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Naval Observatory

Washington, D.C.

12:22 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, thank you, Governor Sandoval.  Thanks for your leadership, and your leadership of the people of Nevada, particularly during the trying times through which your state passed.  I think the nation was inspired by the people of your state and by the strength and compassion.  And we are truly grateful for your leadership as Chairman of the National Governors Association.  Brian, thanks.  It’s an honor.  (Applause.)

It is great to be back among so many friends for what now has become an annual tradition.  (Applause.)  When right after we were elected and inaugurated, governors were headed to Washington, D.C., and Karen and I, cherishing our time serving the people of Indiana, simply asked the question whether we could invite the governors over.  (Laughter.)  The President readily encouraged us to do that.  And we found out that last year was the very first time.

And let me just thank all of the Republican and Democrat governors and spouses who are gathered here today.  We are honored to have you here at the Naval Observatory.  (Applause.)

And I just hung up the phone from a great champion of our state-based innovation and federalism.  And I want to bring greetings — I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America — who looks forward to his time with you this weekend greatly — President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

And before I make a few very brief remarks — because today is really about just an opportunity to extend hospitality to each and every one of you.  It’s going to be a busy weekend.  We have important matters to discuss.  And I and the President both believe that the timing of the National Governors Association meeting this year is particularly important.

And we’re grateful to hear of that record turnout.  I know the President — who you’ll be seeing on Sunday and we’ll be having a significant discussion at the White House on Monday — is grateful for your presence and grateful for your participation.

But today is really about fellowship and encouragement.  And I just wanted to give you a chance to thank the Second Lady of the United States of America who was passionate about opening this home back up to all of you.  Would you thank my wonderful wife, Karen Pence.  (Applause.)

You know, it is a truism in our home — and you saw who she was focused on at the beginning of her introduction — that those of us that have the privilege to serve these roles most often serve them as families.  And while those of us in public life get a lot of attention, a lot of times our families don’t get the credit they deserve.

So let me, on behalf of my wife and our entire administration, just say thank you to all the spouses who are here that serve your states along with your governors with such distinction.  (Applause.)  We appreciate you all.

The President told you all at last year’s NGA meeting, in his words, “Under this administration, we’re going to have a true partnership of collaboration and cooperation” with America’s governors.  And I hope and trust that you’ve seen that partnership over the course of this last year.

Over the last 12 months, our administration has been proud to work with states to promote greater flexibility on healthcare, to expand opportunities to give states a greater voice in land management.  We’ve been working with each and every one of you in combatting the scourge of opiate abuse and addiction that every governor in America has made a priority.  And we’ve worked with many of you to open our natural resources to responsible development.

And I want to pledge to you going forward that President Trump and I are absolutely committed to continue to rebuild America, to rebuild our roads, our bridges, our infrastructure, and rebuild this economy in full partnership with the governors of America.  (Applause.)

But while we’ve worked with you on all of those things that impact people’s lives and the strength of our economy, I know I speak for the President when I say how inspired we’ve been to see the way our governors have stepped forward and led in times of crisis and challenge in your states and in the life of our nation.

We traveled to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and stood with Governor Abbott and the First Lady, who did such a remarkable job with their state.  We were in Florida, and Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, with Governor Scott, and Governor Rossello, and and Governor Mapp.

And also, we saw in those moments the critical role that your leadership plays in times of crisis.  And let me just — in the wake of those storms, let me just join all of their colleagues in commending these great governors for the extraordinary job they did in the wake of this incredible — (applause) — (inaudible).

And, of course, I stand before you today — on my heart, on our hearts, what’s on the hearts of the American people — in the wake of the terrible attack that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Sadly, it is only the latest in a series of mass shootings over the last year that have claimed innocent lives in Las Vegas and in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

And then, as in those moments of natural disasters, the President and I have marveled at the courage and the compassion of our governors.  And we’ve been inspired by your commitment –your commitment in the wake of these terrible moments.

Let me just say that our administration, in the wake of what occurred in Parkland, Florida, will continue to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to get to the bottom of what happened, and support state and local law enforcement, as we did in Nevada and as we did in Texas.

And I know you’ll hear from the President this weekend, and in our significant discussion on Monday, that the time has come for us to work together to find new and renewed ways to put the safety and security of our children and our schools first.  And as President Trump said, “Working with our governors, we are going to make school safety our top national priority.”  (Applause.)

As most of you know, the President has already taken action in this regard.  Two days ago, our President — President Trump — and I met with the family of Meadow Pollack, a beautiful young lady who lost her life in that terrible attack in Florida.  We met with other students and families reeling from that attack.  But we also sat with families from Sandy Hook, families from Columbine, who still bear the scars in their hearts from similar incidents that took place in their communities.  As the President said, we’ll never forget that conversation.

Yesterday, the President met with state education and safety officials and talked about how we might move forward.  The President told them what he told the nation in the immediate aftermath of what took place, that “no child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school.”  And we are absolutely determined, working with all of you and working with leaders in the Congress, to bring this evil, in our time, to an end.  (Applause.)

As you know — as I’m sure you know, earlier this week, the President called on Congress to strengthen background checks.  We’ve already been in touch with leaders in Congress to move legislation to improve our NICS system.  The President has also called for raising the age for the purchase of certain firearms.  And he directed the Department of Justice to expedite the regulation and banning of bump stocks.  (Applause.)

The President has also called for the Congress to take strong action to make our schools safe, to make sure that we give law enforcement, and our families, the tools that they need to deal with those struggling with dangerous mental illness.  And we’ll be working with our governors at the local level to encourage and to support your efforts to create new tools and new pathways as well.

The President also called today for a hardening of our schools and engaging in a conversation about reconsidering a policy first established in the 1990s.  And the President is calling on us to consider, and discuss, and debate allowing qualified and trained individuals to be able to carry firearms in our schools so that they can protect our students in a time of crisis.  (Applause.)

But now we want to hear your ideas.  The President has been listening to families.  He’s been listening to students.  He’s been listening to law enforcement officials.  But we want to hear from you.  And so we want to encourage you to bring your best counsel in our discussions in the days ahead.

And we look forward, very much, to the discussion this weekend, starting informally in the White House on Sunday night and then in a deep discussion that begins — not ends — on Monday.  It’s absolutely imperative that each of us do all that we can to support safe schools and security for our children.

So on behalf of the First Family and the Second Family, thank you.  Thank you for your leadership.  Thank you for your deep love for your states and the devotion that you show each and every day — the difference that you’re making in the lives of the people that you serve.

We know there are sacrifices in public service.  We’re well familiar with them.  But as we see a growing economy, as we face new challenges, I look out at this group and I’m more confident than ever that with your counsel and continued leadership, and with President Donald Trump in the White House, we’ll face these challenges together and we’ll bring real and renewed solutions for the American people.

So thank you.  Thank you for your service to your states.  Thank you for your service to the United States of America.  And God bless you.  And God Bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)


12:25 P.M. EST