Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the 2011 winner of the Kemp Leadership Award, gave the keynote speech at the 2012 Jack Kemp Foundation dinner at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel honoring Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Representative Ryan talked about topics including the 2012 presidential campaign, closing the poverty gap, and welfare reform.
Here is an excerpt from Paul Ryan’s speech:
“The campaign of 2012 was filled with moments I’ll always remember. One of my favorites was a chance to meet with a group of community leaders in Cleveland, Ohio. They’d been brought together by Bob Woodson, whose Center for Neighborhood Enterprise empowers community organizations to improve people’s lives.
Among those Bob brought to Cleveland that day was a man named Brian Wade. Brian’s story will always stay with me. When he and his wife felt called to open a homeless shelter, they didn’t just volunteer their time. They moved their family – a baby and two young ones – into the shelter and lived there for seven years.
When policymakers try to help struggling families, these are the kinds of leaders we should listen to. We must look first to those who have already done the hard work of fighting poverty. Their example must inform our approach. And government must work with them, not against them, or over them.
After all, government’s first duty toward civil society is to do no harm – to secure people’s rights, to respect their purposes, and to preserve their freedom. Nothing undermines the essential work these groups do quite like the abuse of government power. And nothing is more troubling.
But it’s not just the abuses of government that undermine civil society. It’s also the excesses. Look at the road we’re on – with trillion-dollar deficits every year. Debt on this scale is destructive in so many ways. And one of them is that it draws resources away from private charity.
Even worse is the prospect of a debt crisis – which will come unless we do something very soon. When government’s finances collapse, the most vulnerable are the first victims, as we’re seeing right now in Europe. Many there feel they have nowhere to turn. And we must never let that happen in America.
An election has come and gone. And the people have made their choice. But policymakers still have a duty to choose between ideas that work and those that don’t. When one economic policy after another has failed our working families, it’s no answer to simply express compassion for them or to create more government programs that offer promise but don’t perform.
Instead, we must come together and advance new strategies for lifting people out of poverty. Looking around this room – at the men and women carrying on Jack Kemp’s legacy, and at leaders like Marco Rubio, who will be our partners in this great effort – I know we will answer the call. Our cause is right, and the good fight for the American Idea will go on until it is within reach for all people.
Thank you and God bless.
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