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Remarks by William Bennet

By Editorial Staff
Published April 2, 2008

FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION AT THE REPUBLICAN PARTY CONVENTION’S NOMINATION OF DAN QUAYLE FOR U.S. VICE PRESIDENT ON AUGUST 19, 1992

HOUSTON, Texas – Thank you. Let me start by departing from my text. As a trained philosopher and as a sometimes objective commentator for the news media, I’d like to say I think this is a whole lot more interesting than New York.

This is a diverse party in may ways – intellectually. And we can be very proud of that fact. That other party has nothing on us. It’s late Summer in Houston at the Astrodome. We’re in the process now of getting our team on the field. And we are in this week determining the nature of the game we’re about to play.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to stand before you tonight to renominate Dan Quayle as Vice President of the United States. Dan Quayle – I know Dan Quayle. Dan Quayle is a friend of mine and he’s a friend of yours and he’s a great public servant. I’m particularly pleased to have the honor today because of Dan Quayle’s success in sparking a much needed debate about our most important social issues, the values by which we live and the values we convey to our children.

Remember, nothing – nothing more powerfully determines the shape of a child’s life than his values, his internal process, his beliefs, his sense of right and wrong. It is the child’s values, more than his race, his class, his sex, his ethnicity, his neighborhood, his genes, his background. It is the values that a child is taught that will more determine that child’s fate.

And, consistent with our theme tonight, I remind you of what you already know. It is given to families preeminently to provide those values. Now having been buried beneath the Reagan and Bush landslides of the last three presidential elections, the Democratic Party is now eager to wrap itself in the banner of traditional values. But to be a champion of traditional values requires more than rhetoric.

The American people will judge the two parties not only by what they say but by what they do, by what they stand for, and by what they will fight for. So let the Democratic Party invoke the mantra of a new covenant. Our grand old party will continue to hold to our sacred old covenant and the ideals which they embody. America does not need false prophets bearing new covenants. What we need are men and women of character who adhere to old principles.

Family values represent a great dividing line between the parties. This line, be sure to remember, involves very specific matters of policy. For example, we believe that families should be able to send their children to schools that they choose. Not all teachers are parents but all parents are teachers – children’s first teachers, children’s all but indispensable teachers. And those parents should be able to send their children to schools that affirm the most deeply held convictions of parents.

Second, we believe that our nation’s public schools should not be doing things like handing out condoms to our children. Educators should not be allowed to usurp the authority from parents in this and other sensitive areas. Remember, the child is not a ward given to the state for its nurture. The child is a gift of God, given in trust to his parents. And our schools should treat our young people as gifts of God, not as subjects of social experimentation or as young animals in heat.

On our side of the cultural divide line we believe that our government should not subsidize pornography and obscenity. We do not believe that filth is a cultural achievement worthy of public support. Our culture has become increasingly coarse. It has begun to fray our social fabric. Our children have suffered from this. There are, after all, some things that children simply should not see.

It’s bad enough that so much of what passes for art and entertainment these days is the rampant promiscuity and the casual cruelty of the movies and television in much of our popular culture. But to ask us to pay for it is to add insult to injury. We will not be intimidated by putative cultural guardians into accepting either the insult or the injury.

We believe, as well, that more of our children should have the opportunity to be raised with fathers in their lives. Young boys and girls who do not grow up with fathers are far more likely to drop out of school, to become promiscuous, to go on welfare, to use drugs, and to commit crime.

In saying this we do not disparage the good, noble and sometimes great effort of single or divorced mothers. I know of what I speak. My mother was divorced and raised my brother and me. Later in my life a stepmother intervened with love and affection and care.

As Barbara Bush said earlier, it is this idea of the family that we embrace; mothers and fathers, stepmothers and stepfathers, adoptive mothers and fathers, foster parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters.

So in talking about the family we will not disparage the noble efforts of good women. But in noting the decline of the American family we will say something to the men of America. And to the men of America we say this, man to man. Fatherhood involves a lot more than getting a woman pregnant. Real men, real fatherhood means love and commitment and sacrifice and a willingness to share responsibility and not walking away from one’s children.

Let me, as well, very briefly address the tumultuous issue of alternative lifestyles. Heaven knows there are lots of them. This is a free country. Within very broad limits people may live as they wish. And yet, we believe that some ways of living are better than others. Better because they bring more meaning to our lives, to the lives of others, and to our fragile fallible human condition. Marriage and parenthood should be held up because between marriage between husband and wife and in fatherhood and motherhood come blessings that cannot be won in any other way.

We believe these things and we believe them strongly because we believe the family to be our most important institution. We believe our families to be the first, the best and the original department of health, education and welfare. In our time, efforts must be made to preserve and strengthen the family. Heroic efforts, if necessary. And we, this party, will make those efforts.

Let me be clear about one thing. When we talk about traditional family values we are not using code words. We are not seeking a political wedge issue and we are not speaking to demean or to belittle others. Rather, we’re seeking to honor and to affirm what is best in us, what Lincoln has called the better angels of our nation.

But there are differences between our two political parties and the differences are real and the differences have consequences. So we Republicans will continue candidly to address the issue of values. We will be civil but we will not yield. We will not be discouraged from discussing right and wrong without embarrassment. We will not be discouraged from defining religion as the anchor of morality, and we will never stop affirming that all real education is the architecture of the soul.

This understanding of what we hold dear, of what we believe, has far too few defenders in our public life. One of the reasons that’s the case is that those who candidly speak out on behalf of these matters become the object of assault and caricature by their critics from the adversary culture.

Judging from the Democratic Convention it may now have become politically correct to say you are in favor of the values of family and personal morality. But what is not so politically correct is to be precise about what you mean. What is not politically correct is to stand up against the critics. What is not politically correct is to say that there are some things that we stand for and there are some things that we will not stand for.

Ladies and gentlemen, it may not come as a great shock to you, but let me say it anyway. I am very proud to tell you that Dan Quayle is not politically correct.

Dan Quayle has stood for family values. Dan Quayle has stood up against his critics. He has been principled. He has been courageous. And in response, he has been belittled. But he has not been silenced. In Dan Quayle we have had a case study in courage under fire. Through it all this good and decent man has demonstrated his grace, his resolve, his resilience. He has earned our respect and we will stand by our man.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased and honored to place in nomination for the Vice Presidency of the United States our friend Dan Quayle.


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