August 12, 1996
Thank you, Governor Bush, delegates, fellow Americans. Welcome to the thirty-sixth Republican National Convention. It is definitely not true that I've seen them all. I have seen most of them since 1940 - when I was one of the young rebels who stormed onto the Convention floor in Philadelphia shouting "We Want Wilkie!" That was my first whiff of political campaigning - I'll tell you a secret: I did inhale.
And I still love it. Ask my wife Betty. For our honeymoon I took her to a rally for Tom Dewey. Haven't heard the last of that yet. A few years ago, when I suddenly found myself President, I said I was a Ford, not a Lincoln. Today, what we have in the White House is neither a Ford or a Lincoln. What we have is a convertible Dodge. Isn't it time for a trade-in?
As we gather here this week, our Republican hearts and minds are in hospitable San Diego - and our FBI files are in the White House.
What is it, in a few words, that all Republicans believe? We believe - along with millions of Democrats and Independents - that a government big enough to give you everything you want...is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
What we want is an across-the-board change in Washington. Let's complete the fundamental Federal reform the American voters mandated for Congress two years ago. Above all, we desperately need a leader of principled, proven integrity who believes as we do...an expert at building consensus...a Commander-in-Chief who has earned his salutes...a President who would rather tackle tough problems than talk - and talk and talk - and talk about them.
President Bob Dole...and Vice President Jack Kemp!!!
Never forget, my friends, the primary purpose of a political party is to win. Since I first ran for Congress in 1948 we have generally won when we practiced a policy of inclusion, of expanding our Republican tent to welcome every American who believes in liberty and justice for all, special privilege for none, and a decent respect for the convictions of others. We have won - on merit, on character, on performance.
Ours is the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, who lived and died for the proposition that all Americans - indeed all people - are created equal, with unalienable God-given rights. Ours is the Republican Party of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who reminded us that America is not good because she is great; but rather - America is great because she is good. Ours is the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, whose persistence in building and maintaining American's military and industrial superiority finally persuaded the Communists they could never hope to defeat us, and thus ended the Cold War. Ours is the Republican Party of Bob Dole, another plain-speaking son of the American heartland, who persevered in the service of his Kansas neighbors to be Congressman, a Senator, our party's nominee for Vice President, minority and majority leader of the Senate. And, God willing, with your help and mind, the next President of the United States.
My friends, I know a thing or two about Bob Dole. And if there was anything I didn't know, I checked it out before choosing him as my running mate in 1976. I found Bob Dole fit to be President then; I find him even more qualified now. Remember when you read today's national polls, Ford and Dole came from 30 points behind that August to win 49.9 percent of the actual ballots cast. We lost a cliff hanger. The only poll that accounts THIS YEAR is still three months away.
Our second President, John Adams, was the first to move into the White House. It was on a hilltop where sheep grazed and citizens walked up to the door. No fence, no concrete roadblocks, and the roof leaked. Adams wrote home to his wife, telling her about a prayer he had composed for the new President's House. For all his successors, Adams wrote: "May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." I say amen. God bless our country and all Americans. Thank you, and good night.