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Remarks of Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., to the Republican National Convention in San Diego on Tuesday night


Thank you very much. Thank you.

Let me start by saying tonight that I commend Senator Dole for selecting the second best quarterback in the Republican party to be his running mate. Jack we're delighted to have you on the team, buddy.

When it comes to the American dream, no one has a corner on the market. All of us have an equal chance to share in that great dream. But then, this is America, where dreams come true.

One of the Republican's major products is dream making. People are dying to get into this country. They're not dying to get out of it.

America is still the greatest, the most prosperous, the most wonderful nation on the face of the Earth. And it produces hundreds of thousands of dreams come true every day.

Tom Lewis had a dream. As a police officer walking the streets of D.C.'s toughest neighborhoods. Time after time, kids would come up to him, fatherless children, and ask, "Will you be my daddy?"

So, when Tom retired from the D.C. police force, he took his life savings, bought a house and turned it into a center where kids could go for tutoring and nurturing and a warm meal. Tom called the house the Fishing School.

Tom understands that what we build, nourish and encourage the youth of America to be today, is what our country will be 20 years from now.

Tom is joined by countless unsung heroes around America. This past year I had the opportunity to travel the country and meet the people who are changing lives, one heart at a time.

In my own home state of Oklahoma, there's the Resurrection House in Chickasha, Oklahoma, that takes care of the homeless in a rural community.

There's an organization called TEEM, The Education and Employment Ministry, where Doc Benson restores people with a job and a future.

I celebrated with Freddy Garcia in San Antonio, Texas, who not only met the challenge of his own drug addiction but has a ministry serving others with success rates that the social scientists can only dream about.

These people are working in the trenches, and suffering with those who suffer. They understand compassion.

They understand compassion can't be dispensed from a safe distance by a faceless bureaucrat sitting in an air conditioned office in Washington, D.C.

And while we're on the subject of compassion, it was just about four years ago that I was privileged to address the GOP convention. It was at that time that I talked about how the Republican definition of compassion was different than the Democrats.

You see, Republicans don't define compassion by how many people are on AFDC and public housing and on food stamps. You see, we define compassion by how few people are on food stamps and AFDC and public housing -- because we have given them the means to climb the ladder of success.

At that time, welfare reform was a distant hope, but I am pleased to tell you that just two weeks ago, the historic Republican Congress passed over the objections of Bill Clinton welfare reform that will restore compassion and dignity to those less fortunate.

Compassion, compassion can't be measured in dollars and cents. It does come with a price tag now, but that price tag isn't the amount of money spent. The price tag is love -- being able to see people as they can be and not as they are. The measure of a man is not how great his faith is, but how great his love is. We must not let government programs disconnect our souls from each other.

Bob Dole understands that. Bob Dole knows that it's people like Tom Lewis, the folks at the Resurrection House, Freddy Garcia and Doc Benson. It's these people, not the government that can provide folks with tools they need to become productive citizens with dignity.

Bob Dole understands Washington can't teach people right from wrong, Washington can't dry their tears or help a child with his homework.

Bob Dole understands it's people helping people, neighbor helping neighbor, kids helping kids.

And friends let me share with you this evening, there's one title that I cherish a whole lot more than I cherish the title congressman, and that's the title dad.

So, tonight I have a special message for the kids in your house tonight. Young people, America needs you. If our country's going to continue to be great, if it is going to continue to be strong, you're going to have to do your part. You're going to have to fight for America, fight for the values that have made America great.

Fight against skipping school and cheating on your exams. Fight against driving too fast and disobeying your parents. And young people, you should thank God on a daily basis, if you have parents that exercise tough love with you.

Fight against cursing and smoking. And fight, and fight with every ounce of your being against drugs and against alcohol. And I know, I know, I know you've heard all this before and probably think that J.C. Watts is just another old fashioned grown-up and if you're thinking that, you're right, just ask my own five kids, Keisha, Jerrelle, Jennifer, Trey and Julie.

I know it's tough young people. That's why I'm asking you to fight and be counted as a leader in America today. You can help. You can help your friends find the courage to say no to the things that make them weak. And yes to the things that make them strong. You see, friends, young people, high students, college students, character does matter.

And you know, I've got a pretty simple definition of character. It's simply doing what's right when nobody's looking. For too long, for too long, for too long we've gotten by in a society that says the only thing right is to get by, and the only thing wrong is to get caught.

And I want to make a promise to you tonight. We will do our best to leave this country in better shape financially, environmentally, and, most of all, spirituality.

Parents and adults, parents and adults, I don't just challenge the youth tonight. I challenge you. For what we build and nourish and encourage the youth of America to be today is what our country will look like 20 years from now.

The American dream is about becoming the best you can be. It's not about your bank account, the kind of car you drive, or the brand of clothes that you wear.

It's about using your gifts and your abilities to be all that God meant for you to be. Whether your dream is to be a doctor, a teacher, an engineer, or yes, even a congressman. If you can dream it, you can do it.

The American dream is the promise that if you study hard, if you work hard, if you make responsible choices in your life, and dedicate yourself, you can be whatever you want to be.

Make America proud by keeping the American dream alive. You can do it young people. You are America's greatest resource.

And, one more thing, in the wildest dreams of Buddy and Helen Watts, did they ever think that the fifth child born to them of six children, in a poor, rural community of Eufaula, Okla., in a poor black neighborhood on the east side of the tracks, never in their wildest, in their wildest dreams did they ever think that their son Junior would someday grow up to be called congressman.

But after all, never did they think it would happen. Never, never did they think that their baby boy, J.C. Jr. could grow up to be called congressman. But friends after all, this is America. God bless you.

(Copyright 1996 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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