Nikki Haley’s Speech at the 2016 Kemp Leadership Award Dinner

Updated: Jan 17, 2019


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Senator Tim Scott- Well good evening. Wow. It is a great day in Washington, D.C. Good evening. If you were from South Carolina you would realize that when governor Haley stands up and says it’s a great day in South Carolina, everyone says it’s a great day in South Carolina. The fact that we are in D.C. I have the privilege of introducing my Governor, one of the greatest leaders in America to you. I thought about some things that would be funny to say. If you knew my humor, you would realize it is best for me to not tell any jokes, I did think about the one joke governor, I thought would be funny that you would not find funny. I am a gamecock fan — any gamecock fans in here? I can tell by the silence that I am the only fan. At six and six, there is not much to celebrate. Our governor went to Clemson. I think she is personally responsible for the success of the Clemson Tigers going to the playoffs’. I see we are not in South Carolina at all. These jokes don’t work outside of South Carolina, got it. Our governor is a Bamberg native who started working at 13 years old, keeping the books in the family business. She learned very quickly the importance of hard work. One of the reasons why I know that she is a person, who deserves the award, tonight is because she embodies leadership. Not only is she a Clemson graduate, but when you think about the success we have seen in South Carolina, think about this, 46 counties and we have had over 82,000 jobs created in all 46 counties in South Carolina. [applause] that’s amazing.  That is one of the reasons why it is always a great day in South Carolina. Think about some of the jobs that have been created in expanded under her leadership. The bmws of the world a $12 billion expansion, the Michelin’s of the world $600 million expansion, the Mercedes-Benzes of the world 1200 jobs. The Boeings of the world 8,000 plus jobs. Although — Volvo, the first plant in the country, South Carolina. There is a reason why South Carolina per capita is the number two growing state in the country, it is called good leadership. Some of us would focus on many of the positive things we’ve seen under her leadership, but I think perhaps the most important form of leadership we see when times are hard. When everybody is running in the opposite direction. South Carolina has had man-made and natural disasters. I think about less than two years ago, the flood. The 1000-year flood. Flooding in South Carolina not only in the coast, but also in Columbia, and the middle of the state. Our governor rose to the occasion and lead our state through a very traumatic situation. And then just this year, hurricane Matthew comes through the middle of our state. Again, parts of the state most impacted were not the coastal parts of the state. She stood up, rolled her sleeves up and led the people who were disillusioned and did not know where to turn. We watched her positive, powerful leadership keep our state moving in the right direction. But if those two were not enough, as governor, she led the charge to remove the confederate battle flag from the capital of South Carolina. [applause] I’ll tell you when the decision was made to take on that fight, not that many people were clapping in South Carolina. She had the vision to know that sometimes you do the right thing, even when it is not popular. Give her time to clap back there, by herself. God bless you, ma’am. You just keep clapping for my Governor. There is no doubt that the trigger for the removal of the confederate flag was an incident that no Governor, no person should have to live through. We are all familiar with the murder, the murders at the Mother Emmanuel AME church. Governor Haley, who showed tremendous leadership as our governor, it something I thought was far more important during those funerals. I was there with her through almost every funeral. She was not just there as a governor. She was there as a mother. She was there as someone who held hands with a state and people that was broken. If you ever want to know what leadership looks like, don’t look at her record as a job creator; don’t even pay too much attention to the response to natural disasters. Look specifically at the crisis of Mother Emanuel, and her response as a human being, as a mother, as a governor. But most importantly, as a bridge to a better future. South Carolina remains South Carolina strong because of the leadership of our governor. it is no question that when president-elect trump saw the resume and watched on national and international TV, the leadership of governor Haley. He chose her to be our next ambassador to the United Nations. Please help me welcome Our Governor, My Governor Nikki Haley. [Applause]

Governor Nikki Haley–  Thank you very much. This is a just a surreal night on a lot of different levels. I have to tell you, when I heard about this award, I thought really? It is just one of those that I could not even comprehend or imagine. And then to and you have to understand as the wife of a combat veteran, to even hear John McCain talk about you is overwhelming. We cannot thank you enough for your service and I am forever in your debt. [Applause] I don’t know where Newt Gingrich is, or if he is still here, but I have to tell you when he was running for President a few years back, that will go down as one of the best dinners that Michael and I had, was with him and his wife Callista. The man is a great dinner companion, because he can talk and talk. It is really cool things that he talks about. It was neat to hear him talk about that. I got to tell you as we were planning for this speech, I said I don’t know what Tim’s — I did not know it was Tim Scott, I just knew it was some guy named Tim who is going to introduce me. Now I look back at that and that makes it that more special. When you are a Governor, and you are elected to lead, you make a lot of decisions, and some decisions you go back and say I wonder if that was right and I will tell you one of the best decisions I ever made was appointing Tim Scott U.S Senator. Thank you so much, Tim for that great introduction. Thank you, Joanne, and to Jack and Joanne’s incredible children, thank you to the entire Kemp family and the entire Kemp foundation. I am deeply, deeply honored that you choose to give me this leadership award. It means more to me than I can ever truly express. I regret that I never met Jack Kemp. I was reading some of the things I came across, and I came across this quote. There is a kind of victory in good work, no matter how humble. My mother as Tim said made me start doing the books for our family business when I was 13. I know those words have meaning.  But beyond what Secretary Kemp said, and when I look at what he stood for in his life and what he did, I am in awe. In pro football, in Congress, in the executive branch, as a national leader of the conservative movement. His accomplishments go far beyond any words. It is not just his accomplishments that stand out. What is perhaps the most significant about Jack Kemp is his compassion. The compassion he always showed to those who had been left behind in our country, and the courage he showed in going against the grain of Republican thinking when our party was wrong. Jack Kemp was often referred to as a bleeding-heart conservative. I love it because it is important to be conservative since our way of thinking is the right way for our country. [Applause] It is also important to have heart for people who might not always share in our experiences or perspective. Some in our party still miss that. Jack Kemp never did. As we begin in this new era of united Republican governance. We cannot afford to miss it now. We have an incredible opportunity in front of us, to remind America that our approach will deliver freedom and opportunity to all citizens regardless of race, gender or where they were born and raised. That is what drew me to the Republican Party and what drew my parents to America. My parents left t a wealthy lifestyle in India with just eight dollars in their pocket to come to America to start over. Why would they do that? Because even in 1969, they understood that no amount of money, no lifestyle can compare to the opportunities we have in America. Only here, can you be anything you want to be if you are just willing to work hard. Only here do the circumstances of your birth not define your future. Only here is anything truly possible. That is Jack Kemp’s Republican Party, that’s my Republican Party and that, at its core is the American Idea. I am not an academic, I am not a philosopher. I am a wife, a mother, and the Governor of a state who took a chance on me more than six years ago.  I have spent every single day since then, working to prove to the people of South Carolina, they made the right decision. To me, that means making sure that every South Carolinian has the same opportunities I have, the opportunities that allowed an Indian American girl from a tiny rural town of Bamberg, South Carolina to one day grow up to be governor. When I took office six years ago, South Carolina was struggling. Jobs were scarce, economic anxiety was real, and the American dream felt out of reach for too many. I remembered not quite knowing where to start. Then I came across the quote from one of my predecessors Governor Carroll Campbell, who was a contemporary of Secretary Kemp. Governor Campbell said if you can get a person a job, you can take care of a family. While governors do not create jobs, we can do a lot to make sure that when a business wants to grow, it can. We got to work. We cut business taxes, we whiped our regulatory board clean. I replaced the chairman of our largest and most bureaucratic permitting board with the president of a construction company. And Look at us, now. We built planes with Boeing; we build cars with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and now Volvo. We have five international tire companies. The first American flat screen TVs look no further than rural Winnsboro, South Carolina. For those who said bicycles would never again be made in the United States, we brought back a New Jersey bikes manufacturer from China and they are now operating out of rural Manning, South Carolina. Most of that did not exist six years ago. More than 82,000 new jobs and $21 billion in investment in South Carolina during that time. We have moved more than 35,000 people off of welfare and put them to work. [applause] Unemployment has been cut in half, and more South Carolinians are working now, than ever in the history of our state. I have often been asked how we have done it, as if there is some secret formula that spurred our transformation into the fastest growing economy on the East Coast. My answer is that like most things in government, it is not as complicated as some people think. It’s about common sense, and a willingness to get creative and challenge norms. And a belief that all things are possible if you free people to pursue their own dreams. Jack Kemp understood that better than almost anyone. As vital as job creation is, lifting people up is more than just about finances. It is also about education. That is an area where our state has lagged behind for many years. We are still behind, but not for very long. More than four years ago, I started a conversation about education. I met with principals and teachers, superintendents, university deans, business leaders and clergy. I listened, I learned, and we changed things. We now provide reading coaches in every elementary school. We have ended social promotion. We are aggressively recruiting rural teachers and we are changing the districts and incentivizing them to stay. We are investing in technology, getting every South Carolina child up to speed in the world as it is, today and not as it was three decades ago. And we did it all without raising taxes. [applause] we have made immense changes to the way we teach our kids in South Carolina. These changes are happening because of two things, a willingness to acknowledge the problem, and the willingness to move outside of our comfort zone to find a solution. It was out of the ordinary for a Republican governor to go to the teachers and superintendents to talk about education reform, that was Democrats territory. Those conversations helped me understand where they were coming from, and that helped them begin to trust me. That built relationships that allowed us to push these changes through our legislature. Everyone wants to feel heard. And in this nation, everyone deserves to be. For too long, the leadership of both parties have written off large groups of our fellow Americans. Outreach and honest communication can have enormous positive effects. I have seen it in real policy changes in our state. I have also seen it with a change that goes much deeper than that. I speak of last year’s Mother Emmanuel shootings in Charleston and the removal of the confederate flag. When I first got word of the shootings, I knew this was going to be unbearably painful for our state. Nine shooting deaths, in a church, at bible study. A state senator and a leading figure in the local black ministry, shot to death. We never imagined something so horrifying. The next morning, we capture the killer and it immediately became clear that this was the act of a racist, motivated not by mental illness, but by pure hate. The first thing we needed to do was lift up those families and celebrate the lives of the victims. I decided to attend each funeral. I met the families. I heard their stories. And through it all, I had the privilege to get to know nine amazing souls. After each funeral, I would head home and sit down with my two kids and show them the faces on the program. I would introduce them to the person I met that day. I introduced them to Ethel Lee Lance who despite losing her daughter to cancer two years prior, was a woman of love and joy who constantly sang her favorite song, one day at a time sweet Jesus, that’s all I ask of you, give me the strength to do every day what I have to do. I introduced them to Tywanza Sanders our youngest victim, a 26-year-old budding entrepreneur, anxious to open his own barbershop who on that night stood in front of his 87-year-old aunt Susie and said you don’t have to do this, we mean no harm to you. I introduced them to Cynthia Heard, whose life motto was to be kinder than necessary. That’s now my life motto. Every opportunity I have, I mentioned the nine we lost and the three survivors The Emmanuel 12. Those 12 who took in someone that night who did not look like them, did not act like them, and did not sound like them. They did not call the police. They did not throw him out. Instead, they pulled up a chair and they prayed with him for an hour. I did not want just the families to know the love, compassion and greatness of these amazing people. I want the world to know them as my children and I do. The second thing that needed to happen was removing the confederate flag from our statehouse grounds. There are many wonderful, decent honorable people in our state that revere that flag. They are not racists, they’re the same people who twice elected African-American U.S. senator and twice elected an Indian American governor. As I said when I announced my intention, this was a debate that did not need to have winners and losers. Those who revere the flag for reasons of ancestry and heritage retain every right to do so. But what happened in Charleston shed a different light on an issue our state had long struggled with. What we saw in the extraordinary reaction to Charleston were people of all races coming together. We did not have riots, we had vigils. We did not have violence, we had hugs. The state house belongs to all people, and it needed to be welcoming to all people. That was not possible with that flag flying. When it came to the removal debate, we had legislators who truly listened to each other and allowed all of us to see each other in a way that does not always happen, with love, in grace and compassion. It is a love we learned from the Emmanuel 12. The flag came down, and South Carolina moved forward. I would like to think that Jack Kemp would have been proud of that. I guess that you have heard that I am up for a different job. It is an incredible challenging time for our country. Both here at home and internationally, but it is also an exciting time. We will have a new president. We will have opportunity to put our conservative principles into action. So, when President-elect Trump asked me to be his nominee as Ambassador to the United Nations, I was honored to accept. I’m not get into the details of our international challenges here tonight, but I will say two things. First, Jack Kemp was a guiding light for us, not just in the areas of economic growth, empowerment and civil rights, he was a guiding light in foreign affairs as well, with the passage of time, it is easy to forget some of the battles that raged three decades ago. But we should all remember that Secretary Kemp was an outspoken critic of the racist government in South Africa that was often a lonely position inside the Republican Party. He did not shy away from it. History has proven him right. Second I will conclude my remarks with the same sentence I began every speech with when I ran for governor as a thirty-eight-year-old unknown candidate more than seven years ago. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me everyday how blessed we were to live in this country. That declaration is just as important today as it was back then. I never try to hide my background from my fellow South Carolinians, most of whom do not look like me. I used my parents’ immigrant experience to promote what is truly unique about America. On this day, the 75th anniversary of the attack on pearl harbor, it is more important than ever to remember what unites America, not what divides us. It says something about our future. No matter where I go, no matter what I do, those are the values I will proudly promote. I will never run from them. With god’s grace and the senate confirmation, yeah, I’m really nervous about that, [laughter] I hope to represent our country well and do my part to keep America safe and keep our country the greatest beacon of freedom the world has ever known. Thank you very much for honoring me, today. [applause]

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