Rick Noriega's Speech to the Texas Democratic Convention

Blasts Cornyn, calls for end to Iraq War.

U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Rick Noriega, at his
U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Rick Noriega, at his "Convention Pachanga" fundraiser shortly before speaking to the TDP convention. To his left: newly elected state Rep. Dan Barrett of Forth Worth, Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, and House Dist. 52 candidate Diana Maldonado of Round Rock. (photo by Lee Nichols)

After the jump is the speech Rick Noriega just gave to the Texas Democratic Party Convention. (No, I didn't type it in as he spoke; his campaign e-mailed it to me.)

Thank you Congressman Green for that wonderful introduction. I am truly humbled. Good evening Texas. I’m here, as your Democratic nominee for the United States Senate and the 21st Century----Texas--- Democratic Party. I stand here tonight on the shoulders of so many people, especially all of yours. I’d like to begin by thanking my Maker, my family, my parents, my in-laws, our campaign team and all of our friends, and especially my wife – Houston City Councilmember Melissa Noriega and our children Alex and Ricky. This past week I’ve had the privilege of training with the best soldiers in Texas, the1-141 Infantry Battalion, the Alamo Battalion. As you know I’ve been entrusted with the honor of commanding this unit which is the direct descendant of William B. Travis’ company and the battle at the Alamo… This time…I’m counting on a different outcome. Several weeks ago, our unit was alerted that they are to be deployed again to the middle-east. As the commanding officer, in that uniform, I have a sworn duty and obligation to take care of my soldiers so they are trained to perform their mission. But at the same time when I’m in this uniform, as a citizen, as a citizen soldier, I have a duty and obligation to take care of the people, the families, of Texas. To paraphrase our first President, George Washington, “When I picked up the sword I did not lay aside the citizen.”

You would not believe the amount of accountability and responsibility we place on the shoulders of an 18-year-old private. Isn’t it time, this election, that we, the people of Texas, hold Texas’ junior United States Senator as accountable as we hold that private? What I know and what I have heard from every corner, as I’ve travelled our great state, is that Texans want change. And we’re gathered here tonight to offer Texas new leadership. A few years ago, everyone said Texas would be a Republican state as far into the future as anyone could imagine. You stood up and spoke out for change –more than 2.8 million Democrats voted this past spring and returned to caucus to express their support for a new leader and a new direction for our country. Leadership is not about telling people what they want to hear, it’s about solving tough problems. The way of life we once took for granted has become threatened because of the poor leadership of this administration. We are facing some tough problems as a state and nation, and the politics of special interests must stop. You see, I believe that it is time we had a Senator that worked for Texas families for a change. Texans are fed up with government that stands aside while hardworking families fall behind. While my opponent and this administration have been in office, gas prices have skyrocketed, from $1.35 a gallon to $4.00 a gallon.

If we are to continue to be a leader in energy – we’ve got to stand up to special interests and put Texans to work producing the fuels of the future. We are the nation’s largest producer of natural gas which must be used as a bridge-fuel to lower our emissions, to help our environment and to create “green collar” jobs. Texas is also the leader in wind energy, and we must continue to expand our investment in renewable energy sources. This country needs a NASA-like project to make America energy independent. President Kennedy called for such a project when he said “America would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” Well Texans responded and made that vision a reality. NOW it’s time for Texas to lead America to energy independence.

* * * A basic difference between my opponent and me is how differently we see the world and how we view our responsibility to the young and the old. In my family’s faith, a nation is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizen. Every day Texas families are having to make tough decisions about their healthcare. When Texas children needed a Senator to represent them, my opponent voted against extending health insurance to your children, the children of hard working families. Every day seniors struggle to pay for necessary medicine, but my opponent and this administration refuse to allow our government to negotiate for a better price with the drug companies. In the greatest nation in the world and the greatest state in our nation, quality, affordable healthcare should be available to every single Texan.

When it comes to Senior Citizens, rather than protect Social Security, John Cornyn voted to turn it over to Wall Street firms and let them gamble our retirement on risky investments. Our seniors deserve better from their Texas Senator. The American Dream is becoming out-of-reach for hardworking families. That dream has been replaced with parents working two and three jobs to make ends meet. But when it came time to stand for working families, John Cornyn voted seven times against raising the minimum wage - but at the first chance he got he voted himself a pay raise in the United States Senate. Texas families know that the American Dream begins with education. John Kennedy said “A child mis-educated is a child lost.” But nearly half of the students of Texas who started 9th grade 4 years ago did not cross the graduation stage this year. It’s time for change in education. These lost young people flow in a pipeline to our prisons and as a result we are spending our tax dollars in building new jails rather than building new schools. We can change direction and restore the American Dream by investing in the intellectual capacity of our greatest resource – our people. It is time to invest in our schools and in our teachers. As a legislator, I fought for and passed a teacher pay raise. And I will continue to work to increase funding for public education and higher teacher pay. And fight to make college affordable for everyone once again!

* * * And that includes our veterans.

When our men and women come home, when my soldiers come home from their next deployment, we need to support them with the benefits they deserve for their honorable service to our country. One of the most important economic policies of the 20th century was the GI Bill. You’ll recall that the original GI Bill is credited with creating the modern middle-class. That’s why I called on John Cornyn to support the new 21st century G.I. Bill. But, he was one of only 22 who voted against it. If the GI bill was good enough for the greatest generation, our grandfathers and fathers, then the 21st century GI bill is good enough for the latest generation, our sons and daughters. America has a moral obligation to our returning troops – and we will meet that obligation when you elect me as your U.S. Senator.

* * * We need a change in leadership that’s willing to take on the tough issues like border security and our broken immigration system. Mr. Cornyn has been part of the problem and not the solution. Some politicians like to use this broken system to invoke fear and intolerance - but that’s not who we are as Texans and Americans. You can’t fix this immigration problem by seizing people’s private property and building a wall. That won’t work. In Mr. Cornyn’s words – building the wall is a “19th century solution to a 21st century problem.” Yet he voted for it, three times. Local and state law enforcement have had to pick up the ball because the federal government has shirked its responsibility to provide the necessary resources for effective border security. As the Laredo Sector Commander of Operation Jumpstart, the National Guard’s border security campaign, I’ve seen first-hand the need for border security, and I know how important it is to the security of our nation. I will fight for the security of our nation by insisting that the federal government do its job to secure our borders, and provide the resources needed to state and local law enforcement agencies. Texas will continue to need workers, but we need a process that recognizes who they are, why they’re here, and what they’re doing. We need a process that allows folks to come out of the shadows –those who work hard, are willing to learn English, pay their taxes, and play by the rules. Any bad actors should not be allowed to stay here in this country. We should not tolerate irresponsible employers who lure workers into this country, using this broken system to drive down wages and then exploit those same workers. And we must demand that the countries of this hemisphere take responsibility for their own citizens. So - we need vision, we need leadership, we need real change.

* * * And finally, the number one job of your Senator is to defend the Constitution of the United States in order to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and to assure every American citizen that they will be treated equally under the law. We need to get our men and women home from Iraq as quickly and as safely as possible. One more drop of American blood is not going to alter the situation of the Iraqi people. They need to stand up and take responsibility for their own country.

These issues and many more, require leadership that will not pander to special interests but is willing to work hard to represent the state of Texas. Tomorrow, as a soldier, I return to my unit, the Alamo unit, with all of its history. Be assured that those men and women of Texas stand ready to protect and defend you with their very lives. Tonight, as a citizen, and as your nominee for the United States Senate, I ask each of you to rise to another mission. Ours must be a mission OF UNITY. This is not about the Clinton family, the Obama family, or even the Noriega family – all of those families will be fine. Our mission must be on behalf of the families of Texas. The woman I met in Wood County who did not earn enough to pay for her elderly mother’s health care, The Republican in Conroe who said Rick “how can I save enough for my kid to go to college?” And especially on my mind, the families I’ll face as I return to my unit who’ll say “please protect my husband” and “please don’t send daddy again.” If we leave here divided, we leave them behind. I will not. We will not. Democrats will not. We join the voices of our fellow Texans - We have the vision. We will supply the leadership. And WE WILL HAVE CHANGE! God Bless you all and God Bless Texas!

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