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Text of J.C. Watts' Speech -- San Diego GOP Convention, Aug. 13, 1996

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Watts Offers GOP Vision For Future

He sounds traditional Republican themes as priorities for the next year

By Kathleen Hayden/AllPolitics

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 4) -- Delivering the Republican response to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union Address, Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) laid out his party's vision for America, including restoring family values, transferring power from Washington to local communities, and balancing the federal budget.

"The state of this union really isn't determined in Washington, D.C.; it never has been and it never will be," Watts said from a room at the Library of Congress in front of a hand-picked group of Oklahoma constituents. "It is all of us who decide the real state of the union." (480K AIFF or WAV sound)

After former Sen. Majority Leader Bob Dole's desultory performance last year, Republican leaders selected Julius Caesar Watts, the only African-American Republican in Congress, to rebut the president's speech. A star quarterback for the University of Oklahoma and the Canadian Football League before he entered politics, Watts, a minister, grew up poor in rural Oklahoma.

Though largely congenial, Watts did make one subtle jab at the president, saying the nation's leaders "have a moral responsibility to offer more than poll-tested phrases and winning smiles. We must offer a serious vision."

The Republicans have one, Watts asserted, outlining three GOP priorities "to put our men and women back together, to put ourselves back together and in that way get our country back together."

First, family values. "We can help our country by bringing back the knowledge, the ancient wisdom that we are nothing without our spiritual, traditional and family values," Watts said.

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It should be easy for Americans to reach common ground, Watts insisted, because the values Republicans espouse are universal: if you make a mistake, own up to it; spend what you make; respect everyone; don't judge a man by the color of his skin; character counts; apply yourself.

Watts touted House Republicans' American Community Renewal Act to build up the institutions of "faith, family, hard work, strong neighborhoods." Those values hold communities together, he said. (352K AIFF or WAV sound)

The second priority Watts put forth was to "get our government's financial affairs in order." (480K AIFF or WAV sound)

Taking on Clinton, Watts defended the balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution to "force the government to change its ways, permanently." He said the amendment would help each person financially, and he downplayed predictions it would endanger Social Security. (320K AIFF or WAV sound)

Watts echoed the president's call for bipartisanship but said Americans "want the kind of bipartisanship that results in progress. They don't want phony compromise. They don't want the kind of weak, back-scratching, go-along-to-get-along bipartisanship that allows lawmakers to feel good, but gets bad results." (512K AIFF or WAV sound)

Watts' third point involved healing racial divisions which he said is at the heart of the Republican vision. Legislation will not get the job done, he contended. Instead, all people must accept responsibility for the problem.

"If legislation is the answer to the racial divide in our nation, then why in God's name in our time has the division grown? Why is the healing we long for so far from reality? Why does it seem that the more laws we pass, the less love we have?" he asked.

"Republicans and Democrats -- red, yellow, black and white -- have to understand that we must individually -- all of us accept our share of responsibility."


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