February 5, 2018 Imagine America: A Pathway Forward for All Americans
Monday, Feb 5, 2018
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
The Heritage Foundation
Remarks delivered by Kay Coles James, as she discussed her vision for The Heritage Foundation and America.
Thank you, Ed. It is truly an honor for me to be here tonight – with you and so many of our friends.
Since you and Paul Weyrich created The Heritage Foundation 45 years ago, it has shone as a leading center of excellence.
It nurtures thought-provoking research, vitally important dialogue, and unparalleled creativity.
It generates solutions that shape our great nation.
It provides fortitude to our allies and freedom-loving people around the world.
And – most important of all – it has a deeply positive impact on the lives of so many Americans.
That’s why serving as its president is not only an extraordinary privilege – it is the culmination of my personal journey and professional career.
Filling your shoes, Ed, is a daunting challenge – I assure you! You’ve not only been our leader but a close friend and mentor to so many of us throughout the conservative movement.
Ed, I’ll always owe you a debt of gratitude that’s simply too big for me to describe.
I’m so grateful to Phil, too. As conservatives across America and the world know, Phil has not just been an integral part of the Heritage family. He’s the skilled craftsman who took the movement’s ideas and helped make them a powerful reality.
So, Ed and Phil, thank you – thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I also want to express my profound thanks to my friends – and now bosses – the Board of Trustees, for their support.
Your confidence and unanimous vote are gifts, and I will work as hard as is humanly possible to lead this extraordinary organization that you and I love so much.
I want to thank our remarkable staff and members, too, for your warm welcome and the support you’ve given Heritage and me throughout this transition.
One of the most important jobs any CEO faces is to put together a high-performing team. That part of my job is already done! I inherited scholars and staff who are the most driven and dedicated team anyone could ever hope to lead.
No wonder an overwhelming majority of our members recently reported they “feel good” and “extremely positive” about this transition. That’s music to my ears!
Last but never least, I want to thank my friends, my family, and my wonderful husband, Charles – all of whom made a special point to join us here for this celebration.
You’ve been with me every step of the way, and the journey ahead simply wouldn’t be possible without you.
As we embark on this new chapter, we are blessed to be guided by a history that’s rich in success.
From historic tax cuts and missile defense to welfare reform and school choice and so much more, Heritage has been nothing less than a solutions factory. And the solutions our scholars create here change America and the world.
Take, for example, Heritage’s work to promote economic growth and opportunity for all. We knew what Margaret Thatcher meant when she said: “There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.”
That’s why Heritage has always fought misguided policies that would suffocate our future. And why Heritage leads the way for lower taxes, common-sense regulation, limited government, rule of law, and economic freedom.
Those are just some of the many areas where Heritage scholars and members have a profound impact.
You can see their mark, too, in education, in healthcare and welfare, in our defense and foreign policies, and in the culture and communities of our great nation.
It’s precisely because of the scope and impact of Heritage’s work that President Ronald Reagan paid us a very special compliment when he said, and I quote:
Success in politics is about issues, ideas, and the vision we have for our country in the world. In fact, the very sum and substance of the work of the Heritage Foundation.
President Reagan – whose birthday is tomorrow, by the way – was absolutely right.
The Heritage Foundation is a very special place.
An unstoppable force in American conservatism.
The home of truly extraordinary scholars and staff.
And a network of diehard alumni, dedicated trustees, and visionary benefactors.
But our work isn’t done – because we continue to be confronted by problems that must be solved.
The challenges we face now strike directly at the core principles this institution holds so dear:
free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values, and national security.
These challenges are evident everywhere. In failing schools and overflowing opioid clinics. In rural towns and urban centers. In Appalachia and the Rust Belt.
Surveying them, I can’t help but recall Abraham Lincoln’s warning to us:
All the armies of Europe and Asia...could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.
It doesn’t take long to see President Lincoln was right.
As we gather here tonight, brave men and women in uniform are defending our nation and protecting freedom-loving people everywhere.
But at the same time, the nation they serve is suffering destruction from within.
That’s why the work of the Heritage Foundation is so important. We stand as a bulwark against that destruction. And we serve as a battleship for liberty.
Difficult days lie ahead, to be sure, but I have total confidence we will succeed.
You see, our nation has faced perilous threats before. Each time, Americans wondered whether they would prevail. And each time, we did.
So it must be – and will be – again.
Fortunately, our fight resonates in the hearts and minds of virtually every American.
Having grown up in the heat of segregation, I know America’s capacity for compassion because – even then – there were those who stepped forward, and I experienced their kindness in so many wonderful ways.
In fact, I’m standing here because of the decency of so many – decency that continues to drive our nation forward today.
Unfortunately, many Americans are also misinformed – what pulses in their hearts is honest, but what resonates in their minds is so often untrue.
Like us, they want liberty, equality, and opportunity. But unlike us, they mistakenly believe those ideals can be achieved by the failed policies of the Left.
As a result, they simply don’t know that liberal policy threatens the very ideals they treasure – or that conservative policy upholds them.
But that problem is also our path forward.
Why? Because what we believe, what we develop, what we fight for – these are the policies that truly help and empower people.
Conservative policies help kids get a great education. And parents find meaningful work.
They help families live in peace. And communities be safe and secure.
That’s why I am a conservative.
And it’s why I think it’s so important for us to take our positive message to every corner of America and to freedom-loving people everywhere.
There’s no place we won’t go because there’s no one who won’t be helped by free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values, and a secure nation.
So, we will go to college campuses, to minority communities, to suburbia, and to urban centers.
Along the way, we will – as my mentor and friend, Jay Parker, put it – disagree without being disagreeable.
We will engage without seeking to enrage.
We will always be tough, but never mean.
We will grow the congregation, not preach to the choir.
And we will open the hearts, minds, and doors of the millions of Americans who really are conservative – but just don’t know it yet!
Together, we will build an America shaped by our founding principles and ready for the future.
Imagine what that America will be like.
Imagine an America where free markets reign, so there are enough jobs for everyone to realize their dreams.
Imagine an America with a strong national defense where our borders are secure, our communities are healthy, our streets are safe.
Imagine an America where civil society flourishes, life is protected, families are whole, and every child – no matter their race, religion, income, or address – gets a great education.
And imagine an America where liberty, equality, and opportunity aren’t just the gifts we inherited. They’re the endowment we pass on.
That America – the one we imagine – is the America we can build … today.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to fight for things I believe in.
For school integration and education equality.
For welfare reform and personal empowerment.
For the sanctity of life and safety from drugs.
For an end to racism. And for opportunity for all.
Each of those fights was hard, that’s for sure. But each time, inaction would have been so much worse.
That’s something we should keep in our hearts and minds every day. But it feels particularly meaningful today.
As my good friend, Jay Timmons, pointed out to me, today marks a very special anniversary – as of today, the Berlin Wall has been down for exactly as many days as it stood.
Had America not railed against that wall of shame, it might still be standing.
Instead, we looked down the barrel of Soviet might and, in President Reagan’s immortal words, called on the Soviet Union to tear down that wall.
Fighting for liberty is just as important for school children, families, and workers as it is for nations.
And it is in keeping with those wise words President Reagan shared with us:
Freedom, he said, “is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
I have no intention of telling my grandchildren – Sydney, Brandon, Andrew, Madeliene, and Charles – that their America is less free than the one I inherited.
Nor do I intend to ever forget George Washington’s guidance that we should always “humbly … implore [the Almighty’s] protection and favor.”
And so, together and with God’s grace, we will fight for what we believe in.
Because, my friends, America is worth fighting for.
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