Thank you Gary Bledsoe, for that introduction.
It's an honor to welcome a civil rights legend like Julian Bond to Texas and celebrate your remarkable role in our nation's history.
It's a pleasure to be among so many who have made such a difference in their communities and in the State of Texas.
For over 100 years now, the NAACP has stood as a powerful instrument of change in America at the forefront of the struggle for civil rights helping usher in an era of transformation the likes of which few societies have ever seen.
The NAACP has helped America fulfill the promise made by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence affirming that our citizens are not only created equal they're living and contributing as equals, as well.
In the course of my service to Texas, I have worked hard to press for equality, and to level the playing field for all Texans.
I'm talking about actions like the Hate Crimes Legislation that I signed after completing my first legislative session as governor that was inspired by the absolutely horrific treatment of James Byrd.
It is sad to know that, just yesterday, his mother passed away. I am proud to know that I was able to sign that legislation so that she could see that the tragedy of her son's murder would reduce the chance of such a thing ever happening again.
Standing here with you today, we still have challenges facing us, as we work to increase the equality of opportunity and ensure that Texas is a place where young people of every background have the opportunity to succeed.
The first step to that goal is making sure all of our citizens are educated prepared for a rapidly changing future.
To that end, Texas has a strong story to tell in terms of academic improvements thanks to a concerted effort that we have made in conjunction with legislators, the TEA, teachers groups, parents and local districts.
From 2000 to 2009, the state's share of public education spending increased from $11 billion per year to $20 billion which is an 82% increase.
At the same time, we've beefed up accountability in our schools and focused on the basics like math, science, English & social studies.
We have invested in key subjects like science, technology, engineering and mathematics to prepare young Texans to compete for the high tech jobs that make up an increasing percentage of our economy.
Those efforts are paying real dividends in the lives of our young people.
For example, Texas has been recognized as one of only four states closing the achievement gap in math.
It was a point of pride for our whole state when African-American eighth graders from Texas tied Massachusetts for 1st place on a national math exam.
African-American 4th graders in Texas also earned the 3rd highest score on their national math exam.
On the Advanced Placement test, student participation is up 205% over the last ten years and the number of passing scores went up 168%.
I was pleased in particular to see a 17.8% increase in the number of African-Americans taking AP exams and a 24% increase in the number earning a 3 or higher.
Texas has one of the highest overall numbers of students taking the SAT in the nation and a percentage of first-generation college students taking the exam that's higher than the national average.
They're not just taking the test a whole lot of them are continuing their education past high school and making a better life.
From the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2009, enrollment in higher education across our state jumped up by more than 100,000 students the largest year over year increase in Texas history.
In that same timeframe, African American enrollment in higher education increased by more than 20,000 students across the state.
During my tenure, financial aid has increased by more than 900% which makes higher education more accessible to young Texans.
Young people of all backgrounds are growing more aware of one of life's essential truths that education is a fundamental part of success no matter where your journey takes you.
Of course, it's easier to achieve your goals in an economic climate that encourages success which is something we've worked hard in Texas to maintain.
Texas is a place where people with an idea, a strong work ethic, and belief in themselves can truly do something great.
Texas is a place where employers can build something of significance without a crushing tax burden unpredictable regulations or the threat of frivolous lawsuits.
So it's no surprise that Texas employers created more jobs this year than any other state and created 850,000-plus jobs this decade which is more than the other states combined.
Such success is no surprise, and no accident.
Instead, it's the result of focused leaders sticking to essential fiscal disciplines based on shared priorities.
As a result, Texas is home to an environment where entrepreneurs and innovators can create something new and be part of that rising tide that raises all boats.
Texas is a place built on the notion of individual freedom where you can make a difference no matter the color of your skin or how you spell your last name.
Young Texans can look to African Americans serving in positions of great influence within our state government that I appointed like Rissie Owens, chair of Pardons and Paroles R. David Kelly, chair of our state's Teacher Retirement System and, of course, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.
People of all backgrounds and all walks of life are making a huge difference in the lives of everyday Texans.
I commend everyone here for the hard work you've put in your efforts over the years and decades strengthening our state and our union by eradicating the barriers that might slow a person's progress toward success.
After all, like our state flag's one star, we are one Texas and one people, in pursuit of the same basic things the core values of family, faith and hard work.
These are essential Texas values, and we need to perpetuate them in our homes, in our schools, and everywhere we go in our everyday lives.
I genuinely appreciate all that the NAACP has done to foster those values in communities across our state and nation empowering young people to dream big and attain those dreams.
May God bless you and, through, you, may He continue to bless the Great State of Texas.