Ohio governor John Kasich formally announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination at a Tuesday morning rally at his alma mater, Ohio State University in Columbus, becoming the 16th official candidate to enter the congested GOP primary. His speech touted his experience balancing budgets, frequently touched on his Christian faith, and was driven by his conviction that job creation was the “highest moral purpose” of politicians.
He began with an anecdote about the birth of his daughters. “I could hold them in the palm of my hand. It was so sweet,” he said, pivoting to his and his wife’s intention to give them a better life than their own parents were able to. “It’s this whole business of the American Dream,” he said, that successive generations can do better than those that preceded them.
Kasich segued into a sprawling narrative about his family: his uncle Steve, “not a churchgoing man,” who experienced a religious conversion while in combat on Iwo Jima, but continued to have nightmares about the battle for years afterward; his uncle George, now 95, the “patriarch of our family,” who “fought with great honor” in the infantry and then returned home to become a guidance counselor; his mother, whom Kasich said was uneducated but fiercely intelligent; and his father, a mailman.
The theme running through all these stories, he said, was sacrifice and striving because “it was all about the next generation. They’re what inspired me.”
The governor condemned a system that failed to provide equal rights and opportunities for minorities and an economic climate that stymied parents struggling to provide for and protect their families.
He went on a meandering course about violence in America, which included digressions on the Civil War, “racial violence” that occurred during “the dawn of television,” and 9/11. America was stronger for these trials, he said, because Americans “keep their eye on the horizon.”
Kasich described the “economic earthquake” of the Great Recession in sweeping, dramatic terms: he asked his supporters to remember the “thousands of hard-working, God-fearing people” who “went from getting a paycheck on a Friday afternoon to visiting a food pantry so they could feed their kids.”
“It is our job and our mission as children of God” to elevate such people, reach out to them, and improve their situation, he said — although he did not outline any specific economic policies he intended to implement. “The sun is going to rise to its zenith in America again,” he said.
“I am here to ask you for your prayers, for your support, for your efforts, because I have decided to run for President of the United States,” he concluded to rousing applause.
Kasich “humbly” told the crowd that he had the skills, experience, and “testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world.” He vowed to “fix” the United States of America.
He related an incident that occurred at a Wendy’s restaurant, in which he was approached by two people who told him to enter the presidential race because he had “statistics” on his side, even if he didn’t have as much money as other GOP candidates.
Kasich recounted a series of episodes from his political career, including his gig working for Ronald Reagan’s failed 1976 campaign, his successful runs for the Ohio state Senate and for Congress (the latter against an opponent who attended “HAH-vahd”).
“Our military must be improved,” he said. “We need to cut the bureaucracy and we need to strengthen our services. I’m a person who doesn’t like to spend a lot of money. But in this case — national security” was a top priority: America, he asserted, needed to be re-established as the world’s leader.
Kasich recalled his time on the U.S. House Budget Committee. Writing budgets, he said, was “not about numbers — it’s about vision, it’s about values.”
His top priority as president, he said, would be to balance the budget in order to create jobs. “You want job creation? You balance the books.”
He touted his success in balancing Ohio’s budget — not by slashing, but through innovation — and the results: job growth, tax cuts, and improved social programs for, among others, minorities, drug addicts, and disabled people.
“We’ll tame the bureaucracy,” he said, promising to implement “common sense” policies in Washington that would empower “job creators,” rather than hamper them.
A persistent theme throughout his speech was his humility and a moral imperative firmly rooted in his faith.
“God didn’t put us on this Earth to take care of ourselves,” he said. “I’m just a flawed man trying to honor God’s blessings in my life. …I will do my very best to serve you,” by which he meant the people who work hard, “follow the rules,” and spend time with their families. He referred to such people as “the glue” that keeps the country together.
He ended by invoking the “city upon a hill” metaphor, a reliable standard of American rhetoric since the Puritans landed, which posits that America is exceptionally blessed, and for its blessings, it is incumbent upon its citizens to practice charity, emphasize community, and embrace unity.
You can watch the speech below (beginning at 0:58:30).