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Eric Cantor Addresses American Enterprise Institute: Making Life Work

US House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor delivers remarks focusing on conservative reforms that the 113th Congress can embrace to make life work for more people. In particular, he will address the areas of education, health care, workforce reform, immigration, and innovation. A portion of his remarks, as prepared for delivery, is available below:

MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): Thank you Arthur. Arthur, you’ve been an inspiration for me, and so many of my colleagues.

The work of Arthur and his colleagues at AEI has demonstrated an incredible understanding of how conservatism leads to better lives for us all. Your insight and commitment in this vein has only begun to pay dividends. I really appreciate your counsel and friendship.

In Washington, over the past few weeks and months, our attention has been on cliffs, debt ceilings and budgets, on deadlines and negotiations. All of this is very important, as there is no substitute for getting our fiscal house in order. There is no greater moral imperative than to reduce the mountain of debt facing us, our children and theirs. The House Republican Majority stands ready for President Obama and his party to finally join us in our efforts to tackle the big problems facing America.

But today, I'd like to focus our attention on what lies beyond these fiscal debates. Over the next two years, the House Majority will pursue an agenda based on a shared vision of creating the conditions for health, happiness, and prosperity for more Americans and their families. And to restrain Washington from interfering in those pursuits.

We will advance proposals aimed at producing results in areas like education, health care, innovation and job growth. Our solutions will be based on the conservative principles of self reliance, faith in the individual, trust in the family and accountability in government. Our goal – to ensure every American has a fair shot at earning their success and achieving their dreams.

It is my hope, that I can stand before you in two years and report back that our side, as well as the president's, found within us the ability to set differences aside, to provide relief to so many millions of Americans who simply want their life to work again.

In so many countries throughout history, children were largely consigned to the same station in life as their parents. But not here. In America, the son of a shoe salesman can grow up to be president. In America, the daughter of a poor single mother can grow up to own her own television network. In America, the grandson of poor immigrants who fled religious persecution in Russia can become the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In America, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, two bicycle shop mechanics gave mankind the gift of flight. The Wright brothers flew only 22 feet, 18 feet in the air, but they performed a miracle. As a result, only 66 years later, this great country of ours put a man on the moon and brought him back. We can do an enormous amount. That’s who we are.

The Wright brothers’ father, Milton, first inspired his sons with a toy helicopter. But he never wanted Orville and Wilbur to fly together, for fear he would lose them both. In 1910, seven years after the boys’ first flight, Milton gave them permission to fly together, the only time they ever did, and it lasted six minutes. Later that day, Orville took 82-year-old Milton on the only flight of his life. It lasted seven minutes, rising 350 feet, while his elderly father shouted: “Higher, Orville, higher.”

What a great commentary. In America, we do have higher expectations for our nation. Since our founding, we believed we could be the best hope to mankind. That hope led generations of immigrants to risk everything, to endure a tough journey to our shores, looking for a better future.

The driving motivation for millions of immigrants passing by Lady Liberty in New York Harbor was the generation that came after them. And because of that hope – those high expectations – coupled with a determination to see them come true, every generation since has had it better off than the one before. Until now.

Lately, it has become all too common in our country to hear parents fear whether their children will indeed have it better than they have. And for all of us parents, that is a scary thought. Let's face it. It has gotten a lot tougher to raise a family here in America. Our goal should be to eliminate this doubt gripping our nation’s families, and to restore their hope and confidence so that parents can once again see a better tomorrow for their children.

Together, my wife Diana and I raised our three children, Evan, Jenna and Mikey, and we couldn't be more proud of the young adults they have become. Our nest is now empty, but I understand the pressure all parents are under, and the trying times they go through.

Parents working, saving for school, paying for braces, helping with homework and going from one after-school activity to the next. It's not easy.

That's why we worry so much. Where can you find an affordable home in a good neighborhood to raise your kids? Which health care plan can I afford that allows you to see your doctors? Will the children make it through high school and get into a college of their choice, and if so, can you afford it? What about a career? Will that be available to them? These are real life concerns. This is what keeps parents awake at night fearful that life won't work out the way they hoped.

During the last several years with the stagnant economy, too many mothers and fathers have had to come home, walk into the kitchen and tell their families they didn’t have a job anymore. How does a family like that save for a rainy day, when it just got tough to even make it through the next month?

These families are desperate to wake up in the morning and have the nightmare over. The best way to restore their hope for the future and to heal our country is by making opportunity a reality for them and everyone. This comes with a growing economy, business expansion and start-ups creating jobs.

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