Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)
Conservative Political Action Conference
Gaylord National
National Harbor, MD
March 6, 2014

[DEMOCRACY IN ACTION transcript / video]

Thank you all very, very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  What a great honor to be here with you today. 

I want to start my remarks with a heartfelt and sincere apology, and I mean this.  You know I spent a lot of 2012 going around the country saying that President Obama was the most liberal and most incompetent president in my lifetime ever since Jimmy Carter.  Now having witnessed the events abroad these last several days, as we see the president of Russia invade a neighboring country while our president wants to downsize our military, while our president brags about the increased spending on food stamps.  Seeing a president that doesn't understand that a strong America leads to a peaceful, more stable world.  Seeing a president who doesn't understand that a weak America leads to instability.  Seeing a president who doesn't seem to understand that our allies, our enemies alike need and want a strong America.  You know we have long thought and said this president is a smart man.  It may be time to revisit that assumption.  Or at least to make a distinction between being book smart and being truly wise.  And so today, let it be heard, and I hope he's watching, to President Carter I want to issue a sincere apology.  It is no longer fair to say he was the worst president of this great country in my lifetime; President Obama has proven me wrong. [applause]

But you know I didn't come here just to talk about foreign affairs.  I want to talk about this president's assault on the American Dream, his assault on poor children in Louisiana, and his assault on religious liberty.

You know this president has a very different idea about the American Dream than the idea that was shared to me by my parents.  This president talks about class warfare and dividing an ever shrinking economic pie.  That's not the American Dream I learned about from my parents.  The American Dream I learned about was a country where the circumstances of your birth don't determine your outcomes as an adult.  An America where we can do better than our parents, an America where every child is told you too can be the first in our family to go to school, you can be the first in our family to become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer or start your own business.  How many moms and dads have told their little children that anybody can grow up and become president of the United States.  Unfortunately in 2012 we learned just how true that is in this great country. [laughter]

But you know essential to the American Dream is making sure that every child gets a great education.  Unfortunately there are millions of American children trapped in failing schools.  In Louisiana we're doing something about it.  We have done many, many policies; I'll just tell you about two.

Number one, we've worked hard to put a great teacher in every classroom.  Now I don't need to tell you about all the studies that show that great teachers are the most important things we can do in the classroom to improve our students' learning.  There are studies showing that students with great teachers earn thousands of dollars more on average.  There are studies showing that if your 4th grade daughter has a great teacher, she is more likely to go to college or less likely to become pregnant as a teenager.  But I don't need to tell you that.  All of us can remember the great teachers that got us to where we are today. 

Everybody says they're for great teachers, but to be honest look at how we hire, fire, pay and promote our teachers today.  So in Louisiana we decided to do something about that.  We said wouldn't it be special, wouldn't it be great if we actually hired, fired and promoted and compensated our teachers based on how well students are doing rather than simply how long teachers have been breathing in the classroom. [applause]

We've radically changed our tenure laws, our hiring laws, our firing laws, our compensation laws to link teacher advancement to student achievement.  Unions didn't like that.  They said we don't have any problem with you evaluating teachers; we just don't want it to be tied so closely to student achievement.  It's like going to a football game and saying don't worry about the score at the end of the game.  If it's not about student achievement, what's it about?

But the second thing we did, we said we've got to make the dollars follow the child instead of forcing the child to follow the dollar.  Now what does that mean?  That means that every child learns differently.  Some children will do great in a public school, some children will do great in an online program, some children will do great in charter schools, parochial schools, dual enrollment programs, but we trust parents to make the best decisions for their children. [applause]

In New Orleans, 90-percent of our kids are in charter schools.  We have doubled the percentage of kids doing reading and math on grade level in just five years.  We've done course choice, we've done course choice so kids can start in public schools and take private courses throughout the day, but we've also established a statewide scholarship program so kids can go to the best schools selected by their parents.  Now the unions didn't like this either.  They came at us and said parents don't have a clue when it comes to making decisions for their children.  Parents don't have a clue.  I can't think of a better summary of the disagreements between our side and their side.  This president and his liberal allies, the don't trust the American people to make decisions for ourselves.

I met with a group of moms that told me, governor, we make decisions for our kids every day.  We know the needs of our children better than bureaucrats in Baton Rouge or Washington, DC.  So we've grown this program at double digits every year.  We're saving taxpayers millions of dollars, academic scores are getting better, 93-percent of the parents are happy with the program.  Who can be against giving choices to parents?  Eric Holder and President Obama, that's who can be against giving parents choices. [applause]  The Department of Justice has taken us to federal court to try to impede this program. 

Now I want you to think about this.  We've got Eric Holder and the Department of Justice trying to stand in the school house door to prevent minority kids, low income kids, kids who haven't had access to a great education the chance to go to better schools.   Over 90-percent of these kids are minority children.  One hundred percent of these are low income families who would otherwise go to C, D or F schools.  Moms come and tell me this is the first time their kids have brought home homework, first time their kids are wearing uniforms, first time their kids are going to schools with discipline, first time their kids are thinking about going to school beyond high school.  I think it is cynical, immoral and hypocritical for the attorney general and the president to deny these children the same choices and chances they would want for their own children.  Children only grow up once, and it's especially cynical to try to use those same rules designed to protect these children to trap them in failing schools.  But I've got a message for Eric Holder and I've got a message for the president.  We're going to fight them every step of the way, even in the United States Supreme Court, to defend these children's rights. [applause]

But it might make you wonder how in the world does a government get to the point where it thinks it can take away the rights of children to get a better education.  Well I would argue this is what happens.  You may remember Bill Clinton famously said that the era of big government is over.  Never has somebody been so wrong about something so important in political discussion today.  I would argue this is what happens when government gets so big, so vast, so expansive.  I actually agree with David Axelrod on something.  He was trying to defend the president in the middle of one of these scandals.  He said the president couldn't possibly have known what was going on in the federal government, couldn't have possibly been responsible for the scandal because the federal government is so vast and so expansive.  That's exactly the point.

If I could have gone back in time over five years ago and said to you that your government was going to grow the deficit from $9 trillion to $17 trillion would you have believed me?  No.

If I'd gone back in time and said that your government was going to use the IRS to go after conservative political groups would you have believed me?  No.

If I'd gone back in time and said that the government, the Department of Justice would be spying on the AP and other reporters would you have believed me?  No. 

If I'd gone back in time and said that our ambassador and other Americans would be killed in Libya and the administration would blame it on a YouTube video, would you have believed me?  No.

If I'd gone back in time and told you that the Secretary of State would have grown so frustrated answering questions from the Senate she would finally just say, "What difference does it make?" would you have believed me?  No.

If I'd gone back in time and said even though we can't afford the entitlement programs we've got, the administration would create a new one to help speed up the bankruptcy of our government, would you have believed me?  No.

And yet it is amazing to me what we have seen in our lifetimes, in just these last few years. 

And it's not just a government so big that it can take away educational choice; we've also got a government so big that it's infringing on our religious liberties and our religious freedoms.  You know about a month ago I gave an entire speech at the Reagan Library about religious liberty and this administration's assault on our freedoms.  The most famous recent case is the Hobby Lobby case, the Green family facing $1.3 million in fines because of their refusal to provide abortifacient products that are contradictory to their faith.  This president seems to believe that our religious rights , our First Amendment rights, start and end in the pews on Sunday.  You know its amazing to me.  I knew this administration didn't like the Second Amendment to the Constitution; I thought they might still like the First.  Make no mistake about it, though, their assault on religious liberty is also an assault on the freedom of speech, the freedom of association and other rights that were so important to the founding of this country.  This country didn't create religious liberty and freedom, religious liberty and freedom created this great country. 

Now you may have noticed I got some attention for standing up to defend the Duck Dynasty family when they got in a little bit of trouble. [applause]  You may have thought I was defending the Robertson family simply because they're from Louisiana.  You may have thought I was defending the Duck Dynasty guys because my kids are just huge, huge fans; they watch every show, buy every duck call, and wear every bandanna they can find. 

But the reality is this.  I stood up for their right to speak up and articulate their beliefs because I am tired of the left.  I'm tired of the left that claims they're tolerant and they are for diversity, and they are.  They're tolerant and they're for diversity except when you dare to disagree with them.  We must not let them silence the Greens; we must not let them silence the Robertsons, we must not let them silence the people of sincere religious conviction and faith across this country. 

You know I'm not for lawsuits and I'm not about suing people, but we've got a constitutional scholar as president.  It strikes me he might benefit, we might benefit if he actually reads the Constitution every now and then. [applause] This president graduated from some of the best schools in the country.  If I were him, and if he'd like some free advice, if I were him I'd consider suing Harvard Law School to get his money back, because I'm not sure what he learned in three years. [applause]

But I will tell you this.  I started apologizing to President Carter; I'm going to close with this.  This administration has assaulted our religious liberties; it has assaulted the American Dream.  It's trying to redefine the American Dream so that success is defined by government assistance.  That's not the American Dream; that's an American nightmare.  And the reason I'm so passionate about this and the reason I'm so optimistic, I'm absolutely convinced our best days as a country are ahead of us, not behind us.  I'm absolutely convinced that our children and grandchildren will inherit more opportunities than we inherited from our parents.

And what gives me confidence is not Washington, DC, it's not the big buildings there or our elected leaders.  The genius of the Founding Fathers was to trust the American people.  Several decades ago my parents, they reached this great country with the conviction that if you worked hard, that you could create a better quality of life.  They weren't looking for a government handout, they weren't looking for government assistance; they were looking for the opportunity to get a good job. 

My dad literally went through the yellow pages calling company after company until he could finally convince somebody to hire him.  Tells his new boss after hours and hours of calling, tells his new boss who offers him a job Monday morning, says "That's great.  I don't have a driver's license; I don't have a car.  You're going to have to pick me up on the way to work Monday morning." 

Starts work that Monday.  Six months later, I'm born.  I was what you'd call a pre-existing condition. [some laughter]  Now there was no Obamacare or anything like that.  There were two guys that shook hands in the hospital.  I want you to think about this.  My dad shook hands with a doctor and he said to that doctor I'm going to pay you in full; I'm going to pay you every month as much as I can until I pay this bill in full.  That's exactly what they did.  No contracts, no paperwork, no government program, just two guys in a hospital in Baton Rouge shaking hands. [applause]  I've asked my dad—I don't know if you can pay for a baby on lay-away today; I'm not sure how that would work.  I mean if you skip a payment do they repossess the baby.  He said, no, no, no you're paid for; don't worry about it. 

But my dad would always tell my brother and me this.  He'd say, sons, I'm not leaving you a famous last name.  I'm not leaving you an inheritance, but I'm going to make sure you get a great education.  Because he said if you're willing to work hard in this great country there's no limit to what you can accomplish, no limit to what you can do. 

And that is why we must fight so hard for the poor kids in Louisiana and across the country for school choice.  That's why we must fight so hard for religious liberty, not only for the Robertsons and the Greens but for you and me.  That's why we've got to fight so hard to restore the American Dream.  The American Dream is not about government programs, it's about pursuing those opportunities.  And there is a rebellion brewing in these United States of America.  People like you and me are saying enough is enough.  We don't want to become like Europe.  We're going to make sure that our children inherit the same freedoms, the great opportunities that we were blessed, because we are all blessed to live in the greatest country in the history of the world.  God bless you all and thank you for fighting the good fight for the American Dream.  Thank you all very much. [applause]