Good morning. Thank you for coming.
Many of you have known me for a long time. Some of you have known me since my family lived in the back of the bar in that building. But I’m pretty sure no one here, including me, ever expected to hear me say:
I’m Lindsey Graham, and I’m running for President of the United States of America.
It’s because of you that I can make that statement.
Everything I am, and everything I will be, I owe to the kindness and generosity and example of people in Central and Clemson and Seneca and Walhalla and other towns and farms of upstate South Carolina. Thank you . . . for everything.
I want to be president to protect our nation that we all love so much from all threats foreign and domestic.
So get ready. I know I’m ready.
I want to be president to defeat the enemies trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them.
Ronald Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength” kept America safe during the Cold War. But we will never enjoy peaceful co-existence with radical Islam because its followers are committed to destroying us and our way of life. However, America can have “Security through Strength.”
I want to be president to meet our problems head on. Honestly and realistically, for the purpose of solving them, not hiding them or taking political advantage of them.
I want to be president to make government work for you, not the other way around.
I want to make government keep its promises to you, to support your dreams, embrace your values, reflect your character.
I want to be president to help us build a future greater than our amazing past. And I’ll work with anyone to do it.
We’ve made some dangerous mistakes in recent years. The Obama Administration, and some of my colleagues in Congress, substituted wishful thinking for sound national security strategy. Every day the headlines attest to the failures of the Obama/Clinton policies.
Simply put, radical Islam is running wild.
They have more safe havens, more money, more weapons and more capability to strike our homeland than anytime since 9/11.
They are large, rich and entrenched.
As president I will make them small, poor and on the run.
I’m afraid some Americans have grown tired of fighting them. I have bad news to share with you — the radical Islamists are not tired of fighting you.
In partnership with others, we must take the fight to them, building lines of defenses over there so they can’t come here. Building up and supporting regional forces to go after their safe havens that could be used to attack our homeland.
The world is exploding in terror and violence but the biggest threat of all is the nuclear ambitions of the radical Islamists who control Iran.
If the United States isn’t firm in our intention to deny them such weapons, Iran will trigger a nuclear arms race in the least stable region on earth, and make it more likely that people who aspire to genocide will have the most effective means to commit it.
Our close ally, Israel, is at risk as a result of Obama’s failed leadership. We share values, we share democracy, and our friendship is unbreakable. To our friends in Israel, I will never abandon you. I will always stand firm in supporting the one and only Jewish state.
I too say – never again.
I am running for president because I have the experience, judgment and will to deny the most radical regimes the most dangerous weapons.
But to defeat this enemy, it will require more than military might.
The most powerful weapon in our arsenal isn’t a gun. It’s an idea. The terrorists are selling a glorious death. We must sell a hopeful life.
I’ve learned from my travels that a small schoolhouse in a remote region educating a young girl can do more damage to radical Islam than any weapon we possess.
Radical Islam is not the only threat we face, old adversaries are seizing new opportunities to challenge our interests. Putin seized Ukrainian territory, and threatens our NATO allies.
China is building – literally building – their own islands in resource rich waters claimed by other nations and challenging free navigation of the seas.
Our allies feel the absence of America’s leadership. Our adversaries are taking advantage. American weakness anywhere hurts us everywhere.
Our enemies are emboldened and our friends are going it alone. Both reactions are detrimental to our interests.
The next President must be an informed and decisive Commander-in-Chief, ready immediately to address these threats.
We’ve learned over the past six years that speeches alone won’t make us safer. Superior power and resolve will.
I’m running for President because I am ready to be Commander-in-Chief on day one.
I’m ready on day one to defend our nation with sound strategy, a strong military, stable alliances, and steady determination.
I’ve been to the Middle East more times than I can count, both in my capacity as a U.S. Senator and as a reserve officer in the United States Air Force.
I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate.
I know the players – our friends and our enemies alike. Most importantly, they know me.
I have listened, learned and prepared myself for the job of Commander-in-Chief.
I served in the Air Force for thirty-three years. I spent much of my adult life as part of a team committed to defending America.
Politicians focus on elections. The military focuses on the mission.
If given the privilege to serve as your President, I’ll focus on the mission – to defend America, protect our way of life, and leave the next generation a stronger, safer, better nation than we inherited.
That won’t be easy. It never has been.
There are dangers that must be faced, and as usual, the best of us will have to face the worst of them.
The best of us are the one-percent of Americans who are the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
I cannot promise as Commander-in-Chief that the dangers they confront, the risks they run, the sacrifices they make will be fewer or easier.
But I can assure them they will have the leadership to defeat our enemies. I can promise them their sacrifices won’t be wasted. They won’t fight with their hands tied behind their backs.
We will end this conflict on our terms. We will win.
Those who believe we can disengage from the world at large and stay safe by leading from behind, vote for someone else. I’m not your man.
Those who believe the best way to defend ourselves is to lead the world, to make history rather than be overwhelmed by it, I ask for your support.
Join me if you want to tackle problems at home that have been kicked down the road because they’re too hard to fix and too easy to demagogue.
Washington’s failure to do the hard but right thing has put Social Security and Medicare in serious jeopardy. As my generation retires both programs are on track to go bust. We’re living longer and fewer workers are supporting more retirees. That’s unsustainable. Everybody knows it. Not everybody admits it.
We have to fix entitlement programs to make sure people who need the benefits the most receive them. That’s going to require determined presidential leadership.
I know from personal experience how important those programs are to the lives of millions of Americans. I lost my parents when I was a young man and my sister was in middle school. We depended on Social Security benefits to survive.
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve done better than I’ve ever dreamed. If I and others like me have to take a little less and pay a little more to help those who need it the most, so be it. And, younger workers might have to work a little longer.
As President, I’ll gladly do what it takes to save a program that once helped my family.
To those who yearn for a safe and healthy environment, I will join your cause. To those who seek energy independence, I will be your champion.
I’m tired of sending hundreds of billions of dollars to buy oil from people who hate us. We must have energy independence. And in the process, I believe it is possible to produce a safe, clean environment, and create new well-paying jobs for Americans of all generations.
To my fellow Republicans, I’ll be a champion for limited and effective government and a strong national defense. I’ll be a voice for social conservative values without apology or animosity. I love my party. I’m committed to see it prosper and grow.
To my friends in the other party, on the big things we share a common fate. I’ll work with you to strengthen the country we both love. Our differences are real, and we’ll debate them. But you’re not my enemy. You’re my fellow countrymen.
My enemies are those who despise our shared values, the enemies of enlightenment, the culture of death that seeks to destroy the dignity of life. We’ll fight them together with our partners. And we’ll win.
To Americans who trust neither party, I will seek the political common ground our nation so desperately needs to find.
That’s what I’ve done before. Don’t take my word for it. Examine my record.
I intend to be president not of a single party, but of a nation. I want to do more than make big government smaller. I want to help make a great nation greater.
I’ve traveled the world, and had experiences and opportunities that I never dreamed of. I’ve been lucky so much of my life, but never luckier than in the people and place I come from.
Those of you who’ve known me a long time know I had some ups and downs as a young man. I lost my parents, and had to struggle financially and emotionally. I would not have made it through those times without you, and without the example my parents set for me.
There are a lot of so-called “self-made” people in this world. I’m not one of them. My family, friends, neighbors and my faith picked me up when I was down, believed in me when I had doubts. You made me the man I am today.
I’m a man with many debts to my family, to you, to South Carolina and to the country. I’m running for president to repay those debts, to fight as hard for you as you fought for me. In the end, that’s the only promise I can make and the only pledge I’ll sign, the only one that matters.
If you make me president, I’ll fight each day harder than I fought the day before to keep this country safe, prosperous and as good as the people who made it great. I humbly ask for your support and your vote. I will work everyday to make you proud.
Thank you, and God bless.