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I challenge every community, every school, and every state to adopt national standards of excellence, to measure whether schools are meeting those standards, to cut bureaucratic red-tape so that schools and teachers have more flexibility for grassroots reform, and to hold them accountable for results. So tonight I issue a call to action: action by this Congress, action by our states, by our people, to prepare America for the 21st century; action to keep our economy and our democracy strong and working for all our people; action to strengthen education and harness the forces of technology and science; action to build stronger families and stronger communities and a safer environment; action to keep America the world's strongest force for peace, freedom, and prosperity; and above all, action to build a more perfect Union here at home. It is a time to build, to build the America within reach, an America where everybody has a chance to get ahead with hard work; where every citizen can live in a safe community; where families are strong, schools are good, and all our young people can go on to college; an America where scientists find cures for diseases from diabetes to Alzheimer's to AIDS; an America where every child can stretch a hand across a keyboard and reach every book ever written, every painting ever painted, every symphony ever composed; where government provides opportunity and citizens honor the responsibility to give something back to their communities; an America which leads the world to new heights of peace and prosperity.
By 2032, the Trust Fund will be exhausted and Social Security will be unable to pay the full benefits older Americans have been promised. Tonight I ask you to work with me to make a bipartisan downpayment on Social Security reform by crediting the interest savings from debt reduction to the Social Security Trust Fund so that it will be strong and sound for the next 50 years.
Year after year in Washington, budget debates seem to come down to an old, tired argument: on one side, those who want more Government, regardless of the cost; on the other, those who want less Government, regardless of the need. My budget supports three great goals for America: We will win this war; we will protect our homeland; and we will revive our economy. In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure; our resolve is firm; and our Union is strong.
We can press on with economic growth and reforms in education and Medicare, or we can turn back to old policies and old divisions. Now, as we see a little gray in the mirror—or a lot of gray— [laughter]—and we watch our children moving into adulthood, we ask the question: What will be the state of their Union? Will we choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy, or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity? With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid and save Social Security.
The strength—the secret of our strength, the miracle of America is that our greatness lies not in our Government, but in the spirit and determination of our people. While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before. It's because of this spirit, this great decency and great strength, that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight.
God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason magazine.