Fiorina Says "Government is Crushing the Potential of This Nation"

Jun 4, 2015

These are the remarks, as delivered, by former business executive Carly Fiorina at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Summit April 25, 2015 in Waukee.

Thank you so much for that warm welcome, and since Hillary Clinton was mentioned maybe I have to just start with her. Like Hillary Clinton, I, too have traveled twelve hundred miles.  But unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know that mileage is not the same as going the distance. She traveled recently, you know, she traveled in a van nicknamed Scooby, a luxury van nicknamed Scooby. She traveled from New York to Iowa, stopping only occasionally for a Chipotle burrito or a carefully scripted meeting with pre-selected Obama interns. This week alone, I have traveled twelve-hundred and twenty-two miles in Iowa. I have talked with over 2400 Iowans and I have visited fifteen cities and towns. And, I have to tell you, I will take Casey’s pizza in a car to Chipotle’s take-out any time. My preference is sausage and I’d prefer to order and eat without my sunglasses on.

The other day, yesterday as a matter of fact, while I was reading my daily scripture, I came across Matthew twelve verse thirty-four: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” And, so tonight I want to talk to you about what fills my heart. In Sunday school one morning many years ago, my mother looked at me and said, “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift to God.” I started my career as a secretary in a little nine person real estate firm and ultimately, as you heard, I would become the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world. I have traveled and lived and worked all over the world and I know that it is only possible in the United States of America for a young woman to start as a secretary and become a CEO and maybe, just maybe, run for the presidency of the United States.  

It’s only possible in America because our founders knew what my mother taught me. Everybody has God-given gifts. Everybody has potential. Our founders knew that every life has potential and they coupled that insight with what was at the time a radical idea and remains a visionary idea to this day. And that is that here, in this country, Americans have the right, the right to fulfill their potential. That is what they meant when they said the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And, our founders said the right to fulfill our potential comes from God and should not be taken away by man or government. 

I have seen people in all kinds of circumstances, sometimes in poverty, and destitute, and desperate circumstances. But whatever the circumstances, everyone really does have potential. Everyone does have God-given gifts, and everyone actually has the capacity and the desire to live a life of dignity and purpose and meaning. And we know that dignity comes from work. And purpose comes from family. And meaning comes from faith in our lives. I have been very blessed in my life, there is no question. But like all of you, I also have gone through hard times. When I battled cancer six years ago, it was the strength of my family and the power of my faith that saw me through. And, very soon after that long battle, when we lost our younger daughter Laurie-Anne to the demons of addiction, it was my husband Frank’s and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ that saved us from a desperate sadness.

I met my husband, Frank, thirty-four years ago. He started out as a tow-truck driver in a family owned auto-body shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And, when I married him thirty years ago, his mother told me a story that I did not know. She had been told by her doctors to abort him, because she had had two very difficult pregnancies. But she was a woman of great courage and great faith. And she chose to bring her son into the world. She spent a year in the hospital after his birth. But Frank was the joy of her life.

I think what people fear we're losing is that sense of limitless possibility that has always defined this nation.

And he has been the rock of mine. And I have thought often of how different my own life would have been had she made a different choice. You may remember that I ran for the U.S. Senate in California in 2010. What you may not know is that I ran as a proud, Pro-Life conservative. You don’t do that in California unless you really mean it. And, I remember meeting a donor after I had won a three-way primary by 57-percent of the vote and he said, “Well, now that you’ve won you can move to the center.” And I said, “Well, I ran on my beliefs and my convictions and those won’t change.” And, he looked at me and he said, “Well, you can’t possibly be Pro-Life, you’re a Stanford and MIT graduate.” And, I looked at him, and I said, “Science is proving us right every single day.” While I lost that general election, I won that year more Republican votes, more Democratic votes and more Independent votes than virtually anyone else running anywhere in the nation in 2010. That’s how big California is, but that race taught me something. Only a conservative can unify this party. And we do not have to change our beliefs and our convictions to reach Independents and Democrats either. For those of us who believe in the sanctity of life, science is indeed proving us right every day. The DNA in a zygote is precisely the same DNA as the day we die. Life is a continuum. Life is a gift from God passed through the union of a man and a woman. And life, every life, is filled with potential and possibilities.

As I have traveled all those twelve hundred and twenty two miles through Iowa this week, and as I have traveled throughout the nation, I must tell you I sense a deep disquiet. It is not political, and it is not partisan. But I think people are disquieted because they fear we are losing something. And I think they believe we’re missing something. I think what people fear we’re losing is that sense of limitless possibility that has always defined this nation. We always knew that if something was worth doing, especially if it was hard to do, that we, as Americans, we would do it. We always knew that our own lives would be filled with possibilities based on the God-given gifts we have and that our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives would be filled with even greater possibilities. And yet, people don’t feel that way anymore. People don’t feel that way anymore. I have seen people’s lives tangled up in webs of dependence from which they cannot escape no matter how hard they work. People aren’t poor because they lack God- given gifts. And, I have seen that flat hopeless look that people get when they realize their life doesn’t contain the possibilities they once thought it did. I've seen it in family-owned businesses that are going out of business. Or family-owned farms where farmers, a family can’t pay the death taxes anymore, or the small businesses that can’t deal with the red-tape and the regulation and the taxation and the complexity the government lowers onto them.

In fact, we are now, for the first time in U.S. history, we are now destroying more businesses than we are creating. Think about that. And the businesses that we’re destroying are the nine person real estate firm, and the family-owned auto body shop. And, those businesses, the small businesses, the family-owned businesses, the community-based businesses, those businesses matter. They are the economic engine of growth in this country. They create two-thirds of the new jobs in this country and they employ half the people. And so, when we crush them, we are crushing the potential of this nation. When we discourage someone from working hard and disentangling their life from that web of dependence, we are crushing the potential of this nation. And, meanwhile, what is going on - Crony capitalism. We have come to a place, and you know this, you see it, you feel it - so do Americans all across the country - where our government has grown so big, so powerful, so costly, so complex, so corrupt, the weight of the government of this nation is crushing the potential of this nation. And, if you doubt that, if you doubt that think about Dodd-Frank, what happened with Dodd-Frank? Right, we have a big financial crisis started by Fannie May and Freddie Mac, neither of which have ever been reformed. We’ve created a brand new bureaucracy, a brand new law, and guess what? Ten Wall Street banks too big to fail have become five Wall Street banks too big to fail. And meanwhile three thousand community banks have gone out of business. And that matters, ‘cause that’s where Main Street gets somebody to give them a helping hand.

Carly Fiorina visits Iowa during her first week as a declared Republican presidential candidate. She is a former business executive of Hewlett-Packard and an advisor to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Credit John Pemble / IPR

People think we’re missing something, too. By the way, when we lose that sense of limitless possibility that has always defined this nation we are losing the core of who we are. And people think we’re missing leadership. There’s a big difference between leadership and management, ladies and gentleman. Managers are people who work within the status quo. They do the best they can within the existing system. But, you know what? Leaders do not accept the status quo just because it’s been that way for a long time. Leaders change the system when it must be changed. When I was a young woman typing in that nine person real estate firm I used to think that a leader was somebody who had the biggest office, the biggest title, the biggest perks, the biggest parking space. And then I got older and wiser and I came to learn that you can have a big office and a big title and you’re not leading. We’ve got one of those in the Oval Office right now. Leadership has nothing to do with position, it has nothing to do with power, it has nothing to do with title, and it does not have anything to do with preserving the status quo just because that’s the way the system’s been for a while. The highest calling of leadership is to unlock potential in others. The highest calling of leadership is to change the order of things for the better, and we now desperately need leadership in Washington D.C.

Ours was intended to be a citizen government. That is what "By, For and Of the People" means. And so when did we get used to this notion that only professional politicians could run for office? When did we decide that the professional political class was all we could have? The professional political class has let us down in too many ways. And, if you doubt that, think about how we serve our veterans in this country today.  If you’re a veteran out there, would you raise your hand? Your nation is proud and grateful for your service ladies and gentlemen. Yes, ma’am. Stand-up. Let’s thank all these veterans.  And, yet, if you are a veteran in this country today you are going to spend months filling out paperwork, many more months while some bureaucrat checks your paper work, and many more months while another bureaucrat decides if you can get an appointment. And this has been going on for a very long time. And when the scandal of the VA waiting times in Arizona hit the newspapers, everybody was outraged. We should have been outraged and we put pressure on the political system. Remember? And in three weeks people passed a bipartisan piece of legislation that said you know what, we ought to be able to have the head of the VA fired, the top four hundred senior executives if they’re not doing their jobs. It’s not that that’s a bad idea. It’s a good idea. How about we try that all throughout the government? It’s just that you haven’t heard much about the VA since.  We need to fundamentally re-imagine government, because government today no longer serves the citizens who pay for it. We need to know how we’re spending our money. We need to actually have pay for performance. And, this will take citizenship and leadership.

Have we had enough of a ruling political class that doles out favors to the wealthy, the well-connected, and the powerful?

So we need leadership here at home to unlock the potential of this nation. We need leadership here at home to re-imagine the government that is crushing the potential of this nation. And nowhere do we need leadership more than in the world today, because the world is a very dangerous and tragic place when America is not leading. The truth is, I have met more world leaders on the stage today than virtually anyone else running for president with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton. But unlike Hillary Clinton, I didn’t do photo ops. I’ve sat across a table from Vladimir Putin and you don’t have to spend a lot of time with him to understand that his ambition will not be stopped by a gimmicky red re-set button. There are things we must do to show him strength and resolve. We should start by rebuilding the sixth fleet and rebuilding our missile defense programs. And, I remember sitting in Bibi Netanyahu’s office five years ago. There were only three people in that office, and not a single camera -- me, my husband Frank, and Bibi Netanyahu. And, Bibi Netanyahu wanted to talk then about Iran. We should stop talking to Iran now. We should immediately impose as punishing a set of sanctions as we can, and we should not talk again until they submit to full and unfettered inspections. And I know King Abdullah of Jordan as well.  And I know that he has been asking us for bombs and material to help him fight the fight against ISIS. We haven’t provided them. The Kurds have asked us to arm them. We haven’t done it. The Egyptians have asked us to share intelligence. We haven’t done that either. The world is a dangerous place when America does not stand with our allies and does not stand strong against our adversaries.

People will say that I have never served in a politically elected office before, and that’s true. I am not a professional politician. But I have served as the head of the advisory board for the Central Intelligence Agency. I have been advised by two Secretaries of Defense, a Secretary of State, a Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I do understand how the world works and who’s in the world.

The other week, like a week ago, exactly a week ago, I was asked by a television reporter whether a woman’s hormones prevented her from serving in the Oval Office. Ok ladies, this is a quiz. Can you think of a single instance in which a man’s judgment was clouded by hormones? Anyone?  Including in the Oval Office?

Hillary Clinton must not be President of the United States, but not because she is a woman. Hillary Clinton cannot be President of the United States because she is not trustworthy. And while she has held many titles, she hasn’t accomplished very much. And we are learning, once again, what the Clinton way is. The Clinton way: "do as I say, not as I do." The Clinton way: let’s rake in millions from foreign governments behind closed doors, let’s promise transparency, which we never intend to keep. Now, of course, they’re scrambling to re-file their tax returns and account for her decisions as Secretary of State. And, I tell you what, when the general election rolls around, we better have a nominee who can throw those punches all day long. The American people are going to have a choice. Are we going to demand trust, transparency, and more than words from our leaders? Have we had enough of a ruling political class that doles out favors to the wealthy, the well-connected, and the powerful? Do we want a president in the Oval Office who actually understands how the economy works? Who understands how the world works? Who understands how bureaucracies work? Because that’s what our government has become.  Who understands how technology works, because technology is a tool to re-imagine government and re-engage citizens in the process of government. And, do we want a Commander in Chief who understands executive decision making? Making a tough call in a tough time with high stakes, for which you are prepared to be held accountable.

Ladies and gentlemen, all of our problems are solvable. Every wound we have is self-inflicted. We have everything we need to restore the promise of this great nation. What we need now is leadership and citizenship. So, as I close tonight I want to say to you that while we celebrate our founding fathers - and we should because they were leaders of great vision and great courage. But I will remind you that two of the most powerful symbols of this blessed nation are women-- Lady Liberty and Lady Justice. Lady Liberty stands. She is clear-eyed. She is resolute. She faces out into the world, which is the way America always must face. And she holds her torch up high because she knows it is a beacon of hope in a troubled world. And Lady Justice. She holds a sword in one hand, because she is a fighter, a warrior, for the values and the principles that have made this nation great. She holds a scale in the other hand. And with that scale she says all of us are equal in the eyes of God, and so all of us must be equal in the eyes of the law and government, powerful and powerless alike. And she wears a blindfold. And I think with that blindfold she reminds us that this is a nation in which it doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are. Here, in this nation, every American’s life should be filled with possibilities, with liberty and justice for all. And so let us together rise to meet our challenges. Let us together restore the promise of this, the greatest and most blessed nation in all the world. Thank you so very much, ladies and gentlemen. God bless you all.