even when your critics pressure you to sit down, be quiet and stop trying so hard.
In our democracy, profound change isn't achieved by the chattering spectators on the sidelines, it is attained in the arena of ideas, by people willing to persevere in the pursuit of an ideal.
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, those honored by the American Legion, have answered their nation's call in times of war.
The best way to repay their sacrifice is to live life to the full, making the most of the freedom they won for us, and preserving that gift for future generations.
Your presence here at Girls State proves that you have the ability to live that life, and the passion to make it a reality.
When you get home and get rested up from a busy week, stay in touch with your new friends so you can remind each other of the lessons you learned and challenge one another to remain strong.
Texas needs your leadership, your perspective, and your idealism.
Keep making your voices heard, and keep making a difference.
Good luck to you all. May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.