Thank you. Thank you very much. Dear friends, all of us here tonight, indeed I think all Virginians take great pride in having in our state tonight, as our guest, the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney. I am so deeply grateful to each of you, so awed by the large numbers, that I will be brief because I feel that our honored guest has this opportunity to give you a very special message on behalf of our distinguished and great and courageous president, on behalf of the men and women of the armed forces and indeed on behalf of America. But before I step down, a word or two.
First, I thank you, George, for that rousing introduction. I listened to it. Every word he had correct except “you are the 52nd senator.” You got the number wrong. But that’s alright. But I raise that only because I’m grateful to George and I say this seriously. In all my years I’ve had several senators with whom I’ve worked in the Senate from Virginia. George is a magnificent working partner. We work together on behalf of all Virginians. And George, tonight I want to express to you my deepest appreciation for your patience. This is a man that’s not known for his patience. But he has to wait another decade or so before he comes senior senator of Virginia. I wanted to get that little point up.
Now Tom Davis is another one. In my last campaign, things were somewhat different than they are in this campaign. We had a bit of a challenge, but we survived. But Tom Davis courageously stepped up and he was chairman of my campaign. And something I shall never forget. And Tom, you too are a man of patience, waiting to be the next junior senator from Virginia.
Dear friends, I was privileged this week, as many of you were to reflect on the 91st birthday of a great president, Ronald Reagan, a man that I was privileged to work with throughout his tenure. On two terms as our president, a man who turned around the armed forces and built them up once again very strong and in doing so—I watched and understudied him very carefully. And in the course of that period of time, he designed a neck tie, a very special tie. And tonight I have one of those ties on. And it has a message that applies to each of you. And especially on this night when we join our president, our vice president, and all America, mourning our losses, and our prayers for the families of those who died and those who’re wounded in Afghanistan. But on this tie he designed and put the phrase “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” We see that…thank you. We see that—we see that bravely displayed on the battlefields in Afghanistan. I visited those troops not many months ago, and I tell you I have never seen greater morale, greater commitment to their president, greater commitment from the people of the United States to each of them since the closing days of World War II when this country was united in a struggle for its survival. We have a great obligation to those wonderful men and women serving tonight. And now I’m proud to say that in this next term in the Senate I want to accomplish many things. I’ve worked on national defense, on education, and may I say, Mr. Vice President, our president and yourself forged a bipartisan consensus to get through the best education bill in the history of the United States. My congratulations to you.
And here in Northern Virginia, a subject that’s very important to us is transportation. One of the reasons I’m very anxious to serve again is that I have worked three consecutive times on the president’s message to the Congress about how to allocate the highway funds. 87, 92, and in 1996 I was chairman of the subcommittee that wrote T-21. That’s the bill that turned around the inequities that faced our state for so many years in which we paid gas taxes and it would get to other states. We stopped that. We gave Virginia 90 cents on every dollar of taxes paid at the pump, to come back. To come back to our state for highway transportation. And while I was there late at night at 3:00 in the morning, I happened to steal a billion and a half dollars for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. You know, our nation today seeks freedom, we’re anxious to express our respected faiths, and to strengthen our families. And I want to be a part of that team. And I think with your support I will be a vital part of it. And when it comes to national defense, we take first place. Stop to think, first place in the United States of America in the per capita spending on national defense. We have 18 to 20 of the most significant military bases. We provide the homes for the men and women who embark from our ports or leave from our air fields to go to far flung lands. We are proud of that. And I am proud to have worked with the congressional delegation, some of whom are here tonight, to keep that strong position for Virginia, and to say to the men and women of the armed forces, this is your home, and we’re proud to have you here. But that’s a job that’s awesome in the future. This year Mr. Vice President, very wisely you have put forth with the president an increase in defense spending of over $40 billion. Needed not only for the men and women of the armed forces to prepare them to go abroad and deter war, but also for homeland defense. It’s vital that we have here in the United States of America a homeland defense second to none the world over. And we’ll have it. We will have it.
But again tonight, dear friends, we are proud to have our vice president here. We reminisce together about the many years that we’ve been privileged to be public servants in different ways. We came to the congress in the same year: January of 1979. The vice president, and as we say in the other body, the House of Representatives, and I to the Senate, and there he worked for a decade. And he rose to the highest positions of leadership in the House, showing at that early age and that early time his abilities were recognized by his peers and then that day came when this wonderful man visited in my office. I was then the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he had been designated by the president to be the secretary of defense. And I was so privileged and wonderful to work with you during those years, that you transformed our military, and this secretary of defense put in place at the direction of George Bush the first, old number 41, as we called him, a half a million men and women of the armed forces of the United States and the coalition of over a dozen nations to repel Saddam Hussein from his invasion down on the gulf. I remember that so well. And they came to the Senate of the United States to get a resolution to support our president. Bob Dole was then our leader, and Bob said, John, that’s your job. You draw it up and you and I will go to the floor and we’ll get it. Three days and three nights we debated that resolution, and by only a margin of five votes did we succeed to have the Senate of the United States clearly on record as authorizing our president, our secretary of defense and half a million men and women of the armed forces to use force to repel Saddam Hussein. The rest in history. Ladies and gentleman, he went on to greater heights in industry and other jobs, a counselor to four presidents. But I often think of our president and our vice president, when I sing with you the ask the star spangled banner and that one refrain, does the star and the stripes “yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave”—think of that. We are the land of the free, only because we’re the home of the brave. Whether it’s those men and women fighting tonight throughout the world for freedom, or the generations that have gone before. And I stop to think the hand of providence gave us one of the most courageous presidents in the history of the United States and by his side an equally courageous vice president, Richard Cheney. Thank you.