Paul Renner Vows to Fight to Expand Freedom, Right to Life as He Prepares to Lead Florida House

Florida State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, offered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery) during his House Republican Conference Speaker-Designate Ceremony on Tuesday.

Renner will take over as speaker after the 2022 elections if Republicans, as expected, continue to control the chamber.

Renner said the following:

Speaker, thank you for those kind words.  I’m happy to call you my friend.

You have shown steady judgment presiding over this chamber and Florida is a better state because of your leadership.

To the members of our Conference: I am honored by your confidence in me and it’s a privilege to serve with each of you.  There’s no legislative body in the nation that is bolder and does more for its constituents, than the Florida House!

Governor DeSantis: We’ve had a great partnership these last few years and I promise you; we are just getting started.

Lt. Gov. Nunez, AG Moody, and CFO Patronis. I want to thank you for your work in keeping Florida safe and prosperous.

President Simpson: You have been a great leader. Tallahassee really won’t be the same if you leave town, but I think we found a solution for that!

Senator Passidomo: I am fortunate that you are my counterpart and blessed that you are also my friend.  You’re a strong, principled leader and an honest broker. I look forward to our partnership and all the good that we will accomplish together.

Leader Alexander: Before we were leaders, we were friends. Even when we disagree, my door will always be open, and my respect for you will never be in doubt.

Representative Payne and Representative Leek, I’m honored by your comments and will work hard to meet the high bar you’ve set for me.

I also want to thank the many friends and supporters who traveled to Tallahassee today.  I am truly grateful for your presence and so thankful for your many years of friendship.

Finally, there’s an important group that deserves our thanks, but rarely gets public recognition: our families.

Let’s rise and thank them for their support and service to our state.

I would not be speaking to you today, or serving as a member of this chamber, were it not for the incredible love and support of my wife, Adriana.  When you get to know my wife, you will find someone with a huge heart and a generous spirit.
In the world of politics, we find some people who are inauthentic and insincere.  My wife, on the other hand, is the most real person I know, and she always keeps me grounded.

Sweetheart, there are not enough words in the dictionary, or time in this speech, for me to tell you how much I love you and baby Abigail with all my heart.

While we’re talking about family, the studies prove that the most positive influence on a child’s future is a strong and loving family.

If every child grew up in a supportive family, most of society’s problems would disappear; if strong families disappear, our society would crumble and no amount of government programs could save us.

God must have known I needed more parenting than the typical kid, so He delivered me into a family with a father who was a minister and a mother who was a public-school teacher.

If I didn’t learn about right and wrong from that combo, it was my own fault!

Through Arville and Mavis Renner, I learned what really matters in life: faith in God, the importance of family, living a life of personal responsibility, and respect for others.

They taught me that through hard work and determination, you can accomplish anything.  And they taught me the importance of service to others.

While my mother is no longer with us, I’m proud to have my father and brother here today.

Two years ago, when I sat where you’re sitting now and the Speaker was standing here, none of us could have imagined the existence or effects of COVID-19.  I do not pretend to know what the world will look like in 14 months or what new challenges we might face.

Today, in this speech, is not my time to talk about the issues facing us this Session or the bills we should consider.  That message belongs to our Governor and our presiding officers.

Instead, I want to share some lessons from my own experience and the principles I believe should guide us, regardless of the challenges we may face.

As most of you know, before joining the legislature, I had the honor to serve with the great men and women of our military.  While there are obvious differences between military and legislative service, there are lessons from the military that can be helpful to our Conference.

The first lesson is the importance of our team. To teach this lesson, the military invented boot camp.

I remember waking up to drill instructors, banging on metal garbage can lids, and counting down to zero, screaming at us to make our beds, fold our blankets, and change into our uniforms.

If a single member of our company failed to finish before time ran out, the whole team did push ups. You soon realize you need to help your teammates to succeed. Others may help you.

The lesson from boot camp is clear: Success depends on the teammates to your left and right.  You can either fail alone or succeed together.

The same lesson applies to the Florida House. If we stand together as one team, acting on principle and with the courage of our convictions, there is absolutely no limit to what we can accomplish together.

The military also taught me about keeping the right perspective.  I had the privilege to serve in Operation Desert Storm and, twenty years later, in Afghanistan.

When you receive deployment orders, reality sinks in there’s a chance you may never come home.  In a real way though, it’s liberating. You begin to think about what really matters in life, what you would truly miss if you don’t come back, and, in the end, what is worth dying for.

Members, when you determine what’s on that list, when you know who and what you are willing to die for, you also discover that those are the only things worth living for.  Everything else is a distraction.

We should embrace this perspective during our time in the legislature. We all came here to do something of importance, something that will last after we’re gone.

If we approach every session, knowing that our time of service is limited; if we keep perspective and focus on what matters most, then we will tackle big problems with bold, lasting solutions.

This includes preserving the beauty of Florida’s natural resources, so we can pass it down, better than we found it, to the next generation.

Members, on your desk is a photograph taken by award-winning photographer Carlton Ward.

An eighth generation Floridian, Carlton’s photography highlights the Florida Wildlife Corridor and challenges us to preserve it. Each photograph is unique and captures a special place in, or near, your district.

These photographs remind us that we’re responsible for preserving and improving this great state for our children.

My parents taught me about the things that matter most.

As a child, they introduced me to missionaries, who were willing to risk their own lives, to smuggle Bibles into places like China and the Soviet Union. Families in those countries gathered secretly and used those Bibles to learn about the God of perfect love and perfect justice.

How could those concepts threaten anyone?

Yet the same communist leaders who promised people heaven on earth were determined to stop anyone from discussing the real thing. If discovered, these believers faced prison, or worse.

This childhood experience left two strong impressions that form the core of what I believe today.  First, I realized there is something real and powerful about the Gospel message if people are willing to risk their own lives to share it with complete strangers.

It’s also why I am so passionate about freedom.  I realized as a child there is no real freedom in a society that suppresses dissenting views.

I ran for office out of a deep belief that our country and its founding principles have provided more freedom and opportunity to more people than any other governing philosophy in history.

Today, political labels mean very different things to people and often distract us from what is really at stake. But there are two directions, two distinct visions we must choose between, and that choice is clear.  As a state and as a country, we are either moving in a direction toward greater freedom and greater opportunity, or away from it.

Florida Republicans have continued to embrace freedom and opportunity!

We empower the 21 million people of Florida to make decisions that are best for them.

We support strong families and parental rights.

We believe in the nobility of work.

And we honor those workers who show up every day and make this country so successful.

Florida Republicans are the champions for “We the People.”

That’s why we support the ability of parents to customize their children’s education. We support transparency and patient choice in health care; and we support breaking barriers to work and opportunity, so workers can find higher wages and live the American dream.

We keep taxes low because individuals and families know best how to spend the money they earn.

We know that our law enforcement and first responders put their lives at risk to save ours, and we will always have their back.

And we defend our constitutional rights to believe what you want, to say what you want, to worship as you choose, and to exercise your Second Amendment right–to defend yourself.

And we understand these God-given rights while recognized in the Constitution are never secure unless we respect the one right necessary to all others: the right to life.  Our children deserve a chance at life.  They deserve to grow up in a neighborhood where it’s safe to walk at night, and they deserve equal opportunity.

We must continue to take bold steps to lift those who are locked in poverty, trapped in a failing school, or who made mistakes and deserve a second chance.  Our vision of freedom and opportunity is a positive vision, one that lifts people up and celebrates the dignity and value of every man, woman, and child that God created.

However, there is a competing vision.  It dismisses our ability to pursue freedom and opportunity on our own terms.

This vision places its faith in bureaucrats, elites who are convinced they know what’s best for us and are eager to make decisions for us. Controlling the health care we receive, controlling how our children are educated, and controlling how much of our hard-earned money we’re allowed to keep, believing they can spend it better.

While we debate these two competing visions here, in the Florida House, we will practice civility and when we disagree, we will do so in a spirit of mutual respect.

Nationally, however, this competing vision is becoming radicalized. Increasingly, it seeks to control even what we can say and believe.

Social media bans, group guilt, and campaigns to marginalize opposing viewpoints are the new norm.  This is a negative vision; it divides us and stokes grievances all in an effort to gain complete control.

It fosters a world where there is only one acceptable point of view, only one acceptable political vision. Bullying people to conform to a narrow set of ideals is not progressive and it certainly isn’t American!

Instead, this radical vision reminds me of the false promises and suppression of dissent that prevailed in Cuba just 90 miles from our shore.  The Cuban people have suffered under this failed vision long enough and have taken to the streets to demand their freedom.

We hear their calls for freedom and stand with them in complete solidarity: “Estamos con la gente de Cuba!”– “We are with the people of Cuba” and everyone who is denied a life of freedom!

When people suffer under Communism in places like Cuba and Venezuela, I’m reminded of those missionaries and my first impressions growing up.  It always follows the same pattern.  They were promised utopia; they received poverty, prison, and death.

This kind of radical vision that restricts your freedom to say what you believe and takes away your rights to decide what’s best for you and your family has no place in the state of Florida!

As Washington D.C. moves rapidly in the wrong direction, away from freedom, all eyes are on Florida.  Members, what we do here is bigger than just our state. Our actions today can guide the future course of other states and our country for many years to come.

The best way to beat a bad idea is with a good idea and Florida is lighting the way! That’s why I’m so optimistic about the future of our state.

We will exceed our own high expectations if we always pursue policies based on our principles, fight as one team, counting on the men and women to our left and right, and act with courage – unwavering and unbreakable courage – to do what we know is right.

If we commit ourselves to this course Florida will continue to be the best state in America, its residents will enjoy a greater measure of political and economic freedom than anywhere in the world.

And through that freedom they will enjoy an abundance of opportunity, knowing that if they work hard, and stay determined, they can better their lives and reach their dreams.

Members, I am so proud of our conference. I look forward to serving with each of you, as we continue such an important mission, at such an important time.

May God guide and bless our efforts.

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