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Thank you so much for this opportunity. I'm honored and I'm privileged to be here with you today and to receive this award, which I'm not sure I deserve, but now I'll have to earn. I appreciate it so much, particularly because of what it means. Obviously, it is named after an individual who, as you saw from the short video, his story is very typical of our story. The story of a person who spent their entire lives not just accomplishing things for himself, but more importantly opening doors and pathways for their children and grandchildren.
This is a typical American story and yet it's also one unique to each of us. And no community in this country understands that more than the community made up of Americans of Hispanic descent. I begin today by just examining the current state of affairs because we're called to remember who we are and how we got here at a moment of great uncertainty. That's not a remarkable observation for any of you, perhaps you're living those moments of uncertainty.
All around us people are really concerned about the future. This downturn seems different. We've lived through downturns before even in recent memory, whether it was the dot-com bust or post-9/11, we have seen the downturn before. But this one feels different, and rightfully so. It feels longer and perhaps even more permanent. There are a lot of factors behind this downturn. There obviously were shocking things that happened in the financial markets and continue to happen in Europe. There is continuing bad news about the debt as it grows and creates greater uncertainty over us. There's divisive politics where people are constantly being pitted against each other. And tragically there's this pervasive sense that perhaps this is the beginning of a long and steady decline. That the America that our parents and grandparents found when they came here, the America you found when you came here, the America that you were raised in, and the America that allowed you to reach this point in your life is gone. That somehow that America is over and we're entering a new era where our nation will be less special and less unique. That's the sense that you get from some people.
What I want to do here over the next few moments is try to outline to you why that doesn't need to be the case. And what special role I believe our community plays in ensuring that is not the case.
I begin with the economics of what we're facing today. The modern debate about a lot of times they're constantly trying to differentiate between the debt and jobs, as if they're two separate issues. And yet, they're intricately related to one another. Now certainly we need spending reforms in this country. You cannot have a government that continues to spend a lot more money than it takes in. But the single most important thing we can do to bring our debt problem under control is rapid growth in our economy. And yet, one of the things that stands in the way of rapid growth in our economy is our debt. These two issues are interrelated. And as Europe is having this debate about whether it's time for austerity or growth, the answer is you cannot have one without the other. In this country or anywhere on this planet. The two issues are interrelated.
How does growth begin? Well I'm in a room full of people that have started businesses, so you don't need a lecture from me on how growth begins, but let's remind ourselves. Growth is very simple. Growth happens when someone starts a new business or when someone grows a business that now exists. That's growth. And when you grow you create jobs. And when you create jobs people earn a paycheck, which they can use to pay things like their mortgage and their kids' college education. Not to mention spend it in other businesses, who then go employ people themselves.
But today that growth isn't happening. And more than anything else that's probably what's leading to the sense of anxiety across our country, is that we are not growing. Our economy is not growing the way we expect it to grow as Americans or the way we have seen it grow in the past. In essence those businesses are not being created and those jobs are not being churned out. What are the reasons for that? Because if you don't understand the reasons you cannot solve it. And the reasons are pretty straightforward. I know sometimes we're in a process where people want there to be some sort of novel new approach, but the basics of economics have not changed. And the basics that are impeding our country from moving forward are not difficult to understand.
There is significant uncertainty about the future of our tax code. We don't know what it's going to be on January first of this year. We know what it is today, and that is one of the most complicated and burdensome in the world. And it's not just the tax rate that people pay, it's what it costs to figure it out. And so the tax code is a real impediment. And the lack of any plan as to what it's going to look like in just a few months is making things harder, not easier, to start a business or grow an existing one.
There is also extraordinary regulatory uncertainty. Now look, we need regulations. We want our water to be clean. We want our air to be breathable. We don't want people cheating the system. But there's a problem when those regulations go too far. When they seem to exist solely for the purpose of justifying the existence of the regulators. When these bureaucracies that enforce them somehow do not undertake any sort of cost-benefit analysis when they employ these regulations that they put in place. There's something wrong when federal bureaucrats openly gloat about how they're going to crucify businesses in order to make an example out of them. And there's been no shortage of runaway regulations in the last decade, but especially in the last three years. The National Labor Relations Board alone is a source of continuous consternation for anyone who is trying to start a business or expand an existing business.
We've seen the energy sector, one of the most promising sectors in our country's future, being specifically targeted. And we have seen this health care law, which is nothing but a string of rules one after the other, create extraordinary uncertainty. That is not a partisan observation. I did not make that up. I have heard that from real job creators. From people who own businesses with fifteen and twenty employees who have told me they are afraid of this law because they do not know what it means and they cannot figure out how much it's going to cost them to comply with it. These are not bad people. These are not folks that want to deny their employees' health care, but they can't be in business if they can't make money. And they have no idea how much it's going to cost them to comply with ObamaCare. This is not a partisan observation. This is what people told me throughout my campaign and continue to tell me today. By the way, not people in Fortune 500 companies, people in companies that employ five, ten, or fifteen people.
There's also anti-business rhetoric in American politics. Where people today are told that the reason why our economy is not doing well is because some people are making too much money. That the root cause of our decline economically is because there are corporations and individuals in the private sector who are doing too well. And that anti-business rhetoric, combined with regulations, combined with a complicated tax code, make it harder, not easier, for people to start a business or grow an existing one. Add to all of that the fact that we have missed golden opportunities and continue to miss them right now.
For example, we have an immigration system, a legal immigration system, that's broken. A legal immigration system that makes it harder for someone who has millions of dollars to invest, to come to this country legally and invest it. A legal immigration system that educates the world's best Ph.D.'s and Master's degree holders and then we ask them to leave. And an immigration system in a country that has hundreds of thousands of young people that have grown up among us, who find themselves in an undocumented status through no fault of their own, and who now desire to contribute to America's future, and yet because of partisan politics we have been unable to figure out a way to accommodate them within the confines of our heritage as a nation of laws, but also our legacy as a nation of immigrants.
There's also our educational system. And I understand that Governor Romney spoke to you about it earlier today. The federal government has a limited role to play when it comes to education. True innovation in education happens at the state level, but I can tell you from the federal level it is very clear where our educational system is lacking. There are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs available in America today that go unfilled because not enough people in America are trained to fill them. Our children are not learning to compete and succeed in the 21st century. They're being taught as if they are going into a world where their competition lives in Mississippi or in Alabama, when in fact it lives in China and India and all over the world. These are things that have to be confronted.
An educational system that sadly has stigmatized career education. At a time where we know that some of the fastest growing professions in America will require less than a four year education, but more than a high school diploma. Look at the unemployment rate among people that only have a high school diploma versus those who have a college degree. It's a cliché, but it is true: education, the ability to learn a skill, in this century, is indispensable. There are going to be no jobs in the 21st century, literally there will be no new jobs in the 21st century for people that do not have advanced education in some form. We have to provide access to that, as well as affordability. And I'm glad that the nominee of my party has taken the lead in that regard in the hopes of spurring on innovation at the state level that will allow us to take this opportunity and embrace it.
Another missed opportunity, by the way, is some of the emerging industries of the 21st century. We are an energy rich country. Because of recent discoveries, we are the most rich we are the most energy rich country in the world. And yet somehow, we don't have energy policy in America. We have energy politics. Our allies in Canada have also become energy rich and they recently gave us a choice. They are intent on building a pipeline, so they can transfer that energy wealth and allow it to be sold to the world. And they have two choices: they can run a pipeline through China or they can run a pipeline through the United States. And the government of the United States told them "No, thank you." This is insane. These are the kind of things that historians write about 100 years from now, when they discuss the decline of a civilization and of a nation. Ridiculous decisions that were made because of politics, not because of policy. The truth is we are an energy rich nation, so much so that in addition to accomplishing energy independence we can become an exporter of energy and the creation of American jobs. This is not a theory. Ask the people of North Dakota, where today it is a fact, where unemployment hovers at under 3% because of advances they have made there in energy technologies.
These are real opportunities that we are walking away from. The tourism industry, one of the great developments of the 21st century is there's middle class folks all over the world, millions of people, who just a decade ago were living in poor neighborhoods near open sewage, are now members of the middle class with enough money to travel overseas and they want to come here. And sometimes, they can't even get a visa to come to Orlando and leave thousands of dollars at Disney World or anywhere else that you want them to go. It's another emerging opportunity for us in the tourism industry, and yet our policies don't reflect those opportunities.
These are the economic problems that we face. These are the impediments to us economically. But something deeper is happening. We are being challenged on our very identity as a nation and as a people.
Our political system is broken. You've heard that so many times before. It bears repeating. I ran because I was frustrated by the political process. Nothing has happened over the last year and a half to change that frustration, unfortunately. Too often times in the United States Senate especially, most of the votes we take are nothing but messaging points. Bills are brought to the floor that people know are not going to pass for one purpose alone: and that's to give people talking points on the Sunday evening shows.
Our people deserve better. It's not like we don't have major issues to confront. But they are not being confronted. The only thing that's being done in the Senate these days is creating material for television commercials in the fall. And it's sad.
There's a lack of urgency too. No one seems in a hurry here to solve anything. There is this notion that somehow things will just solve themselves. That we can wait one more election; we can get away with a few more months. We can't. These issues will not solve themselves, and the longer they go unresolved the more difficult they become to solve, and the less options we have to solve them with and the more painful those options are. And yet, there is this total lack of urgency.
The exact same issues we were facing two years ago we still face today. This nation and this political process has not solved one single major issue in the last three and a half to four years. In fact, it's been incapable of even passing a budget. The single largest organization in the world, a $3.8 trillion endeavor called the United States federal government has not had a budget in almost four years.
There's something even more sinister that's crept into the political process. And it's something that actually asks us to abandon the essence of who we've always been as a people and as a nation. It starts with this argument that no longer, too often, in politics today do people even want to engage in debate on the issues anymore. It's no longer about debating jobs plans or tax plans or regulatory plans. They skip straight to trying to convince you that it's not their ideas that are bad, they are bad. That your political opponents are bad people, that you shouldn't even listen to them because somehow they don't care about you or any of us, all they are, are selfish people that care about themselves. And it is impossible for this republic to function if people refuse to debate ideas, and instead skip straight to the direct defamation of their political opponents. And that's now being celebrated. That's now being encouraged. It's now a mark of how good you are in politics if you're willing to do that. And the more outrageous you're willing to be, the more attention you get for it.
Now this is not about hurting anyone's feelings. This is about the fact that we will never solve the issues that we face if all people want to do is debate how bad the other guy is as opposed to debate whether their ideas have merit or not, and whether your ideas are better than their ideas.
But perhaps the one that has troubled me the most is the deliberate division of the American people against each other. The last three and a half years, after our elections, irrespective of how you felt about how they turned out, we all had hope that this nation would embark at a new moment. Where somehow we would rise above the petty politics of the moment, and have a real, honest society wide conversation about what kind of country we want to be, what kind of role we want to play in the world, and what kind of role we want our government to play in our lives. Well, any hope of that is now gone.
What you have today is nothing less than a wholesale effort to pit one group of Americans against each other on issue after issue, to convince people that the reason why things aren't going well for them is because they are going too well for someone else. To convince people that somehow we can make your life better if only you give us the power to make someone else's life a little worse. That the reason why you don't have enough is because someone else has too much.
This un-American idea, quite frankly, that somehow the pie will always be limited, and so we must carve up the limited scope of our economy among a growing number of people. And yet, that has never been who we are. In fact, it is what has distinguished us from the rest of the world.
As a people we have never believed that. Americans have never believed that the way you climb the economic ladder is to pull other people down from it. And I think I can speak for almost anywhere and anyone in this room when I say that our parents never taught us that we could not be successful unless someone else was less successful.
Our parents and grandparents never taught us that the way for us to move up is for our boss and our employer to do worse. They never taught us that there was no way we could ever own our own business unless other people made less money. They never took us through neighborhoods of people that accomplished things and said to us, "You will never be successful as long as these people are too successful."
On the contrary, I believe that I speak for most of the people in this room and, in fact, most of the people in this nation, when I say that our parents always pointed at people that were successful as a source of inspiration. And said to us: "One day you too can do what they did because you are blessed with the privilege and the honor of living in the single greatest nation that man has ever known." A place where it doesn't matter if your parents worked with their hands. It doesn't matter if you weren't born into a family that was wealthy or connected. It doesn't matter if you didn't go to the right schools or run in the right social circles. If you have a really good idea and you're willing to work hard, you can accomplish anything you want.
This is what has made us different from the rest of the world. And now, really what we're being asked to do is abandon that. Whether it's for political expediency or an effort to advance their own ideological agenda, we are being asked to give up one of the distinguishing characteristics of our society and of our nation. And I for one think that's a terrible idea. And I know of no community in this country that should reject it more than ours.
And here is why. Because as that video reminds us, the reason why you're sitting here today has a lot more to do with the people that came here before you than it does with you necessarily. It has to do with your grandparents, who perhaps were born into very difficult circumstances, but did everything they could in the hopes and dreams that you one day would have the chances they would not. It has to do with parents, who gave up their own dreams so you could live yours, who made it the mission and the purpose of their lives for everything that was impossible for them to be possible for you.
All of us have a different story and yet, at the end, it's the same. It's the story of the people whose purpose in life was to ensure that we had the chance to do everything that they could not. That all they wanted was for us never to feel the limitations that they felt. Now parents all over the world feel that. That's neither uniquely Hispanic nor uniquely American.
All over the world, people want their kids to do better than them. All over the world, people want something better for themselves than they have right now. The problem is that all over the world, and for almost all of human history, what you were going to get to do with your life was decided for you before you were even born. If your parents weren't the right people, or if they didn't know the right people, you were never going to do anything more than they did. And yet, we have lived a very different life.
We have lived a very different life because our parents worked hard and because they sacrificed. But we really have lived a very different life because we got to live it here. In a place that teaches us that all men and women are created equal. That our rights don't come from government or our President or even from our laws, that we're born with them, given to us by our Creator. That no one, no government, no power, no one, has a right to deny us those rights. In fact, anyone who does is illegitimately using power. Those principles are powerful because they created for us the free enterprise system that has made the dreams and hopes of millions of people possible.
And so, as we try to examine how we can continue to be a great nation, don't fall into the trap of looking to our politics. Our politics are important. There is a role for our politics to play. We need roads and bridges that aren't crumbling. We need schools that teach our children. We need tax laws that can be complied with. We need regulations that make sense. But our politics and our politicians have never been the source of our greatness.
The source of our greatness has always been our people.
And so you will find optimism about America not on the cover of newspapers or magazines, but in the everyday stories of people that surround us, even as we speak. You know their stories because they were once your stories. You'll find America's greatness this morning, in a single mother who dropped her child off at a bus stop to go to school, and as that child boarded that bus, onto that bus not just went her child but all the things that have gone wrong in her life that she hopes will go right for that child. All the things she herself never got a chance to do, that she will do anything to ensure her child can.
The greatness of America could be seen in the people that served you your lunch today. Who have children somewhere else in school even as we speak. And if you ask them, they'll brag to you about how their son's going to be a lawyer and their daughter is going to be a doctor. They are proud to work with their hands. They are proud to serve you your lunch and your dinner because they know that their sacrifice is paving the way for someone that they love.
And you'll find America's future greatness in the stories of the people who will make your rooms tonight. Because, you see, after they're done working here, they're headed to English classes or maybe even a community college. They're working in a hotel today, but tomorrow they may run one. And they believe that that's possible because they live here.
And so what is our goal? Our goal is to ensure that all those things are possible. Our goal is to create an economy big enough to accommodate these big dreams and these big hopes. An economy where people literally have enough money to spend at these hotels and restaurants, so these people can make a living. An economy that raises enough tax revenue for its government, so it can afford to provide that child with the economic opportunities that they deserve and need to succeed. An economy creating enough jobs and new businesses so that when she gets out of the school, the man or woman that made your bed today in the hotel, has a job to walk into.
That is what we need to be focused on. The creation of an economy that grows the way we are accustomed to America's economy growing. And I don't know of any community in this country that has a more special obligation to ensure that happens than ours. For literally, we are but a generation removed from a very different life. We are all but a generation removed from people who lived a very different experience.
It's not fair for the story of America to end with us. On the contrary, while I am honored to receive this award today, the way I hope to render tribute to my parents and my grandparents, the way we should hope to give a lasting tribute to our parents and our grandparents is to ensure that the America they made possible and left for us does not end with us, but in fact, continues to shine for decades and even centuries to come. Thank you. Muchísimas gracias.