Carly Fiorina

Remarks at the Iowa Freedom Summit - Jan. 24, 2015

Carly Fiorina
January 24, 2015— Des Moines, Iowa
2015 Iowa Freedom Summit
Print friendly

Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. So great to be with you here.

When I was a little girl, my mother, who was my Sunday school teacher that year, gave me and the rest of her Sunday school class a little plaque, and it said, What you are is God's gift to you. What you make it yourself is your gift to God.

I didn't feel very gifted as a child but I went on to college and I graduated with a degree in medieval history and philosophy. That's right – all dressed up and nowhere to go. So with apologies to every lawyer here, I went off to law school. I hated it. I quit after a single semester. And so to earn a living, I went back to doing full time what I had done par -time to put myself through school. I was a secretary and I was hired by a little nine-person real estate firm to type and file and answer the phones.

I have traveled and lived all over the world and I know that is still true in 2015, that it is only in the United States of America that a young woman can start as a secretary and become the chief executive officer of the largest technology company in the world. That is only possible in the United States of America because, you see, our founders knew what my mother taught me: All of us have God-given gifts. Everyone has potential. And our founders believed that here, everyone has the right to fulfil their potential.

Now I know how proud all of you were the other night to see your senator Joni Ernst stand up and deliver the response to President Obama's State of the Union. Immediately after her response, EMILY's List – the pro-abortion women's group – EMILY's List described Senator Ernst – a mother, a soldier, a sitting senator – as window dressing. Let us talk, please, about who is waging a war on women.

The next morning, the very next morning Valerie Jarrett was on TV and she was talking about equal pay for equal work. I was on the same program and I asked Ms. Jarrett why there was a wage gap between men and women in President Obama's White House as measured by the very numbers that he has used to politicize the issue, and I asked her further why, if she was so concerned about equal pay for equal work, why the White House was not tackling the seniority system, which is in place in every federal government bureaucracy and every union shop. The seniority system, which does not reward performance or merit or hard work, but rewards instead time in grade. The seniority system, which disadvantages women.

It is this hypocrisy, the hypocrisy liberals that enrages me most. While President Obama urges us in his State of the Union to invest in infrastructure, he is unwilling still to support the Keystone XL pipeline. And while the administration cheers when seven million people sign up for Obamacare, they ignore completely that more than that have lost their coverage or no longer have as good coverage as they once had.

Liberals will decry crony capitalism but then they pile on the rules and the regs in Dodd-Frank and the result, as we know, is that ten banks too big to fail have become five banks too big to fail, and meanwhile community banks – the places where family-owned businesses and families and small business owners get their credit – community banks are struggling. They are struggling because community banks, like small and family-owned businesses, aren't big enough, aren't powerful enough to hire all the accountants and the lawyers and the lobbyists to understand all these rules and regs or to influence them.

Liberals call us the party of big business, but then they continue to increase the burden and the complexity of taxes and regulations until only the big and the powerful and the wealthy and the well-connected can survive. I ran a big business. I didn't like the regs but I could handle them. I could hire accountants and lawyers. That little nine-percent firm that I started out in – they can't handle it.

And so now for the first time in U.S. history, we are just destroying more small businesses than we are forming. And that is terrible, because when small business is crushed – and it is being crushed all across this country by big government – small business is the engine of economic growth of this country. It creates two thirds of the new jobs and it employees half our people. Small businesses being crushed because only big business can handle big government.

I once lived in the state of California. My husband I move back home to Virginia three years ago. But in the state of California…. That's a state, as you well know, where liberals have been in charge for a very long time, and the result? The highest poverty rates in the country. Income inequality is soaring. The devastation and exodus of the middle class. The worst business climate in the nation. And in California liberals expend enormous energy to protect frogs and fish and yes, even flies.

And it is on the issue of life that the hypocrisy of liberals is at its most breathtaking. Liberals believe that flies are worth protecting but the life of an unborn child is not. The platform of the Democratic party, the platform of the Democratic party asserts the right to an abortion at any point in a pregnancy for any reason. And there are now people in the Democratic party pushing to allow these abortions to be performed by non doctors. Barbara Boxer once commented that a life is only a life when it leaves the hospital. We know that science supports those of us who believe in the sanctity of life.

When I married my husband, Frank, thirty years ago, I learned that his mother had been told to abort him because her life was in danger. But she was a woman of deep faith and great courage, and so she bore him. She spent a year in the hospital after his birth, but her son, my husband, was the joy of her life and he is the rock a mind, and I have thought very often how different my life would have been if my mother-in-law had made a different choice.

A woman, any woman, who faces a difficult choice or a prenatal diagnosis – this woman deserves our empathy and our support – never our judgment or our condemnation. She knows she will face difficulty and struggle, but none of us can predict the future. None of us can predict the struggles we are going to face.

I know this, I know this having watched our younger daughter Lori consumed by the demons of addiction, which ultimately took her life. I know from my own battle with cancer that sometimes the greatest blessings in life come from times of struggle and that the quality of a life is measured in love and in moments of grace and in positive contribution. I know that everyone has God-given gifts and every life has potential.

We know what separates liberals from conservatives. We know as conservatives that no one of us is better than any other one of us. Liberals don't believe that. Liberals actually think that some are better than others. Some are smarter than others. And so some are gonna have to take care of others or decide for others. We know, we know that work – work – brings dignity and family brings purpose and faith brings meaning to our lives. We know. We know that every person has the capacity, has the desire, to live a life a dignity and purpose and meaning.

And yet despite, these clear differences, we get frustrated when these clear differences don't seem to translate into a different direction. Government has gotten bigger under Obama that is true, but government has grown year, after year, after year under both Republicans and Democrats for fifty years.

I serve as the chairman of a Christian-based organization called Opportunity International. We have lent over $6 billion to people in desperate poverty so that they could build better lives for themselves and their families, starting with loans of $150. Today I can deliver a loan to a woman in Millau over a cell phone, and yet a veteran returning from the battlefield with grievous wounds – a veteran must spend months filling out paperwork and then spend many more months waiting for a bureaucrat to check that paperwork and determine that this veteran has, deserves the benefits that they've already earned, and then they have to wait months more to be treated.

We can't tinker around the edges of this problem anymore. But knowing that that problem has existed for decades and that's just one of the problems of our government. The Veterans Administration has been a problem for decades. Knowing that these problems have existed for all this time.

The sad truth is that legislators from both parties declared victory, not when they were able to guarantee a veteran the care that they have earned. They declared victory when they did something that they should have done a long time ago. They passed a bill allowing senior VA executives to be fired if they weren't doing their jobs. Really? Really? Is this the best we can do?

The majority of Americans and the majority of women to agree that abortion after five months for any reason at all is extreme, and yet politics apparently intervened to prevent the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from being brought to the floor for a vote. This is disappointing, because what it says is that once again politics has triumphed over principle and expediency has triumphed over courage. This is not leadership of the House.

I am reminded, I am reminded of the difference between management and leadership, between managers and leaders. You see, managers do the best they can within existing constraints and conditions within the system. Leaders change constraints and conditions. Leaders see possibilities, and leaders mobilize others to seize possibilities. Leaders do not accept what is broken simply because it has always been that way.

You know in every profession, there's a hazard. There's a hazard that you're so consumed by your profession that you don't see anything else and so you start to lose perspective. Your judgment is clouded. You cannot see the forest for the trees. You cannot see the principle for the politics. You cannot recognize the dysfunction all around you.

In business, people can become obsessed, for example, with making the quarterly numbers and they fail in that environment to see the long-term investments that need to be made. Or they violate ethics or the law to make the numbers.

In politics, people can become obsessed with the back and forth, with a tactical advantage, with the vote in front of them, with the press coverage about them. They fail to see the principle at stake or what is truly broken in our system. People who have been in and around government and politics for their entire lives may no longer be able to see the truth.

Our government must be fundamentally reformed. The system has to be changed. Our politics can no longer tinker on the edges, because you see, and you know this, the bureaucratic monster that our government has become is not simply inefficient or ineffective or corrupt.

The truth now is that our government's size, its complexity, its cost and its power over our lives now work against the interests of the people. The potential of America is being crushed by the weight of government of America.

Only citizens, only citizens like you and me can see what must be done. And this will take courage and common sense. It will take character and it will take commitment.

Ours was always intended to be a citizen government. Our founders actually never envisioned a professional political class. They envisioned that people, that leaders would emerge from agriculture or commerce and would serve their nation when she called them to do so.

To accomplish fundamental reform will take an understanding of the technology that is driving this century and changing our world. It will require an understanding of how the economy actually works. It will require an understanding, a knowledge of how bureaucracies function and how real change can be accomplished. Fundamental reform will take a return to the values that have always been the bedrock of this nation.

We must understand our role in the world – which is to lead – and the nature of our allies, and especially the nature of our adversaries.

Like Hillary Clinton, I, too, have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe, but unlike her I've actually accomplished something. You see, Mrs. Clinton, flying is not an accomplishment- it is an activity.

I have met Vladimir Putin and I know that it takes far more than a gimmicky red reset button to halt his ambition. Having done business in over 80 countries, having served as the chairman of the External Advisory Board at the Central Intelligence Agency for several years, I know that China and North Korea and Russia are state sponsors of cyber-warfare. I know that China has a strategy to steal our intellectual property. I know Bibi Netanyahu, and I know that when he warns us that Iran is a threat to our nation and to his own, that we must listen.

And unlike Hillary Clinton, I know what difference it makes that our American ambassador and three other brave Americans were killed in a deliberate terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11 in Libya.

And apparently unlike Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I know our response must be more forceful than the arrest of a single individual one year later.

I am a conservative, because after a lifetime of experience in all kinds of places and in all kinds of environments, I still know that our principles work better to unlock potential in others. And I also know that this is the highest calling of leadership.

I have had the great privilege to travel all across this nation and all across the state of Iowa, and I sense a deep disquiet. Americans fear we are losing something and they know we are missing something. We fear we are losing the essence of who we are. We fear we are losing that uniquely American sense of limitless possibility for ourselves, for children, four grandchildren.

But all of our nation's wounds are self-inflicted. All of our problems can be solved. Every American can live a life of dignity and purpose and meaning. We have everything we need to make this time the greatest time in America's history.

What is required now is citizenship and leadership. And so let us together rise to meet the challenges that confront us. Let us together truly reform our government and our politics. Let us together restore the promise of this, the greatest nation the world has ever known.

May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Thank you so much.

Speech from