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Governor Schwarzenegger’s Remarks at the Opening Ceremony Webcast for the XXVI Border Governors Conference

GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, thank you very much, thank you. It’s great to be here and actually be back at Universal Studios. And what is so exciting about it is not just that we have this great conference here, but that I actually started my movie career right here at Universal Studios. It was Universal Studios. (Applause) That’s right. It was Universal Studios that started the Conan the Barbarian movie and Conan the Destroyer and all the comedies like Twins and Kindergarten Cop.

And then they built this great ride, T2-3D, which is the most successful ride around here. And I had the chance to take all the governors on this ride yesterday. They had a white face afterwards, so it was really fun to take them through that. So this is why it is so great to be here today.

And, of course, there are a lot of people that I want to thank. First of all I want to say thank you very much to my wife, Maria Shriver, for being such a great partner and putting the spotlight on a very important like human trafficking today. Thank you very much. A big hand to her. (Applause)

I also want to say thank you very much to the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and to the Inner-City Games, Hollenbeck Youth Center and to the After School All Stars and the St. Genevieve School. (Applause)

We want to thank all of you for showing such a great interest in coming here today and listening to all of this.

Now, as President Reagan said when he hosted the Mexican President Padilla at the White House in 1981, he said, “God made Mexico and the United States neighbors.” But he also said, “It’s our duty and the duty of generations yet to come to make sure that we remain friends.”

Now, it is hard to imagine any organization doing more to live up to that challenge than this one. So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the official kickoff of this year’s Border Governors Conference. (Applause)

And I want to thank the governors who are here with us today from both sides of the border. You are doing fantastic work to keep our relationship strong and our friendship beneficial to all of us, so let’s give them a big hand for the great work that they are doing. (Applause)

And I also want to thank the staffs for all their hard work in making this conference possible. And I also want to thank my own staff for their hard work, especially Carl Bendix and Will Fox and Dan Dunmoyer. Let’s give them a big hand for the great work that they have been doing. (Applause)

And also a big thank you to the people here at Universal Studios. There were hundreds of people that worked on this conference for a month now. Let’s give them also a big hand for their great work. (Applause)

And let me also welcome the members of President Bush’s Cabinet and President Calderon’s, who honor us here with their presence. Thank you very much for joining us. A big hand to them also. (Applause)

And of course I want to thank General Electric, our corporate partner. Since the theme of our conference is Building Green Economies it is hard to imagine a better partner than GE because they are a leader in the green revolution. So let’s give them also a big hand. (Applause)

California is honored to host this conference and I am honored to be your chairman. Together we have accomplished a great deal over this past year. The Mexican border states have joined our Western Climate Initiative, for instance, to help fight global warming. We are working with the federal governments to tackle the problem of millions of abandoned scrap tires that pose a public health and environmental risk and we have begun discussions on managing water resources during drought conditions. You see, these are important breakthroughs and they build on our history of friendship and accomplishment.

Our organization has helped support and expand the North American Development Bank that funds environmental infrastructure projects along the border and we have effectively promoted economic development in the region as well as enhanced border security. And we helped create Border 2012. This is a 10-year program sanctioned by our federal governments that uses our states and US Native American tribes to improve the air and water quality, reduce hazardous waste and trash and address environmental health issues such as farm workers’ exposure to pesticides.

Now, our work is complicated, it’s never-ending and it requires constant coordination and collaboration. But this organization has shown time and time again that it is ready to rise to any challenge. Now, we all know that borders are important. They honor and they protect the sovereignty and the security of individual states and nations. But when it comes to the real ties that unite our people, no border or line on a map can divide us, because there is no divide to the air that we all breathe, or the clean water that we all depend on. There is no divide when it comes to the healthy environment and to the respect for the planet that we all share and there is no divide between our common desire to make the border region an economic powerhouse that will improve the lives of all its residents. We are friends and partners, united by our shared geography, our common interests and our history and we can thrive only by working together.

California has hosted this conference twice before and the way they are rotated California will not be hosting it again for another nine years. So you can imagine, I’m so happy that it is our turn while I was still governor. Let me tell you, I am so happy. (Applause)

Now, this is the fifth Border Governors Conference that I have had the privilege of attending since I became governor. And since I became chairman last year, I wanted to get as much work done as possible and start with the work as early as possible. So I invited the governors of the US and the Mexican states to come to Washington D.C. with me in February, where we had direct access to President Bush and Secretaries Chertoff, Gutierrez, Paulson and Kempthorne. And we had a number of productive meetings with them to discuss national priorities for our border region, priorities such as water management, improving infrastructure at the border for more efficient crossings and cracking down on illegal drugs and weapons trafficking.

A short time later we did the same thing and we met in Mexico City with our Border Governors and with President Calderon and his Cabinet Secretaries and we were able to move our agenda forward. And here we are today, continuing with this very important mission.

But you know something? For all the great work that been done and all the effort that we are putting in, some people still think of the border only in negative terms. Isn’t that interesting? Every time we turn on the TV or we pick up a newspaper we are hit with stories about illegal immigrants and the problems that they create. We see it all the time.

But I also want to people to know about the positive stories. I want them to know about all the great things that are happening and how Mexico, for instance, is California’s number one trading partner with $20 billion a year in exports to Mexico. And our tourism is booming because Mexican visitors are coming to California and spending $1.6 billion just in 2006 alone. I want people to know those stories.

But we see endless stories about the weapons and the drugs and human trafficking. But I want people to know about the tremendous economic development also taking place in the border region. They should know that our 10 US and Mexican Border States have so much economic muscle that if they were one nation they would be the world’s third largest economy. That’s what I want them to know.

And we hear stories about the crime along the border and how our governments are sometimes in conflict. But I want the people to know about our strong ties and the good working relationship between our law enforcement authorities and the Mexican authorities. And at this conference, for example, we have been working on an agreement to crack down on illegal weapons smuggled from America to Mexican drug dealers and to curtail the flow of guns once and for all.

And people should also know about our deep friendship and the respect that exists between us, like last month, for instance — here is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. When we had these huge fires and then we were overwhelmed trying to fight all of those fires — 2,000 fires at one time — at that very same time president Calderon was flying with his plane to Japan for the G8 Summit. And as he was flying over California he saw all the fires and all the smoke covering California. And he picked up the phone on his plane and he called me at 2:00 o’clock in the morning to ask whether he could help. Think about that — if he could help. He offered us airplanes, helicopters, manpower, engines, anything we needed. It really touched me. He didn’t reach out of us because of any treaty or any formal agreement. No, he reached out to us because he saw a friend in need. (Applause)

And he knows that we will do the same for Mexico, as we did in the recent flooding in Tabasco. You see, this is what makes conferences like this so important. They allow us to nurture our friendship and work together on so many issues that are important to all of us.

Now, after this conference I will pass the chairman’s torch to Governor Gonzales of Nueva Leon. And let me tell you something. He is a great leader and he is a man of action. I love that. Give him a big hand. (Applause)

And I tell you, I’m looking forward to attending his conference and many more conferences like this, because I know that we will continue to define the border not as a dividing line but as a line that unites us as we work together to create a vibrant economy, a healthy environment and policies that lift all of our people.

So, muchas gracias, mis amigos. Thank you very much. Viva California, viva the United States and viva Mexico. And now let’s get on with a great conference and bring our governors out here. Come on forward. Thank you very much. Thank you.