Just two weeks ago, a nine-year-old girl named Caroline was having a carefree Texas summer, swimming in the pool, playing with friends, doing all of the things a happy child might do. Like most children, she relied upon the love that she received from her mom, Heidi, and her dad, a police sergeant named Michael Smith. That is, until he became one of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas.
The day her father was murdered, Caroline gave him a hug and a kiss as he left for work. But as they parted, her dad asked her something he hadn’t asked before. What if this is the last time you ever kiss or hug me? Later, as she thought of her fallen father, and that last heartbreaking hug, Caroline broke down in tears. How could anything ever be ok again?
Michael Smith was a former army ranger who spent three decades with the Dallas police department. I have no idea who he voted for in the last election or what he thought about this one. But his life was a testament to devotion. He protected the very protesters who mocked him because he loved his country and his fellow man. His work gave new meaning to that line from literature, to die of love is to live by it.
As I thought about what I wanted to say tonight, Michael Smith's story weighed on my heart maybe that is because his daughter Caroline is about the same age as my eldest daughter, and happens to share the same name. Maybe it is because I saw a video of that dear, sweet child choking back sobs as she remembered her daddy's last question to her.
Maybe it’s because we live in a world where so many others had their lives destroyed by evil in places like Orlando and Paris and Nice and Baton Rouge. Maybe it’s because of the simple question itself, what if this, right now, is our last time? Our last moment to do something for our families and our country? Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we really could? That is really what this election should be about. That’s why you and millions like you devoted so much time and sacrifice to this campaign.
We’re fighting not for one particular candidate or one campaign, but because each of us wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids, our own Carolines, that we did our best for their future and our country.
America is more than just a land mass between two oceans. America is an ideal, a simple but powerful idea. Freedom matters. For much of human history, government power has been the unavoidable constant in life. Government decrees and the people obey. But not here.
We have no king or queen, we have no dictator, we the people constrain government. Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, I want to be free.
Never has that message been more needed than today. We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, even hatred are tearing America apart and citizens are furious, rightly furious, at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises and that ignores the will of the people.
We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that. Now, of course, Obama and Clinton will also tell you that they care about our children's future. And I want to believe them. But there is a profound difference in our two parties' vision for the future. Theirs is the party that thinks ISIS is a JV team. That responds to the death of Americans at Benghazi by asking, what difference does it make?
And that thinks it is possible to make a deal with Iran which celebrates its holidays, death to America day and death to Israel day. My friends, this is madness. President Obama is a man who does everything backwards. He wants to close Guantanamo Bay and open up our borders. He exports jobs and imports terrorists. Enough is enough.
And I am here to tell you there is a better vision for our future, a return to freedom. On education, your freedom to choose your child's education, even if you aren’t as rich as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. On health care, your freedom to choose your own doctor without Obamacare. On taxes, your freedom to provide for your family without the IRS beating down your door. The internet, keep it free from taxes, free from regulation, and do not give it away to Russia and China.
Freedom means free speech, not politically correct safe spaces. Freedom means religious freedom, whether you're Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist. Whether you're gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience. Freedom means the right to keep and bear arms and protect your family. Freedom means that every human life is precious and must be protected.
Freedom means Supreme Court justices who do not dictate policy but instead, follow the Constitution. And freedom means recognizing that our Constitution allows states to choose policies that reflect local values. Colorado might decide something different than Texas. New York, different than Iowa. That is the way it is supposed to be, diversity. If not, what is the point of having states to begin with?
Hillary Clinton believes government should make virtually every choice in your life. Education, health care, marriage, speech, all dictated out of Washington. But something powerful is happening. We have seen it in both parties. We have seen it in the United Kingdom’s unprecedented Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the political establishment and overwhelmingly rejecting big government. That is a profound victory, and it is one earned by each and every one of you. People are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them. Fed up with a corrupt system that benefits the elites instead of working men and women. We deserve an immigration system that puts America first, and yes, builds a wall to keep America safe.
A government, a government that stops admitting ISIS terrorists as refugees. We deserve trade policies that put the interests of American farmers and manufacturing jobs over the global interests that are funding the lobbyists. And if we stand together and choose freedom, our future will be brighter. Freedom will bring back jobs and raise wages. Freedom will lift people out of dependency to the dignity of work.
We can do this. 47 years ago, to this day, America put the very first man on the moon. That was the power of freedom. Our party, the Republican Party, was founded to defeat slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Together, we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together, we thought to eliminate Jim Crow laws.
That is our collective legacy, although the media will never share it with you. Those were fights for freedom, and so is this. Sergeant Michael Smith stood up to protect our freedom, so do the soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines every day, fighting radical Islamic terrorism. And so did the family of Alton Sterling, who bravely called to end the violence.
So did the families of those murdered at the Charleston Emmanuel AME church over who forgave that hateful, bigoted murderer. And so can we. We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And to those listening, please, don’t stay home in November.
If you love our country, and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.
I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation. And I will tell you, it is love of freedom that has allowed millions to achieve their dreams. Like my mom, the first and her family to go to college, and my my dad, who is here tonight, who fled prison and torture in Cuba, coming to Texas with just $100 sewn into his underwear. And it is love that I hope will bring comfort to a grieving nine-year-old girl in Dallas.
And God willing, propel her to move forward and dream, and soar and make her daddy proud. We must make the most of our moments to fight for freedom, to protect our God-given rights, even if -- even with those with whom we do not agree. So that when we are old and gray, and when our work is done and we give those we love one final kiss goodbye, we will be able to say, freedom matters and I was part of something beautiful.
The case we have to make to the American people, the case each person in this room has to make to the American people, is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom and be faithful to the Constitution.
We will unite the party, we will unite the country, by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the United States of America.
Opinion of the Editor
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David Van Risseghem is the Director of Sooner Politics.org. The resource is committed to informing & mobilizing conservative Oklahomans for civic reform. This endeavor seeks to utilize the efforts of all cooperative facets of the Conservative movement...