Thank you very, very much. Thank you, Lee, and thank you all for that warm welcome.
Before I start...before I start, I just want to say how proud I am of my very good friend, Marilyn Quayle. Thank you. I want to thank her very much for those really nice, overly generous words and tell her what a great speech she gave. So thank you very much.
I also would like to say that whoever arranged for me to speak after those fabulous points of light is fired. They made me really proud to be an American.
You're a really tough audience, but what a thrilling welcome. You make me feel wonderful, but then I always feel wonderful when I get to talk about the strongest, the most decent, the most caring, the wisest, yes, and the healthiest man I know.
Sh...Sh...but you know, there's something not quite right here, speeches by President Ronald Reagan, President Gerald Ford, Secretary Jack Kemp, Senator...Senator Phil Graham and Barbara Bush?
But I...all right, all right. But I'm here not to give a speech, but to have a conversation, and most of all, to thank hundreds of communities across the country for one of the great privileges George and I have had in the last four years—the chance to meet so many American families and be in your homes. We have learned from you, and we look forward to meeting so many more of you with four more years. We've met...we've met thousands of wonderful families. When we speak of families, we ex...include extended families, we mean the neighbors, even the community itself.
We've met heroic single mothers and fathers who have told us how hard it is to raise children when you're doing it all alone. We've talked to grandparents who thought their children...child raising days were over, but are now raising their grandchildren because their children can't. We've visited literacy classes where courageous parents were learning to read and continuing their education so they could make a better life for their families. And we've held crack babies and babies with AIDS and comforted other victims.
George and I have seen communities gather around parents with a gravely ill child, helping them take care of the other children, helping them make it through each day. There've been many times in our own lives when we, too, couldn't have made it without our friends and neighbors.
We shared moments with the families where the father and, indeed, the mother were serving in the Persian Gulf and heard stories of how their neighbors saw to it that the family left at home was taken care of, whether it was baby-sitting, helping with emergencies or even cutting the grass. Those yellow-ribboned towns not only wrapped trees and posts, they also wrapped their arms around these young families.
We have met so many different families, and yet, they really aren't so very different. As in our family, as in American families everywhere, the parents we've met are determined to teach their children integrity, strength, responsibility, courage, sharing, love of God and pride in being an American.
However you define family, that's what we mean by family values. You know, we know that parents have to cope with so much more in today's world—more drugs, more violence, more promiscuity than when our children were growing up.
You know, when George and I headed west after World War II, we already had our first child. George was a veteran. He was a college graduate, and he had a job here in Texas. And we eventually settled in Midland, a small, decent community where neighbors helped each other, a wonderful place to bring up a family, and it still is. In many ways these were the best years of our lives. George's days in the fields were dusty with long hours and hard work, but no matter when he got home, he always had time to throw a ball or listen to the kids. I car pooled, was a den mother and went to more Little League games than I can count. We went to church; we cheered at Fourth of July picnics and fireworks, and we sang carol...carols together at Christmas.
Thank heavens George didn't expect our kids to be perfect. They weren't. Once, when one of the boys hit a baseball through the Vanderhoff second story window, I called George to see what dire punishment should be handed out and all he said was, "The Vanderhoff second story window, what a hit." I don't believe that George ever had to punish the children. He had a quiet way of making them want to do right and give reverence to God. And it made such a difference having his wise hand guiding them. You know, to us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.
No family is perfect, and no family is without pain and suffering. We lost a daughter; we almost lost a son, and one child struggled for years with a learning disability.
You know, once when I heard an interviewer ask George what accomplishment he was most proud of, I wondered what would he answer? Would he say his years as a Navy pilot, a businessman, a public servant or would he speak about some of the changes that have happened since he has been President, the collapse of Communism, the fact that our children no longer live in fear of nuclear holocaust or would he say the enactment of the nation's most comprehensive civil rights law to protect the rights of disabled Americans? What would he answer? Well, it's the same answer George Bush always gives—that his children still come home.
This week...this week we are here to talk about the future or our country and the world, but both George and I believe that while the White House is important, the country's future is in your house, every house, all over America.
Now I would like to say a word to some special people. The rest of you may listen in, but I...I'd really like to talk for a moment to parents who have sacrificed for their children. You may be exhausted from working a job or two jobs and taking care of your children or you may have put your career on hold. Either way, you may wonder as I did every now and then, am I really doing the right thing? Yes, you are. For...for where will our country find leaders with integrity, courage, strength—all the family values— in 10, 20 or 30 years? The answer is that you are teaching them, loving them and raising them right now. So...so yes, from the bottom of my heart, I'm here to tell you that you are doing the right thing, and God bless you for it.
I love you too.
Now, since I've met so many of your families, I'd like you to meet ours, all 22 of them. You'd never know it, but what a handful they were.
Tonight, you will nominate George Bush to lead our nation into its future. With all my heart I say—and I know him best— you have made a superb choice.
Thank you and God bless you.