Thank you. Thanks to the chamber for this prestigious award. And thanks to all of you for taking the time away from your businesses to be here in Washington.
As a proud Virginian, I am pleased to join you as heirs to the tradition set forth by the colonists who settled at Jamestown and began its settlement in 1607.
Through an unfailing commitment to faith and concern for one another, these colonists banded together to work toward a better future.
They planted the seeds of tolerance that have inspired millions to come to our shores in search of the American dream.
400 years later, that dream remains alive and well.
The evidence is all around us. For we are all the product of some uniquely American story.
At the corner of St. James and Charity streets in downtown Richmond, in a historically African American neighborhood, there once lived a widowed Jewish immigrant from Russia.
She had fled the anti-Semitism and bloody pogroms of her native land just before the Bolshevik Revolution. In America, she sought religious freedom, opportunity and a better life.
In Richmond she didn't have much money. But she did have remarkable drive and determination. She raised her two children in tight quarters above a tiny grocery store that she owned and operated.
She worked day and night and sacrificed tremendously to secure a better future for her children.
And sure enough, this young woman -- who had the courage to journey to a distant land with hope as her only possession -- lifted herself into the ranks of the middle class.
Through hard work, thrift and faith, she was even able to send her two children to college.
Before making Virginia her home, this young woman had passed through Ellis Island. Peering out from the boat at the mouth of the Hudson River, she saw the Statue of Liberty -- the most powerful symbol of the freedom and opportunity that America represents.
All she wanted was a chance. But never did she dare to dream that her grandson would someday -- this day - be the Member of the U.S. Congress standing before you.
When I think of my grandmother in that Richmond storefront, I am reminded that in its purest sense, America is about looking forward.
All of our ancestors came to this country for the same reason: because here, there simply are no limits. This is the tie that has always bound us as a nation. This is the tie that continually strengthens us as a people.
Just look at the American people. For the past thirty years, in good times and in bad, 600,000 businesses are started every year. That's about 1 per minute.
Where else in the world can someone start a business in his garage and years later become the CEO of a Fortune 100 company?
Where else could people from humble and modest roots like Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and President Obama rise to become president? Only in America.
As we strive for a national immigration strategy, we must remember that America is a country of laws and borders. But we also won't forget that America is a nation of inclusion -- a place built and nourished by its rich diversity and tradition of immigration.
At times during the immigration debate, many ethnic communities -- and in particular Hispanic Americans -- have felt alienated by some of the rhetoric being used.
While there may be disagreements on certain policies from time to time, I think we can all agree that the immigrants in this debate must be treated with dignity and respect!
Ronald Reagan would have been 99 last month. He once said that the meaning of life is to plant a tree you will never sit under.
So, when historians look back upon this trying period for our nation, the question is: What will they write about us?
Some in Washington hope the history books will point to the health care bill as a reflection of the legacy we pass on. Many of their policies respond to our problems by increasing the role of government in all aspects the economy.
But this comes at a cost. By ceding more and more control over our lives to the government, we sacrifice our ability to make our own decisions and take control of our own destiny.
We Republicans believe in a different way. And in the coming years, we will fight to keep the expansion of government in check.
We must lift our entrepreneurs and small businesses with incentives so that they pursue their ideas and create jobs.
We must put a premium on education and research. Education reform should be treated as a gateway to opportunity for underprivileged kids and all kids.
And we will put a lid on our debt so that future generations don't suffer paying off the excesses of today.
America must remain the same beacon of hope for the world that it was when my grandmother reached Ellis Island, the place where her story is renewed with each new generation of immigrants.
Reward for hard work ..Innovation ..Free enterprise .Fairness. Self-reliance Community...Faith.
These are the bedrock values that have sustained us for over 200 years. May we not forget those principles as we build together a better tomorrow for our children.