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Gov. Perry's Remarks to the American Legion Boys State 2009

Location: Austin, TX

Gov. Perry's Remarks to the American Legion Boys State 2009

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.

Thank you, McGregor (Stephenson).

I am honored to be with my fellow members of the American Legion, an organization that has consistently defended our nation's freedom throughout the years and is equipping tomorrow's leaders through Boys State.

As I look across this chamber and see the citizens of Boys State, I'm reminded of my own leadership training experience that took place about 45 years ago when I traveled to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to take part in the Boy Scouts National Jamboree.

I remember the details of that trip like it happened yesterday, including my sense of excitement when President Lyndon Johnson arrived by helicopter to speak to us.

Now Boys State and Boy Scouts are two entirely different organizations, but they serve similar functions, waking young men up to their potential as leaders and their responsibility as citizens.

My time in Valley Forge reiterated those things I'd learned from my parents and in Scout activities too numerous to count- that there are certain, unchanging values that must be preserved to sustain civil society.

Even at the age of 14, I understood the significance of walking the hallowed ground where George Washington and his men had kept the flame of liberty flickering in the face of mind-numbing cold and overwhelming odds.

In some ways, my scouting buddies and I were the fulfillment of their distant dreams, with a heartfelt responsibility to carry their legacy forward through lives well-lived, in servant leadership of great causes.

All those years later, as I consider the lessons I learned in that place, I find that I don't necessarily fear our nation losing its freedom to a hostile foreign power, but that our society will continue to decay from within, and a growing leadership vacuum will engulf us all.

Spend too much time watching the news and you can be convinced pretty quickly that our society is in a downward spiral, unchecked by traditional values and lacking leaders who will say no to our nation's insatiable appetite for self-indulgence.

Anyone who considers that the case needs to spend some time with the citizens of Boys State 2009.

This experience is no mere summer camp where the inmates weave baskets, nurse sunburns and kill time until Parents' Day.

Instead, you have spent the past week deeply engaged in leadership training that will serve you well in the remaining years of your life.

If I could encourage you to do anything with those years, it would be to consider how you can serve others.

By being here, you are making it clear that such service is already a priority for you, and I commend you for seeking ways to do it better.
Now, some speakers might stand up here and tell you that serving others takes just one form, of volunteering at every turn, working for free and feeling great about yourself in the process.

I would offer that serving others can take many forms, including non-profit work, military service and government, but it can also manifest itself in the form of doing your best in business and creating jobs for others.

By that measure, Texas is full of servant leaders, men and women who have taken innovative ideas, risked their own capital and devoted countless hours of work to create profitable companies.

It may be popular in some sectors of our culture to deride successful people as enemies of the good, but this is Texas, where leaders have an opportunity to succeed and take others with them on their way to success.

That is why we lead the nation in exports, Fortune 500 companies and job creation.

Did you know that more than half the jobs created in the U.S. last year were in Texas? Did you know that Texas has been the top destination for people moving from one state to another for the past four years?

That certainly happens because we have kept taxes low, our legal system fair and our regulations predictable.

However, I credit our hardworking citizens who allow themselves to dream of big things, to embrace a personal vision as big as Texas.

Here in the Lone Star State, we have created an environment that encourages people like you to take risk, to pursue your dreams, and positively impact the lives of others.

This week, in the company of other leaders, under the tutelage of experienced instructors, you have experienced what is like to be encouraged.

You have seen what happens when people come together in pursuit of a shared goal.

Sometimes it is a beautiful thing of early consensus and harmony.

However, harmony isn't always the outcome when people convene to consider a course of action, but that's why God developed leaders.

Leaders must be willing to ask the tough questions, speak the unvarnished truth, and present a compelling vision of what can be.

I believe you saw that in action this week and I hope you will carry that lesson with you.

Without leaders like you, the progress of our society might be slowed, and our state's preeminent position in our nation and world might be eroded.

As you conclude this exercise in democracy, I hope that you will be inspired to lead in just causes, invigorated to persevere in the face of adversity, and inclined to leave Texas a little better than the way you found it.

I'm confident you'll carry home the lessons of your time at Boys State and have a significant impact on your community, your county and your state.

Be brave, be bold and be certain: Texas is the place to make a difference.

May God bless you all and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.

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