Early in life, I learned from my father that I was very lucky to have been born an American and that the freedom I enjoyed but had not been earned was not only a right but a privilege that carried with it a duty. "You've got to find a way to give something back, " he said, "to assure that the system keeps working . . . that it offers others the same freedom and opportunity that you enjoy. You have an obligation to do something to serve your community, or your state, or your country." Then he added wryly, "After all, you're in good health and have a reasonably good mind."
You might say that I have heeded his advice with a vengeance. I have served in the California State Legislature, served as Mayor of San Diego, was twice elected to represent California in the United States Senate, and finally -- for what journalists have described as eight "tumultuous" years as Governor of California -- I was privileged to serve as Chief Executive of an administration that brought to California profound and far-reaching beneficial change. For those eight years, we sought to create and expand individual opportunity, and demanded in return the exercise of individual responsibility. I think we succeeded on both counts.
California has gone from the depths of recession and revenue shortfalls to leading the nation in job creation with no close second. Our trillion-dollar-plus annual economy, the seventh largest in the world, has produced in the three-year period ending in 1997 more new jobs than New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois combined and brought us three consecutive years of budget surpluses totaling more than $5 billion. If California were a separate nation, we would bump Canada from the G-7.
With liberal Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature,
There is only one other elective office that could entice me. I've made no secret of my desire to be President. I think I'd be a good one. I've served quite an apprenticeship. But reluctantly, I'm compelled to conclude that it is just not practical to pursue a candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000.
On Tuesday, March 7, 2000 -- just one week after New Hampshire opens the 2000 Presidential Primary season -- the other five New England states and New York, New Jersey, and California will all hold their Presidential Primary elections the same day. To be a realistic participant in this "Mother of Super Tuesdays" -- to even be in the running and have any honest hope of getting his or her 28-second message to penetrate the consciousness of the 60 million or so people who comprise that audience (and better than one-fifth of the nation's population) --will require that a candidate be on television for two or three weeks before Election Day in some of the most expensive television markets in the country: Los Angeles, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia and Boston among the most costly.
What all that means is the table stakes just to get through Round 1 will approach $15 million. Under federal election law the maximum permissible contribution in $1,000. That's the same limit imposed on a Congressional race with an audience of 500,000. It was an absurdly low standard even for large-state U.S. Senate races when it was imposed, even before a quarter of a century of inflation had further eroded its purchasing power.
I won't pretend that I don't feel genuine disappointment, as well as regret that the American people will not experience the warmth and wisdom that Gayle Wilson has brought to the people of California as their truly superb First Lady. But neither Gayle nor I can regret spending the last two years as we have. It's made a lot of difference for California and that of course is why I sought the office in the first place.
All of this varied and far-reaching change has required my full time and attention and sustained effort. I take great satisfaction in the results, and would not change how I've spent the last two years if I could. The point is that if you're going to do it right, governing California is a full-time job . . . as is running for President.
But far more important than the personal ambitions or fortunes of any politician is that as a people blessed to be born to freedom, we assure that the system continues to expand opportunity and to balance individual rights with individual responsibility -- just as my father taught his children all those years ago.
After striving to achieve those twin goals virtually all my adult life, I can't break the habit. So I will continue to participate in debating the issues of our time -- and there are many that demand urgent attention. I'll do so in a new role, not as an elected official but as an advocate who cares passionately that my state and nation achieve their full promise. I'll be happy to talk to candidates and reserve the right to endorse and actively support those who want my support and whom I feel can best serve California and America.
There may be some who share my great optimism -- and my great concerns -- about America's future, and who feel that they can benefit from the experience and ideas of a seasoned veteran of the political wars in the nation's largest and most cosmopolitan state. California is a microcosm of this great nation, and despite the jibes of our neighbors about the eccentricities of some of our residents, California is and will be an invaluable incubator of new ideas and important needed change for America, from revolutionary innovation in high technology to fundamental institutional reform.
The climate for such change is inescapably affected, for better or worse, by the prevailing political philosophy and culture. The governmental environment can encourage and nurture individual initiative and creativity -- or artificially burden and constrain it to the detriment of all of society. For the last 40 years, California has been a political battleground on which has been fought a continuing contest to determine which philosophy of government and which culture would prevail and define the limits placed upon the aspirations and actions of individual citizens. There is indeed a fundamental, defining difference between the Republican and Democratic parties, which is why I've been a life-long Republican.
Politics in California is a contact sport. I've never lost a general election. I've won four consecutive statewide elections -- two for U.S. Senate and two for Governor --against the best candidates the Democratic Party had to offer. And, as Governor, I've spoken out publicly and repeatedly in praise -- but far more often in criticism -- of Washington's policies and practices, ranging from federal inattention to national security and illegal immigration to federal over-reaching in the excessive regulation of businesses and states in their administration of welfare, health care and conflicting environmental requirements.
From the abundance of evidence available, it is clear I have opinions -- and a need to share them with the world, even unsolicited! So in addition to engaging in some new profit-making activities (if only to disprove my wife's belief that I have something against making money), I have:
1) been honored to receive and have accepted the invitation of the prestigious Hoover Institution at Stanford University to join them as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow;
2 to afford a forum for issue advocacy, co-founded and will serve as the honorary chairman of the Bear Flag Forum; and
3) resolved to organize or participate in a political action committee or committees to pro-actively encourage and support promising Republican candidates.
So don't expect me to go quietly into the night. I'm not going to. To the contrary, I will continue not only to speak out and write as a student of public policy issues, but to participate energetically in winning needed change through public advocacy and more directly through the political process. And I will continue to do so until we have given back to America a renewed definition of freedom and a shared ethos to define our culture . . . to offer every child virtually limitless individual opportunity in return for his or her exercise of individual responsibility.
Thank you for your support these many years, and God Bless California.