Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
7:45 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Cathy, for that overly generous introduction. I will always cherish my time in the Congress of United States, like the man after whom this foundation is named. I have to tell you, I couldn’t be more proud of the job that Cathy McMorris Rodgers is doing, steering the House Republican Conference.
Would everyone please join me in showing our appreciation for a great American leader, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (Applause.)
To Joanne and Jimmy Kemp, the entire Kemp family — the large Kemp family — distinguished members of Congress who are here, our honored guests: It is my great honor and, frankly, it’s a privilege for me, to address this extraordinary group of leaders and patriots here at the Jack Kemp Foundation’s Sixth Kemp Leadership Award Dinner. This is a special night.
I especially want to recognize a friend of mine, a great friend of the Kemp Foundation, and frankly, a man whose life and whose faith is a testimony to the power of opportunity in our nation, and a leader whose opportunity agenda in the United States Senate is, frankly, a living tribute to the life and legacy of Jack Kemp. Join me in giving the first round of applause tonight to this year’s Kemp Leadership Award winner, Senator Tim Scott. (Applause.)
Thank you all for being here. To all of you, I bring greetings tonight from a friend of mine. I told him I was headed this way, and he was excited to hear about it. A leader with boundless energy and optimism — not unlike the mold of the man we remember tonight — I bring greetings tonight from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, tonight is very special for me and for my family. It’s, frankly, deeply humbling for me. Like many of you, Jack Kemp was a hero of mine. And I’ll always consider it one of the greatest blessings of my life that a hero that I met back in 1988, in my very first run for the Congress of the United States, would actually became a friend, and even a mentor, who had a huge impact on my career.
I just told a couple of Jack’s grandchildren that I have every confidence that I would not have had the opportunities to serve in the leadership in the Congress, as the governor of my state, or in the position as Vice President of the United States, were it not for the example and the influence of Jack Kemp.
Jack often said, “Ideas rule the world.” But his own life was a testament to the fact that even the best ideas need a champion to promote them in the never-ending battle for hearts and minds.
And Jack devoted his career to a single idea — an idea powerful enough that it helped changed the world, but precious enough to need happy warriors to defend it. He called it the American idea.
Jack’s lodestar was his unwavering belief in the fundamental equality and dignity of every person. It inspired everything that he stood for. And whether he was speaking in front of a large group, or whether he was just stopping you on a street corner, you heard all about it every time you talked to Jack Kemp. (Laughter.)
You know, I have to tell you, as I said on the floor of the House of Representatives the week that Jack left us, the debt this nation owes Jack Kemp can only be repaid by relentless imitation of his example. (Applause.) And that’s why I really am grateful that Jimmy and the entire Kemp family have grown this foundation into what it is today and that all of you, through your generosity, are supporting its work.
The Jack Kemp Foundation exists to preserve his legacy, of course, but also to develop the next generation of what we like to call “Jack Kemp Republicans.” And I’d like to say you’re doing a pretty good job.
Jack Kemp was a man — for those of you in the room that knew him — of boundless energy, boundless optimism, and boundless enthusiasm. I remember Jack told me one time that his mom told him nobody ever accomplished anything in this world without enthusiasm. Jack had it in abundance. And he also had a boundless faith in the spirit of the American people.
So let me think about that: boundless energy, boundless optimism, and boundless faith in the American people. Remind you of anybody? It sure does me.
My friends, I’m here to tell you tonight, that’s exactly the kind of Republican we have in the White House today. And serving beside him every day, I want to assure you: President Donald Trump is fully committed to advance the timeless values of the American idea that Jack Kemp championed every day of his life. (Applause.)
Like Jack Kemp, President Trump, first and foremost, knows that security is the foundation of our prosperity. And since the very first day of our administration, President Trump has taken decisive action to restore the credibility of American power.
President Trump, with the strong support of leaders like those gathered here tonight, has already signed the largest increase in defense spending in nearly 10 years. And before this year is out, we’ll pass one of the largest investments in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.
And tonight, I’ll make you a promise: Under President Trump’s leadership, with the strong support of this Congress, we’re going to rebuild our military, we’re going to restore the arsenal of democracy, and we will once again give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and training they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe. (Applause.)
And with that renewed American strength, President Trump is achieving real results on the international stage. Under President Trump’s leadership, our NATO allies are paying more of their fair share toward our common defense than ever before. ISIS is on the run. We’ve put Iran on notice. North Korea is isolated like never before. And with an issue that Jack cared deeply about all of his life, under President Donald Trump, if the world knows nothing else, the world knows this: America stands with Israel. (Applause.)
During his time in Congress, there was really no greater friend to Israel, in the Republican ranks, than Jack Kemp. Over 30 years ago, Jack said well that Israel was not only our ally, but our friend. And throughout his career, Jack Kemp worked tirelessly to strengthen the bond between our two nations.
And today, President Donald Trump strengthened that bond even further. Today, our President took a truly historic step, when the President of the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State of Israel. (Applause.)
As the President said this afternoon, he was delivering on a long-held American promise. It’s in the best interest of the United States. But more than two decades ago, actually, Congress had passed a law that required the President to move our embassy to Jerusalem and recognize that city as the capital of Israel. But successive administrations failed to do so. Even when it meant breaking a promise that they had made to the American people.
In recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, President Trump also announced plans to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Applause.)
After decades of talk, President Trump took action. He’s a man of his word. As the President said today, today we finally acknowledge the obvious; we recognize facts that we know will form a foundation for real progress, for real peace, in that region of the world.
And like Jack Kemp, President Trump knows that American leadership abroad, first and foremost, requires a vibrant economy at home. And since the outset of our administration, we’ve been working tirelessly to reignite American growth by putting into practice all the principles that Jack was such a matchless champion of.
Jack Kemp summed it up pretty well in his lifetime when he said, “There’s no limit to what free men and free women in a free market with free enterprise can accomplish.” And nobody said it better. (Applause.)
Frankly, that philosophy is why that, since day one of our administration, President Trump has been rolling back the heavy hand of government at a record pace. The President has signed more laws to cut federal red tape than any President in American history. (Applause.)
We’ve unleashed American energy. And we’ve taken a strong stand for the rule of law by appointing strict constructionists to our federal courts, at every level, like the newest justice to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch. (Applause.)
And the American economy is already responding to the actions of our President and his agenda. Optimism is sweeping across America, for consumers and job creators alike. Businesses large and small have created nearly 1.5 million new jobs since January of this year alone. And the stock market is setting new records nearly every day. And in less than a year, it’s created more than $5.5 trillion in new wealth — growing the pensions, the 401(k)s, the retirements, and savings accounts of millions of Americans.
And after more than eight years of less than 2 percent average growth, today the American economy is already growing faster than 3 percent, and we’re just getting started. (Applause.)
And the critics said this couldn’t be done, or at least it couldn’t be done for a long time. But, you know, Jack used to have a good term, what he called — what was it Joanne? The low-aspirations crowd. (Laughter.)
I got to tell you, like Jack, President Trump rejects the cynical view of 2 percent growth being the new normal in America. That’s why the President has fought tirelessly to revive the American economy. And it’s his faith — like Jack’s — in the boundless spirit and ingenuity of the American people that’s already being proven right again.
Right now, America has real momentum, but in order to turn this momentum into sustained economic growth, there’s one more important thing that we need to get done before the end of this year.
Now, Jack Kemp said in his time, “The single biggest step we could take to revive economic growth would be to completely overhaul the tax code to make it fairer, flatter, and simpler.” And President Donald Trump and I couldn’t agree more. (Applause.)
And I got to tell you — I’ll make a prediction — in just a few days — frankly, before Christmas of this year — President Donald Trump is going to sign historic legislation to cut taxes across the board for working families and job creators large and small. And we’re going to simplify the tax code and make it flatter and fairer. (Applause.)
Last week, we took a crucial step toward this goal. The House of Representatives had already done its work. And last Friday night — or was it early Saturday morning? — the United States Senate passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
And President Trump and I are truly grateful. We’re truly grateful for the great leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan, Leader Mitch McConnell, and all the Republicans who voted for this legislation, including several leaders who are with us tonight. I mentioned Senator Tim Scott, but Senator James Lankford, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Ron Estes, and Keith Rothfus. Give them all a round of applause. They’re out there fighting for a growing American economy. (Applause.)
As the President said, these tax cuts represent, in his words, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reclaim America’s great destiny and, as the President added, to put our economy on a path of sustained economic prosperity and job creation. And we’re going to seize this moment.
Now, the House and the Senate have to get together to work out the differences, and the President and I, and our entire administration are going to continue to work with Congress to get a bill to his desk in time for Christmas.
And we’ll fight tirelessly to make sure that the final bill reflects the principles the President laid out earlier this year — pretty straightforward.
First and foremost, we’re going to let the American people keep more of their hard-earned dollars. And we’re going to simplify the tax code. (Applause.)
Secondly, you know there’s an old saying — Jack might have approved of this joke — that the Internal Revenue Code is 10 times the length of the Bible, with none of the good news. (Laughter.) So we’re going to take some of Jack’s advice as well, and we’re going to simplify the Internal Revenue Code. We’re going to make it flatter, fairer, so that 90 percent of Americans can file their taxes on single piece of paper. (Applause.)
And lastly, we’re going to make sure that American companies can be competitive again by lowering the taxes on American businesses large and small so they can create good jobs and raise wages right here in the good ‘ole USA.
You know, the President has called for tax cuts for businesses because we believe it’s going to boost wages for American workers. Once they go into effect, we really believe the typical American household — when all of these taxes cuts are implemented — the typical American household is going to be able anticipate an extra $4,000 a year.
As Jack Kemp knew, that’s real money for the American people, and it’s going to make a real difference in the lives of hardworking families. And I know that’s true, because I’ve heard it from folks just like those Jack used to represent.
Now, I’ve traveled all across the country over the past year to listen to working families and job creators about how our current tax code is an obstacle to their success. Nearly two months ago, Joanne, I actually visited a business in Lancaster, New York, not too far from Jack’s old congressional district.
I had the opportunity to talk with citizens in Erie County. I simply asked a very straightforward question to them. I said, what would a tax cut mean to you? What would it mean to your family? What would it mean to your business? And without exception, every single person told me that they needed a tax cut, not just to pursue their dreams, but because they wanted to help other people achieve their dreams as well.
I heard from a woman who had started her own architectural firm out of her home, and now has an office and five employees. She told me that she would use the extra money for a tax cut to give her employees a pay raise, to create new jobs, and grow her business even more.
I heard from a young couple who started their own coffee company a few years ago, but now pay more money in taxes than they take in for themselves. And they told me that a tax cut would allow them to hire more people, buy new equipment, start saving up for that second location they’ve been dreaming of opening.
I heard from a mom and a dad whose young son suffers from a rare disease that costs tens of thousands of dollars every year to treat. For their little family, a tax cut would mean they could put more of their hard-earned money toward his medical care, and start investing in a bright future that lays ahead for him and his sister.
As I heard firsthand, the value of a tax cut can’t be measured in dollars and cents alone — because when the American people can keep more of their hard-earned money, they invest it back in their dreams. They invest it back in their businesses, in their communities, and their families in ways that make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the life of this nation.
These are the true rewards of a strong and growing economy. And these are the reasons why, with your support, with the support of these great leaders in the Congress, and with the leadership of President Donald Trump, I say with confidence: We’re going to pass the largest tax cut in American history, and we’re going to pass it this year. (Applause.)
My friends, what Jack Kemp understood was that a tax code is more than just an accounting document. He knew better than most that it’s really a statement of the values of our nation. In a certain sense, it’s a measure of the character of our people and what our priorities are.
You know, one of the things I loved about Jack is he saw every great chapter of our national story as a test and as a triumph of the American idea. From the patriots who dedicated America to the proposition that all men are created equal, to the soldiers and statesmen who brought our nation through the crucible of the Civil War to a new birth of freedom for every American, to the Civil Rights heroes who advanced the cause of racial justice in their day — Jack Kemp called it, America’s permanent revolution; our noble, if never perfect, striving to live up to those universal ideals etched into the founding charter of freedom.
And the great challenge facing our generation is to restore the foundation of freedom at the heart of our economy; to put our trust back, once again, in the talent, the grit, the ingenuity, and the freedom of the American people; and to put our trust in one other place as well: To put our trust in Him who planted this miracle of democracy on these wilderness shores, and to know that as we appeal to Him — as Americans have throughout our generations — as one nation, under God, that the best days for America are yet to come.
So I thank you for coming here tonight. I thank you for honoring the great leaders who are with us this evening. I thank you for investing in the memory and the legacy and the ongoing work of Jack Kemp.
And with your ongoing support, with these great leaders, with President Donald Trump in the White House, and with God’s help, I know we will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. And to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again.
Thank you very much. God Bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
8:04 P.M. EST