Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
Iowa Freedom Summit
Hoyt-Sherman Place
Des Moines, Iowa
January 24, 2015

Thank you.  Thank you.  Well it's an honor to be here.  David, thank you for that introduction and Congressman King and all the organizers thanks for having us back here in Iowa.

It's an honor to be here.  I gotta tell you it's exciting to see all of you here; it was exciting to talk to some folks on the way in.  I got a chance actually talk to your new Senator.  I've talked to her a few times before but I've got to tell you I appreciate the fact you sent somebody who is not only a Midwesterner like I am but who's a fellow Harley-Davidson rider like I am.  That means she knows how to castrate a hog and she knows how to ride a hog as well.  Hopefully you can see her see fit to cut a little more pork out of Washington, which I think is exactly what she's gonna do.  And we're honored to be with her and a whole slew of great folks here today.

But I first off wanna to say thank you.  As I look around this crowd, see the folks up there as well I wanna thank you all because I know so many of you were great heroes to Tonette and I.  'Cause a couple years ago when we faced a recall so many of you helped us out and many of you helped us out again last Fall when we were facing another tough election as well. 

I had people who made phone calls in this state; in fact I had people who came across the Mississippi over into Wisconsin, you knocked on doors--[referring to photographers at the edge of the stage] I'm going to make these guys have a hard time, 'cause I'm going to move around a little bit here--but you, you came over the Mississippi, you helped us knock on doors, you helped us campaign along the way.  I gatta tell you how much we appreciated that. 

It wasn't just the grassroots activists that came.  I think a lot of you here, like a lot of other people around this state and around the Midwest and around the country, helped us out financially as well and that made a world of difference 'cause we had to take on all the money, the tens of millions of dollars that the big government union bosses from Washington poured into our state.  I want to thank you, because in return we had people not only in Iowa but in all 50 states who helped us out.  We had someone, I mean there was a woman in Waterloo who helped us out three times with a donation. we had people here in Des Moines and all across the state and all across this country who helped us say we're going to put up a little bit of our hard-earned money to take on the big-government special interests out that and on behalf of Tonette and I and the people in our state we want to say thank you.

But most of all I want to say thank you because so many of you here and across this state and across the country, you prayed for us.  I gotta tell you on behalf of Tonette and I and our sons Matt and Alex we could feel the power of those prayers.  We could feel them.  And in the darkest of the days I can't tell you what a difference it made to us.

So don't stop praying because we appreciate the prayers along the way; it makes a powerful noticeable difference, and in those darkest of times we needed it, because you all know about the protests.  I mean at one point there were a hundred thousand or more protesters in and around our State Capitol.  They were banging on the drums.  They were blowing the horns.  They had signs and banners.

I guess in a way I almost have to apologize because the Occupy movement started in Madison, Wisconsin four years ago and then went to Wall Street.  So my apologies for that. 

But more than just the protests, I think the bigger challenge for us, at least for me personally, were all the death threats and the visits to our home.  You see you've heard about those protests, but you may not know at one point in all this there were literally thousands of protesters out in front of our family home in Wauwatosa where my two sons were still going to high school and where my parents were living at the time.  In fact my kids were targeted on Facebook, and at one point I remember my mother in her seventies and my youngest son Alex were literally at the grocery store where protesters followed them down the aisle just to yell at them even though it was me that was doing the policies out there.

Even more sp than the visits in front of our home was the fact that at one point the threats were just overwhelming.  Most of those death threats were pointed or directed at me, but some of the worst were directed at my family.  I remember one of the ones that bothered me the most was someone literally sent me a threat that said they were going to gut my wife like a deer.  Another time a protester sent a threat directly to my wife that said if she didn't do something to stop me, I would be the first Wisconsin governor ever assassinated.  The writer went on in greater detail to point out where exactly my children were going to school, where my wife worked and where my father-in-law was still living at that time.

You can see what they were doing and so I tell you today that thanks to all of you not just for the grassroots support and the donations, but most importantly again thank you for those prayers 'cause you can see how important they were in dark days like that. 

Time and time again, time and time again the protesters were trying to intimidate us.  But you know what?  All they did was remind me how important, how important it was to stand up for the people of my state.  They reminded me to focus on why I ran for governor in the first place.

You see years before, years before all that Tonette and I had sat down and talked about, thought about, most importantly prayed about getting in the race for governor.  And even though we knew it'd be difficult, we did so, we made that choice because we were worried back then.  We were worried that our sons, Matt and Alex, were going to grow up in a state that wasn't as great as the state we grew up in.  And I gotta tell you, as a parent that was just unacceptable; that was just fundamentally unacceptable for me. 

And so we got in that race.  And it was important, because back at that time my state faced a $3.6 billion budget deficit.  We saw, we saw record job lose.  We saw state and in many places local governments were controlled by special interests and so many of our hard-working families were having to endure double-digit tax increases.  So we knew we had to do something.

Today I'm proud to tell you that more than four years after, because of our reforms, my sons are growing up in a state that's even better than the state that we grew up in.  Because we weren't afraid to go big and to go bold, not only for my sons but for their generation and for countless generations yet to be born, they're growing up in a state where we're on a better path and I think people like the direction they're headed.  Maybe that's why I won the race for governor three times in the last four years.  Three times, mind you, in a state that hasn't gone Republican for president since I was in high school more than 30 years ago.  How about that?

You see I think that sends a powerful message to Republicans in Washington and around the country.  If you're not afraid to go big and go bold you can actually get results.  You can clap for that; that's alright.  And if you get the job done, the voters will actually stand up with you; the voters will stand up with you.

One of the things I love best about when I used to commute back and forth from the State Capitol to where my sons were in Wauwatosa to be home at night when they were still going to school there, was in the midst of all the protests and eventually the recall campaign, we used to see signs pop up.  They weren't signs that we were made; they were signs that we would see in the farm fields between Milwaukee and the State Capitol, from Madison to Wauwatosa, where my home was at.  And they were handmade signs, big four-by-eight signs, that would say "We Stand With Walker."  And increasingly they'd show up in other places, not just on farm fields but in cities and places where we'd never seen signs before.

And why?  Because people knew that we stood up against the powerful special interests and put the power back in their hands, and they thought if they had an elected official who was actually willing to stand up with them, maybe it was about time they stood up and said they were going to stand with that candidate as well.  That's what we need in America.

We knew if you're willing to go big and go bold, the voters would stand up with you because we'd learned it before.

Some of you may not know this, but before I was governor, years ago I was elected as the Milwaukee County Executive, the only Republican who's ever hold that position.  And in 2008, in 2008 when I stood for re-election we got nearly 60-percent of the votes in a county that went two-thirds for Barack Obama.  You know why?  Because we did what we said we were going to do.  We reformed the scandal-ridden government at that time, and we held the line on property taxes.  We got the job done.

And now when we talk about a record of results, I've got to tell you the Wisconsin way is working as well.  Since I was elected governor, we've cut taxes in Wisconsin, we reduced spending, we balanced the budget.  We took the power away from the big government special interests and we put it firmly in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers.  That's what we need more of in this great country. 

And you know what?  The liberals don't much like that.  They don't much like that.  In fact MSNBC camped out in my Capitol all throughout the protests, all throughout the recall just hoping, just hoping--

One of the, you know I always say the, for me as a Packers fan it's been tough the last week but we beat the Bears a week after the election and I said I wanted to listen to radio the next morning in Chicago 'cause I love listening to Bears radio the day after the Packers have beaten the Bears. 

I said for a lot of us on Election Night we wanted to turn into MSNBC because its kind of like listening to Bears radio after the Packers have beaten the Bears.  But MSNBC didn't much like  our election victory back in June of 2012, and they didn't like it again this last Fall, because you know what?  It wasn't just about a victory.  It was about showing commonsense conservative reforms can actually work and they work in a blue state like Wisconsin.  If they can work in Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in the country.  Right?

You know our state's the only state in the country that has a fully funded retirement system.  Our state has a positive bond rating, and I think one of the things I'm most proud of is our state can now hire the best teachers to teach our students in the classroom.  'Cause you know that wasn't always the case.  Believe it or not, that wasn't the case. 

You see years ago in 2010 there was a young woman named Megan Sampson who was honored as the outstanding teacher of the year in my state.  And not long after she got that distinction she was laid off by her school district.  Now how could that be?  How could that be?  One of the best and the brightest and she got laid off.  Well years before our reforms, in her school district, her union contract said the last hired was the first fired.  The last in was the first out. 

Well I'm  proud to tell you today that in Wisconsin because of our reforms, we didn't just balance the budget; we now say in our schools there's no more seniority or tenure.  You can hire and fire whoever you want.  You can pay based on performance.  That's right.  In my state we can hire based on merit; we can pay based on performance.  That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms and we can pay them to stay there, and you know what?  As conservatives, we shouldn't take a back seat when it comes to education reform, 'cause we actually care about the quality of the education in our classroom, not the size of the education bureaucracy.  We shouldn't back away from that.

But sometimes, sometimes the media just doesn't get that.  In fact in some ways it's kind of why a lot of people know about the protests and the recall, but they don't about the comprehensive conservative, commonsense conservative agenda that we've enacted in our state.

Let me just tell you a couple of examples. 

Since I've been governor, we passed pro-life, pro-life legislation and we've de-funded Planned Parenthood. 

Since I've been governor, we pulled back on excessive government regulation on small businesses and family farmers.  In fact I like to say we now enforce commonsense instead of bureaucratic red tape. 

And we've taken it beyond regulations.  We passed some of the most aggressive lawsuit reform so that farmers and small businesses and others don't have to deal with frivolous lawsuits.

We've enacted legislation that allows for concealed carry and Castle Doctrine so that law-abiding citizens in our state can stand up and defend themselves and their family and their properties.

And we believe it's important to protect the integrity, the integrity of each and every vote cast, so we require in our state by law a photo ID to vote.

Now on top of all that, on top of all that we said no to Obamacare and we fought it in court just like we're fighting in court President Obama's excessive overreach when it comes to his executive authorities; we're going to continue to fight up for those freedoms and liberties going forward.

So I've got to tell you, we've taken on an aggressive agenda.  We've not only done, but we've cut taxes.  I mentioned that before, but we went big and bold there as well.  We reduced taxes by $2 billion on the hard-working taxpayers of our state.  In fact we lowered taxes on employers, on individuals, on property.  Our property taxes are lower today in Wisconsin than they were four years ago.  How many governors can say that? 

We're going to keep lowering taxes, because we understand it's the people's money, not the government's money.  That's the difference, that's the difference between the Wisconsin way and the Washington way.  In Washington they keep trying to find ways to take more of your money.  In Wisconsin we want to find ways to give more of the money back to the people who earned it. 

And sometimes people say why do you obsess so much with taxes?  Well I got to tell you a simple story why.  My wife and I next month, February 6, will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary.  But years ago as newlyweds, I made a critical mistake.  I went to a Kohl's department store and I bought something for the price it was marked at.  Right.  My wife said to me, you can never go back there again until you learn how to shop at Kohl's.  So now if I'm going to pick up a new shirt, I go to that says it was 29.99, and I see it's marked down to 19.99.  And then because I'm well trained, I get that insert out from the Sunday newspaper and I take it up to the clerk with my Kohl's credit card and I get another 10- or 15-percent off.  And then I watch that mailer, because man, Tonette shops there a lot so I know I'm going to get another 10 or 15 percent off, and if I'm really I get that flyer with 30-percent off, right?  Right?  And then, when I'm about to cash out, I reach into my pocket and I pull out the Kohl's cash we've got because my family shops there all the time, right?  Am I right?  And next thing you know, they're paying me to buy that shirt.  Right?  Well not exactly, but kinda, right?

So how does a company, right down the way from where I live in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, how does a company like Kohl's make money?  They make it off of volume, right?  They make it off of volume.  That's how I think about your money, the taxpayers' money.  You see we could have had taxes high, and like that shirt a few of you might be able to afford it.  But we could lower the cost of taxes and empower more people to work hard and make a living for themselves, and that's how we view things going forward. 

I've got to tell you that's for me that's not just a buzzword is hard work.  For me it's a way of living.  It's something I learned a long time ago from my parents and those around me.  Like many of you here I grew up in a small town.  My dad was a preacher at a local church; my mom was a part-time secretary and raised my brother and I.  My first job was working at the Countryside Restaurant, the Countryside Restaurant.  Later I flipped burgers at McDonald's to pay for my way in college.  I look back now, and my brother and I often laugh; but we didn't know it then, but we were kind of poor.  We had to work hard to make a living, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

I think looking ahead as Republicans, we need to make the case that we're going to promote policies that promote and support and defend hard work in this country once again.  We need to promote policies that open the door of opportunity for people to live their piece of the American Dream.

Now some of you don't know this, but I actually went to school in Plainfield, Iowa until the middle of third grade.  And then my father got called to a church in Delavan, Wisconsin and that's where our family moved to and that's where I graduated from high school.  But I've got to tell you, in all the years I was in school, doesn't matter whether it was in Plainfield or Delavan, Iowa or Wisconsin, there was never a time when I heard a one of my classmates say to me, hey Scott, hey Scott, someday when I grow up I want to become dependent on our government.  Right?  That's not the American Dream is it?  That's not the American Dream.

I just want to end by telling you this.  In America, it's one of the few places left in the world where it doesn't matter what class you were born into, it doesn't matter what your parents did for a living.  In America the opportunity is equal for each and every one of us, but in America the ultimate outcome is up to each and every one of us individually. 

You see there's a reason, there's a reason why in America we take a day off to celebrate the 4th of July and not the 15th of April, because in America we value our independence from the government, not our dependence on it.  To keep that going forward, to keep that going forward, we need a president, leaders in Washington who understand it's important not to build the economy in Washington; that we as Americans we want to build the economy in cities and towns all across this great country.

We need a president who doesn't sit in Washington, DC when world leaders are standing together against terrorism in Paris.  We need a president and leaders in Washington, we need leaders who understand that when freedom-loving people anywhere in the world are under attack, anywhere else, they're under attack against all of us who believe in freedom.  We need leaders who will stand with our allies against radical Islamic terrorists.  And we need leaders, we need leaders in America, we need leaders in America who understand, who ultimately understand the measure of success in government is not how many people are dependent on the government; the measure of success in government is how many people are no longer dependent on the government.  We need that kind of leadership going forward. 

I'm pleased to be here in Iowa today.  I'm going to come back many more times in the future.  I'm hopeful to work together with you to help us provide that kind of leadership that is new and fresh and bold and aggressive; that's been proven, that commonsense conservative reform from outside of Washington, DC can work.  With your help I have no doubt we can move this country forward, we can have our own American revival.  God Bless you.  Thanks for letting me share with you here today.


Transcript © 2015 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.