Former Missouri Governor Bob Holden (D) was the keynote speaker for the opening of the seventy-second session of the American Legion Boys State of Missouri in Warrensburg on Saturday night.
Former Missouri Governor Bob Holden (D) takes questions from Missouri Boys State participants on the stage of
Hendricks Hall on the campus of the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg on Saturday night.
After Governor Holden finished his prepared remarks he took questions from the floor. The first part of the transcript of the question and answer session:
Former Missouri Governor Bob Holden (D): ….I’m not running for any office so I’ll be very candid with you. [laughter] Uh, so feel free. Be sure, all of the elected officials come this week, that you, uh, acknowledge them and pay them respect and ask tough questions. Anybody want to ask a question? The first one’s always the toughest.
Question: Uh, governor, I wanted to get an opinion from an actual politician. Why do you think it is in today’s society where we have so much political, economic and social turmoil that we’re not able to get past basic, uh, scandals like Anthony Weiner, [New York] Representative Weiner’s scandal or [former California Governor Arnold] Schwarzenegger’s or [former North Carolina Senator and presidential candidate John] Edwards being, uh, charged with a one point seven million dollar misuse of funds and not able to focus on the issues like the, uh, debt ceiling being reached or the wars or any other matter for that matter?
Bob Holden: Uh, first of all, neither political party has a solution for the problems you’re talking about. Uh, if they did they’d be out here on the campaign stump talking about it all the time. And in a democracy when you have no clear direction you, you try to sidestep the issues, uh, you try to give part of an answer. Uh, because honestly, uh, to solve the problem that you’re, in general you’re talking about, which, every [inaudible] comes back to money. You know, that, that line, follow the money? Well, there’s a lot of truth to it. But, you could, to do the things, whether it’s reduce the budget or in, or increase our commitment to health care, Social Security, the military, whatever it might be you’ve got to raise taxes. And neither side wants the other one to win that argument. And so they, they have not been able to come to a consensus. But, people like you can force that issue. And I will tell you as a former official, raise, trying to raise taxes is not a very popular thing. I’ll also tell you if we don’t make the investment in education we won’t lead the world in the twenty-first century going forward. We’ve got to be willing to make that commitment to education. Uh, and that’s, to me, uh, that’s the single most important thing, uh, that we as a culture and a society must do. But to, to pay for it you gotta figure out how to raise the revenue to get it done. Uh, and we need a, a far different curriculum, I think, in the future. We need to be pushing foreign languages, we need to be pushing things like understanding all the cultural, uh, variants of cultures around the world. Because not all of the decisions will be made within the borders of the United States. So, the, the simple answer to your question is the, both parties can’t come to this stage, uh, to an agreement on what the solution is. Republicans want to reduce the size of government. Democrats want to protect their interest in the budget, Republicans want to protect their interest in the budget. And there’s not a consensus in our society about what the answer should be.
Question: Thank you, governor. I agree. Maybe you could pass that on to the House and the Senate. [laughter] [applause]…
…Question: ….Governor, you talked about, uh, the budget, about how Democrats are trying to, to focus on that. Um, I’m curious, with your relationship to China, do you believe that the key to the United States budget in the future is to increase foreign dependency in trade with countries such as China, Brazil and Germany or do you believe that the key is handling domestic issues in the United States, such as universal health care, job, excuse me, job productivity, and, uh, reforming the welfare system.
Bob Holden: Well, I agree with all of those things, but, you know, when we talked about China or we talking about India or any place else, uh, I come at this from the stand point I want to create jobs in the United States. Do we have anybody from Moberly, Missouri here? Ah, I see a couple hands. I, I worked on a project called Mamtek. It is a Hong Kong company, they’ve got a plant in China, the technology, I think, comes out of Israel, the investors come out of California. They made a commitment to build a facility in Moberly, Missouri that’s going to create six hundred new jobs in Moberly, Missouri. Because that company’s made that commitment another Chinese company that’s got a relationship with them has also made a commitment to come to Moberly, Missouri. There’s three more companies in China talking about coming to Moberly, Missouri. So a town of fourteen thousand people that’s not on a major Interstate, doesn’t have a major university, got a community college, potentially has anywhere from six hundred new jobs up to twenty-five hundred new jobs. In the United States. Americans with a job with health care right in the middle of this country. There’s hundred of Moberlys throughout the United States and particularly the Midwest. But, it takes leadership and a commitment on the part of the community that they’re willing to take the risk and make that investment. Every time some governmental agency, no this can’t be done ’cause it doesn’t abide by our rules. A young lawyer, who I knew his parents twenty-five years ago in Springfield, Missouri, who, who does legal work for communities came up with a way to get it done. It’s about leadership. Leadership will solve a lot of the problems. So, I think all those things you talked about were important, but we can create jobs here. And that’s what I’m about in the Midwest U.S. China Association. It’s creating jobs in the Midwest. [applause]
Question: ….How is that you connect your core values with, uh, your policy, or more specifically, how you, uh, create the policy in your government so that it reflects exactly what it is you were raised on? And I know that’s Christian principles.
Bob Holden: Well, it, to me a, a Christian, which I am one, uh, believes in treating your neighbor as yourself, respecting them for who they are, uh, letting them have their values, and taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. Uh, you know, if you read the, the Bible according to Jesus he wasn’t all that popular in his culture, either. How popular would he be in our culture today [stir in audience] with some of his views? I, I think you, you lead by example. That’s the reason why, when I was faced with the, the first serious budget deficits in a long time as governor I tried to raise taxes. Wasn’t popular. But I thought it’s the right thing to do. At the end of the day winning and losing an election is not as important as winning or losing your soul. If you stand for something you ought to stand for something. If you don’t, then don’t get involved in politics. To me politics is about public service. The two people who got me involved in politics were Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. And I believe that people who run for office, people who serve in office, have an obligation to be true to those values. When I left public office I had no more money in the bank than when I started in politics. To me it’s public service. That’s what Missouri Boys State teaches you. That’s all, what it’s all about. It’s wha
t it should be about for all of us. You know, I don’t care how much money you have in life, if you’re unhappy you’re gonna be unhappy with a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars. But if you’ve got good relationships and built the kind of relationships and personal life, uh, in politics sometimes it’s not easy to do. But, I can get up every day, look myself in the mirror, and feel okay. So, I used to tell my staff, by the way, on a side note, if you’re doing something, if it shows up on the front page of the newspaper, am I gonna be pleased with what I read or not? Your gut tells you if what you’re doing is right or wrong ninety-five percent of the time. Live by those values and you’ll be okay.
Question: All right, thank you.
Bob Holden: Thank you. [applause]
Question: ….Why do you think America as a whole is trying to find somebody to blame for the current economic crisis that we’re in?
Bob Holden: Well, first of all, we don’t have a solution. And, you know, I, I have found that in, in government or politics, uh, everybody wants the budget cut as long as it doesn’t affect them. Everybody advocates change as long as it doesn’t affect them. And we’ve got to get over that. For, for us to have a budget solution at the federal level everybody’s gotta be willing to sacrifice. Those who are Democratic, Democratic values and those who are Republican, Republican values. As I said in my comments, you’ve got one of the classiest individuals in politics that I’ve ever met, and that’s Jack Danforth, coming to speak. I tell audiences all across the country that I long for the day when you could have a Jack Danforth and a Tom Eagleton representing Missouri in the United States Senate, one Republican, one Democrat, could fight on issues very aggressively, but still walk out respecting each other and be friends. Unfortunately I think term limits and the massive amount of money in politics today has eroded that relation, relationship building that is needed. So, that’s, you know, I’ve got a lot of answers on some of these, not very popular with some people but it’s what I believe.
Question: That’s very insightful. Thank you.
Bob Holden: Thank you. [applause]
Question: ….Concerning your economic relation with China, what do you find to be the most effective means of getting your key points across to such a culturally and linguistically different group?
Bob Holden: Well, first of all, the leaders that I work with, the Ambassador to the United States from China, the Counsel General, and my message to them is, it is not politically sustainable in our culture if all, if everybody perceives all the jobs leaving the United States going to China. It has to be a two way street. And honestly China needs us as much as we need China. They’ve got to keep their economy growing or they have revolution in their country, too. They may have a different political system, but they change leaders there, too. And if those leaders are not meeting the needs of the people they’ll change. They may change in a little bit different way than we do, but they make changes in their culture, too. And, and particularly in the whole area of energy, that is the one issue where both countries can work together on that is critical for the world at large. Whether, whether it’s figuring out how to use clean coal, whether it’s figuring out how to take care of the spent rods in nuclear, whether they figure out how to use wind and solar and renewable. You know, China has one point three billion people and they gotta have, they gotta feed those people every day. Their people have to have jobs every day just like they do in the United States. And so they need a prosperous America buying their goods as we need a prosperous China helping us provide some of the, uh, things that we like to buy. And what most people in this country don’t understand China has a problem of losing jobs, too. The jobs that ten, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago left the United States to go to China are now leaving China and going to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam. And so they have some of the same problems. They’ve also got a very serious drought. They’re talking about what are they gonna do in Beijing when it’s dry. What, what are they gonna do when it’s dry. Uh, you know, so they’ve got a lot of issues. And what, to be successful with China or anything else you’ve got to design a solution where both sides or all sides see that they win more by working together than working against. And that’s the opportunity that we have if we have leaders willing to step up. And what we’re trying to do through this organization, which is bipartisan, is no matter what the politics are in the twelve Midwestern states, who, Democrat versus Republican, we’ve gotta keep the lines of communication open and look for those opportunities like Moberly, Missouri where we can place facilities here, creating jobs for Americans that can work with China. And what’s interesting about the Moberly project they’re, they make the ingredients called sucralose that you find in Splenda, they’re making it here to send back to China to sell. ‘Cause made in the U.S.A. still means something if you’re doing it right. [applause]
Question: Thank you very much….