Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, in a campaign swing through Raleigh this week, spent about an hour with 500 Broughton High students. Here are notes on his talk. This does NOT claim to be verbatim:
In 2009, Gingrich and his daughter wrote the book “The five principles for a successful life.” He shared those principles with the students before moving on to more difficult concepts, such as Social Security and energy policy, though he managed to make those interesting to teenagers.
The book grew out of interaction Gingrich had with middle schoolers. He realized that they may or may not care about conference committees, but they cared about their own lives.
First, he told them, dream big.
I don’t care what the dream is, whether it’s to be a ballerina, to open a business, to raise a family, to be a tour guide. If when you’re young you don’t have the courage to dream big, you don’t acquire it later. It’s a huge virtue at your age to think about how you want to live. You have an entire lifetime ahead of you. Who do you want to be?
Second, and this is discouraging for some of you, work hard. Everybody I ever talked with, people who are good at what they do, work hard. If you watched the Master’s yesterday, it’s amazing how many hours pro-golfers put in just to be good at putting a small white ball into a hole in the ground. They represent millions of people who tried to figure out how to do that. It’s true no matter who you want to be. If you’re gonna dream big, you have to work hard to achieve it.
Third, learn every day. I’m amazed as I go around the country as a candidate how much I learn, how many things I didn’t know. I was down at Hamlin’s drug store, the oldest African-American-owned drug store in the United States. Mr. Johnson bought it in 1956 when it was still segregated. He still comes in six days a week, he put both daughters through private school. He actually likes coming in. It’s his life and his hobby. It fits one of my ground rules for working hard: Nobody can work hard at something they hate. You don’t have the discipline to do it.
Fourth, enjoy life. The reason is if you’re not doing something you enjoy, not happy “ha ha” but if you don’t have a sense at the end of the week that I’m really glad I’m doing this, you can’t sustain it. Mr. Johnson, who goes in six days a week, was back yesterday when it was closed to wax the floors. That’s how he lives. I’m currently reading a biography of Vince Lombardi. He was totally immersed in football. He thought about it 365 days a year. You gotta have, no matter what you’re gonna do, you have to like doing it. If you like doing it, you’ll do it more often. America is a country that allows you to figure out what your hobby is and, if you’re clever, figure out how to get somebody to pay you to do your hobby.
So have a big dream about your life, work hard at that dream, learn every day but do it in a way that you enjoy life. If you don’t enjoy life, you can’t sustain it. Six days out of seven, it’s been fascinating. I learn all sorts of interesting things. I get up thinking, “I wonder what’s going to happen today. My whole life has been like that. How can you follow a life that pulls you forward?
And stay true to yourself. You don’t have to be true to anybody else. You have to be true to you. A real simple model: When you look in the mirror, do you like the person you see? If you don’t, you aren’t going to be able to escape from yourself.
Every time I stop and think about those five things, I think what is it I want to do, not what I have to do. The first thing to figure out is what you want to do.
I had a class, and I said, Your assignment is to write the story of your life to your grandchildren. It sobers an awful lot of people. They don’t imagine themselves as mothers or fathers, let alone grandmothers and grandfathers. Let’s figure it out. You’ll be 75, so 60 years out, it’s 2072. Here’s where I’m living and whether I’m well-off and what I’m up to and how I got here. It’s the biggest single impact I had as a college teacher. I had a young lady who wrote me and said, I was about to get married and live in my small town next to my parents doing exactly what I had done y whole life. When I wrote my biography, I realized what I wanted to do was travel. I broke up with my boyfriend and now I’m wiring you from Australia.
If you learn to think in the future and come back to right now, it’ll change how you make decisions.
You as citizens, you are going to inherit one of the great periods of change in American history. It’s absolutely unavoidable. We have all sorts of patterns building in the world, all sorts of patterns building in us. We have a political system incapable of dealing with them. It’s like a family vacation in large Winnebago. We’re running out of gasoline, two of the tires are bald and the brakes seem to not be working very well and, by the way, the windshield wipers are broken. If you add enough of those things up, there comes a morning when you run out of gas in the middle of the road in the middle of a rainstorm. Now you’re stuck. And somebody in the group is going to get wet.
You all are going to inherit a country that is going to go through these very big changes because what’s happened is the institutions have started to fail, and the cost of trying to solve them is greater than the system can figure out. So people are avoiding change. We’re going to drive 20 more miles hoping we’ll figure out a solution. At some point, if you don’t get it fixed, you’re outa gas.
Spain has 21 percent unemployment. Most of Europe, for those under 25, has 50 percent unemployment. There are people who are 30 years old who have never had a job. What makes it frustrating is, just the other side of the current Winnebago that is oug of gas is a giant gas station that nobody can see. There are a lot of opportunities. We don’t know how to deal with Social Security. It was invented in 1935 when the average person died at 62 and retirement began at 65. As a test of mathematics, if I offer you a bonus at 65 and you’re going to die at 62 on average, I can afford it because half of the people will die. What happens when everyone lives to 68? to 78? The system becomes unbalanced. The Washington solution to that is pain. It comes in two forms: raise taxes on you and make you work longer, and the other is to cut benefits for your parents and grandparents.
We have an alternative. It’s not a theory. Not an abstract. You can google it. Chile in 1980 adopted a personal Social Security account, a very simple model. Let’s say you got a work permit at 14 , worked for the summer. Under the Chilean model, all Social Security taxes would go into a savings account. It would build up compound interest through your entire working lifetimes. Under our current Social Security system, you won’t retire before you’re 70. That means you have 56 years of compound interest. They’re taking the initial investment and growing it every single year. In the Chilean model, every single person is now retiring with two to three times more money than in the traditional Social Security system. They won’t let you fall below the base payment. They make up the difference if you fall below it. In 30 years, they’ve written zero checks. Everyone has come in above that amount of money.
First of all, it’d be your money, not the government’s. If something happens to you, it goes to your estate. Today, your Social Security goes to the government. Because of the buildup, you’d have a huge savings pool. Look at the size of this room. If everyone has a savings account, even in just this one room, you end up building up a lot of money.
In Chile, that money is 70 percent of the whole economy, and there aren’t enough investments in Chile to absorb that money. They now can invest it overseas.
If we had adopted the Chilean model in 1980 ... all of those savings get invested in new businesses, we’d have a 6 or 7 trillion-dollar bigger economy.
It’s challenging in our political system to have discussions about something this complicated. We’re trying to fix an obsolete system. We need to move over to a modern system.
How many of you have somebody in your family or know somebody who has autism or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s? One of the projects i want to launch is on brain research. Alzheimer’s is so prevalent that it affects 5 million people at any one time. Between now and 2050, it will cost us 20 trillion dollars. That’s real money. We did a study ... spent three years working on Alzheimer’s, and if we simply postpone onset by five years, not cure it, just postpone it, it would save 6 to 8 trillion dollars. There’s a reason you should be interested. It’s your money. You have a real interest. It’s also your family or your friends. Anybody who’s watched people wrestle with these disease ... it takes an enormous amount of energy to deal with a child with autism. There are human reasons as well as financial reasons. We need politics of big solutions: how would you fix these things? how would you cure these things?
How many of you drive? You’ve probably noticed the price of gasoline. I’ve proposed an American energy independence program. A very simple model. We need to produce 4 million a gallons a day more in the United States so no future American president bows to a Saudi king. Our goal is to have enough production in the United States to not rely on the Middle East. If you bring home and produce it in the United States, 4 million barrels a day of oil, you bring home 500 billion dollars more a year, several million more jobs.
In addition most of that oil would come from federal land or offshore drilling. They pay royalties to the federal government. This year we’ll pay $415 billion in interest on the debt. You’ll pay more taxes to pay interest on the debt than you’ll pay for national defense. This is your money. You’ll pay enough taxes to buy a Porsche. If you reduce the debt, reduce the interest you have to pay, that’s money in your pocket.
We need to develop an American program, create American jobs, keep the royalties and put them in a debt reduction plan. The difference in your lifetime is enormous. Take the Social Security plan and the American energy plan, the combination of the two allows you to have more money when you retire in a better economy with a better job with more income to spend on what you care about. If you design the right policies, that’s how different the future can be.
I’m talking about whether you pay $2.50 a gallor or $9 a gallon, whether you have a job or don’t have a job.
[Question from the audience: What are you views on health care? What do you plan on trying to accomplish in fixing our health care system?]
When I talked about brain research, I think that could bring down the total amount of health care a huge amount of money. Brain research properly applied, you’re talking about taking a huge amount of cost out of the system. The iron lung ... 70 years ago people really worried about polio. They were caught in this epidemic in summertime. They invented the iron long to keep them alive. Then they didn’t go to a better iron lung, they went to a polio vaccine. You can get breakthroughs in health care. We saved more money by not needing iron lungs than we ever would have by building better ones.
The more we know about you as an individual, the more unique the medicine’s going to be. In your lifetime, from a girl’s standpoint, each of you individually, when you put on make up ... are you with me so far? I know guys will be confused by this. Most of them anyway ... if you’re going out on Friday night and going to put on makeup, each girl has a different skin tone and different hair color. For church, you wear one level of makeup, on a date a different level, unique to each of you. I couldn’t come hree and say I have this new bureaucratic makeup solution. We understand that at the level of makeup, people are unique. Guess what? Genetically, you’re all unique. Your potential for getting breast cancer, genetically unique. Before you’re 40 years of age, we’re going to be able to have very personalized medicine just the way we have very personalized makeup. I’m not talking about some bureaucracy. Bureaucratic rules are for averages, not unique. We’ll be able to say here’s what you need to be eating, here’s what you need to be doing for exercise. Nutrition, attitude and activity can change it. People who can discipline themselves to stay energetic are healthier. What you eat matters. You don’t have to be a fanatic about it. But it’s true. I’m clearly designed to be a raccoon and not a gazelle. I’ve been looking for the ice cream and beer diet my whole life.
We need to change the insurance system. You get the same tax break, no matter how you get the money. Always buy as part of a group. Never buy as individuals. Walmart works because it aggregates the purchasing power of everyone who walks in the door. That’s what ought to happen with insurance. You should be part of a group. That would drive the cost down dramatically.
[Question from the audience: You spoke about increasing oil production in the United States. Do you have an energy plan that’s more environmentally friendly? ]
It’s important to us for national security reasons and economic reasons to have our own program. Getting oil that’s affordable and oil that’s American has a very, very high value.
[Question from the audience: It’s obvious Mr. Obama is running a very unsustainable economy. Can you do us a favor and Newter Obama?]
How bout you help me get through the North Carolina primary and we’ll get to Obama next?
[Question from the audience: How do you feel about kony 2012?]
I don’t know.
[The situation in Uganda.]
I don’t know enough to comment.
[Then never mind.]
[Question: What is your plan when all the oil runs out?]
That’s a great question. This is a good example of why I’m an optimist. There’s a permanent cultural pattern on the left of worrying about the next crisis. When I first started teaching back in 1971, there were books like “Limits to Growth,” all said the world was going to disintegrate by 1990, we’re going to run out of food. What they all underestimated is the power of science and technology. We keep inventing new things. How many of you have a cell phone with a camera? Cell phones don’t exist before 1978.
You have this constant breakthrough. Take the idea of running out oil. It’s very popular on the left that there’s a very limited amount of oil on the planet. iI’s essentially nonsense. In the last 15 years, we’ve invented a new model of how to drill for oil and gas. The result is the amount of natural gas we have, when there was a 7-year supply in 2000, it’s now a 125-year supply. You’ll be 140 when we run out. I’m not going to worry much about what happens when you’re 140. You’ve got 125 years for the next cycle of invention.
With all of the challenges we have, you are going to live in a generation of enormous technological progress. If we can get the bureaucracy to take advantage of that ... the challenge is political, not scientific and technological. The potential for your generation to have the best ever .... there is zero reason for the generation of you not to think you can do amazing things. The current system is sitting on the future and blocking the future, but it can be more amazing for you and your grandchildren.