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'This Country Is Truly Open to You'

September 01, 2004|From Associated Press

The text of the speech Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention:


Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

What a greeting! What a greeting! Wow. This is like winning an Oscar -- as if I would know.

Speaking of acting, one of my movies was called "True Lies" -- and that's what the Democrats should have called their convention.

You know, on the way up here to the podium, a gentleman came up to me and said, "Governor, you are as good a politician as you were an actor." What a cheap shot! Cannot believe it.

Anyway, my fellow Americans, this is an amazing moment for me. To think that a once-scrawny boy from Austria could grow up to become governor of the state of California and then stand here, then stand here in Madison Square Garden and speak on behalf of the president of the United States. That is an immigrant's dream. It's the American dream.

You know, I was born in Europe and I have traveled all over the world. And I can tell you that there's no place, no country that is more compassionate, more generous, more accepting and more welcoming than the United States of America.

As long as I live -- as long as I live, I will never forget the day 21 years ago when I raised my right hand and I took the oath of citizenship. You know how proud I was? I was so proud that I walked around with the American flag around my shoulder all day long.

Tonight I want to talk to you about why I am even more proud to be an American, why I am proud to be a Republican, why I believe that this country is in good hands.

When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied part of Austria. I saw their tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes. I remember the fear we had when we had to cross into the Soviet sector. Growing up, we were told, "Don't look the soldiers in the eye, just look straight ahead." It was common belief that the Soviet soldiers could take a man out of his own car and ship him back to the Soviet Union as slave labor.

Now, my family didn't have a car, but one day we were in my uncle's car. It was near dark as we came to the Soviet checkpoint. I was a little boy, I was not an action hero back then -- but I remember -- I remember how scared I was that the soldiers would pull my father or my uncle out of the car and I would never see them again. My family and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot.

Today the world no longer fears the Soviet Union, and it is because of the United States of America!

As a kid -- as a kid, I saw also the Socialist country that Austria became after the Soviets left.

Now don't misunderstand me. I love Austria and I love the Austrian people. But I always knew that America was the place for me. In school when the teacher would talk about America, I would daydream about coming here. I would daydream about living here. I would sit there and watch, for hours, American movies, transfixed by my heroes, like John Wayne.

Everything about America -- everything about America seemed so big to me, so open, so possible.

I finally arrived here in 1968. What a special day it was. I remember I arrived here with empty pockets but full of dreams, full of determination, full of desire. The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon-Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend of mine who spoke German and English translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which I had just left.

But then I heard Nixon speak. Then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, lowering the taxes and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air. I said to my friend, I said, "What party is he?" My friend said, "He's a Republican." I said, "Then I am a Republican."

And I have been a Republican ever since. And trust me -- and trust me -- in my wife's family, that's no small achievement. But I am proud to be with the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the party of Ronald Reagan and the party of George W. Bush.

To my fellow immigrants listening tonight, I want you to know how welcome you are in this party. We Republicans admire your ambition. We encourage your dreams. We believe in your future. And one thing I learned about America is that if you work hard and if you play by the rules, this country is truly open to you. You can achieve anything. Everything I have -- my career, my success, my family -- I owe to America.

In this country, it doesn't make any difference where you were born. It doesn't make any difference who your parents were. It doesn't make any difference if you're like me and couldn't even speak English until you were in your 20s. America gave me opportunities and my immigrant dreams came true.

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