Remarks by Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James at CPAC 2020

COMMENTARY Conservatism

Remarks by Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James at CPAC 2020

Feb 27, 2020 5 min read

Photo by Erin Granzow

Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James addressed the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, February 27, 2020. Below is a transcript of her remarks.

KAY C. JAMES: Hello. Now you all know that right after I am done, the vice president is here, right?

So my fellow C-PACers, have a seat and get ready. So for 40 years, The Heritage Foundation has produced a document called The Mandate for Leadership. It’s a guideline for policy. Now anyone who knows me knows how much I love former President Reagan. When we published our Mandate for Leadership, President Reagan gave it to every member of his cabinet and said if you do this we will have a successful presidency. And President Reagan, as good as he was, accomplished about 49 percent of The Heritage Foundation Mandate for Leadership.

Now here comes Mr. “Make America Great Again” Donald J. Trump. And he has in his first term embraced over 64 percent of The Heritage Foundation Mandate.

Now, I agree with the president on almost everything, but there is one thing he said that I take issue with. The president said you’re going to get tired of winning. In fact, Mr. President, I ain’t no ways tired.

You know, I been working on that, and I thought I should turn on ole’ Uncle Joe and Hillary to see how I could effect that black dialect and boy, all right.

But I’m not tired. I ain’t no ways tired of winning, and I hope you aren’t either.

We come to CPAC every year because we want to hear the fantastic speakers, we want to do some networking, we want to catch up with some old friends. I see some folks over here I haven’t seen in awhile.

But what’s the real reason you’re here? You got it. We are here because the stakes are high. And ladies and gentleman, we face a battle today between those who want to preserve this nation and those who are working to bring her down from within.

The question I have for you is, are you ready for the battle? Are you ready for the fight?

I came to CPAC because I wanted to encourage you. I know there are times when we feel like we are outmanned. Figuratively speaking, outgunned, only figuratively. With so many people in the news media, in our education system, and the entertainment industry, who are all working against us.

But let me tell you, I know what many of them don’t, that we have a stronger will to win because of what’s at stake. They don’t get it. You do. And you know, just like our Founders, we’re willing to work for a cause that is greater than any one of us.

We’re at a pivotal time in history. We’re seeing our founding principles not just abandoned, but trashed.

People are being told that free markets don’t work, that free speech is too dangerous, and that we need to give up even more of our liberty and income for an even bigger and more intrusive government.

Our students in our public schools are lied to repeatedly and told that America is an imperialist nation. They’re told we’re the cause of the world’s problems, like poverty and pollution and global warming. It’s all our fault.

In fact, the far left despises so much about America that they’re working to even rewrite American history, they’re trying to erase our American identity, and they’re trashing the fact that America is exceptional among the nations. Yes, I said it.

And while you and I work to call Americans to unite around the torch of liberty, they work to create subgroups and divisions among us with their identity politics.

The policies of the statists have wrought destruction. Rather than bringing prosperity, they bring decline. Rather than bringing unity, they sow divisiveness. Rather than protecting freedom, they subordinate it to an even more powerful, intrusive and bigger government.

That’s not the America most people—even most moderates and liberals—want to live in.

So, what are we going to do about this? How are we going to stop them? I have some suggestions.

We’ve often heard the story that, when he was leaving Constitutional Hall, Benjamin Franklin was asked whether America would end up as a republic or a monarchy. He replied, “A republic—if you can keep it.”

We intend to keep it.

But when you leave CPAC, I want you to leave with these words ringing in your ears. The exact same character, determination, and sacrifice that were required to found this republic are now desperately needed to keep her.

We have work to do.

Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor for the cause of freedom, and ladies and gentleman, every single CPACer here has to do the same.

Fortunately, I don’t think we have to die for this cause, but we do have to dedicate our time and treasure to defending this nation against those who would destroy her.

Now, let me tell you what that means. That means calling and writing your elected officials about proposed legislation. It means visiting their offices and making your voices heard at town-hall meetings. It means you don’t get to leave here on a sugar high, go home, and do nothing. It means you have to volunteer for candidates. It means you have to find candidates who will work for limited government, free-market principles and traditional American values—and go to work for them.

It means being willing to speak up and educate others about the issues that are so important, and they may only hear it from you because they won’t get these messages through traditional sources.

It also means teaching our children about our history. Teaching them that American exceptionalism is real. Teaching them that it’s okay to feel pride in their country.

And one wouldn’t think that you would have to say this to an audience like this, but I’ve seen the data, and it’s important to say. It means multiplying our efforts to go out and find your neighbors, your friends, your church members, and there are many, who have not registered to vote. Get them registered, and get them to the polls.

At The Heritage Foundation, we—like you—love this country. We bleed red, white and blue. And we want to help you and your organization. If we can be helpful in any way, you can find us at

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you can tell I love this country. This is a very special country, and we are a truly blessed people. But right now, America needs our help to keep her special.

One of my all-time favorite heroes is Harriet Tubman, and if you don’t know her story, look it up. Harriet risked her life to help slaves escape the South. She told them to go true north for their freedom. But she also told them, if you turn around and go back, I might have to shoot you, because you will put all of us at risk. That was one sassy woman.

In other words, my friends, we need to stick together and stay the course.

I’m asking you, my fellow conservatives, don’t turn around. We need you. We need you to stay in the fight. We need you to leave CPAC energized. Take all the knowledge and wisdom that you can get. Take all the skills that you can get through the workshops.

This is not the mountaintop experience. Leave this place. Go home and go to work. This great country is worth it.

Thank you so much, CPAC!

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