A Black Conservative Congressman
Defines The American Dream

A New Visions Commentary paper published September 1996 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax (202) 543-5975, E-Mail [email protected]

When it comes to the American dream, no one has a corner on the market. All of us have an equal chance to share in that dream. I never thought I would have the privilege of addressing the American people, but this is America where dreams still come true...

People are dying to get into this country... not out of it. It is still the greatest, most prosperous, most powerful nation on the face of the earth and it produces hundreds of thousands of dreams-come-true every day...

This past year I had the opportunity to travel the country and meet the people who are changing lives, one heart at a time... These people working in the trenches and suffering with those who suffer, understand compassion. They understand compassion can't be dispensed from a safe distance by a faceless bureaucrat sitting in an air conditioned office in Washington, D.C...

We [Republicans] don't define compassion by how many people are on welfare, or AFDC, or living in public housing. We define compassion by how few people are on welfare, AFDC, and public housing, because we have given them the means to climb the ladder of success...

Compassion can't be measured in dollars and cents. It does come with a price tag, but that price tag isn't the amount of money spent. The price tag is love -- being able to see people as they can be and not as they are. The measure of a man is not how great his faith is, but how great his love is. We must not let government programs disconnect our souls from each other...

Bob Dole understands Washington can't teach people right from wrong, dry their tears, or help a child with his homework. Bob Dole understands it's people helping people, neighbor helping neighbor...

... there is one title I cherish a great deal more than Congressman and that is the title of... Dad. So, indulge me while I say a word to the kids... Young people, America needs you. If our country is going to continue to be great, if it is going to continue to be strong, you are going to have to do your part. You are going to have to fight for America. Fight against skipping school and cheating on your papers. Fight against driving too fast and disobeying your parents. Fight against cursing and smoking. And fight, fight with every fiber of your being against drugs and alcohol.

I know, I know. You've heard all of this before and you probably think that J.C. Watts is just another old fashioned grown-up and if you're thinking that, you're right. Just ask my five kids, Keisha, Jerrelle, Jennifer, Trey, and Julie.

I know it's tough. That's why I'm asking you to fight and be counted as a leader. You can help your friends find the courage to say no to the things that make them weak. And yes to the things that make them strong.

You see character does count. For too long we have gotten by in a society that says the only thing right is to get by and the only thing wrong is to get caught. Character is doing what's right when nobody is looking...

Parents and adults, I don't just challenge the youth tonight. I challenge you. For what we build and nourish and encourage in our youth today, is what our country will look like 20 years from now.

The American Dream is about becoming the best you can be. It's not about your bank account, the kind of car you drive, or the brand of clothes you wear. It's about using your gifts and abilities to be all that God meant for you to be.

Whether your dream is to be a doctor, teacher, engineer, or Congressman. If you can dream it, you can do it. The American Dream is the promise that if you study hard, work hard, and dedicate yourself, you can be whatever you want to be...

In my wildest imagination, I never thought that the fifth of six children born to Helen and Buddy Watts --- in a poor black neighborhood, in the poor rural community of Eufaula, Oklahoma -- would someday be called Congressman.

But then, this is America... where dreams come true.

by Rep. J.C. Watts, Jr., a Republican Congressman representing the Fourth District of Oklahoma. This was originally a speech delivered on August 13, 1996 at the Republican National Convention.

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