Transcript of Ron DeSantis’s Remarks During Surprise Appearance At Massachusetts Family Institute Dinner

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Editor’s Note:  Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made an unannounced visit to the annual fund-raising dinner of the Massachusetts Family Institute at the Newton Marriott in Auburndale, Massachusetts on Friday, October 13, 2023.  DeSantis is running for the Republican nomination for president.

A transcript of DeSantis’s remarks and the introduction by Robert Bradley, the chairman of the Massachusetts Family Institute, is below.


Robert Bradley:

So as some of you have already seen, we have a very special guest with us here tonight. And on his way back from campaigning in New Hampshire, Governor Ron DeSantis has stopped by to join us tonight.


So just a couple of ground rules to make sure we don’t get in trouble here, is:  the Massachusetts Family Institute is a non-profit 501(c)3, and we’re therefore non-partisan, and we don’t support — the organization does not support — either parties or candidates for election. However, over the years we’ve had many candidates who have come here, and we’re thrilled that they have. So Governor DeSantis’s presence here is not an endorsement in any way. And we know that there are surely some people in the room who support other candidates, as well.

We are absolutely thrilled that he’s here tonight, and that he’s wanting to show his support for Massachusetts Family Institute, especially with all these protesters outside. It’s great. We finally hit the map, and we got both the protesters and Governor DeSantis here.

[laughter and applause]

So just two brief things. As a Swiftboat skipper in Vietnam, I appreciate very much the fact that Governor DeSantis, after graduating from Yale, and then going on to Harvard Law School, instead of going to Wall Street and making his millions, instead joined the Navy and went to Iraq to work at the SEALs in Iraq. So it’s a wonderful thing.


And, from there on to public service.  But the other thing I think you all know if you’ve been following the news at all in the last years, is that the governor has been a fierce supporter of the values we at MFI have been fighting for. For the family, for religious liberty, for taking the horrible sex ed courses out of the classrooms, I can think we all agree what a great job he’s done as governor of Florida.

So without further ado …



Governor Ron DeSantis:

Thank you.  Thanks so much for a great introduction.

You know, I was coming here and they were saying, “Ah, Governor, they don’t know you’re coming.”  Only a couple of people know I’m coming. So I’m like, “O.K., that’s fine. It’ll be a nice surprise.” But then as we’re getting ready to pull in, my guys, the drivers, are like, “Well, there’s a lot of protesters blocking the thing.”  [laughter]

And I’m like, “Well gee, they didn’t even know I’m coming.”  [laughter]  This is more protesters than I usually get.  [laughter]

I’m jealous.


It’s great to be back here in Massachusetts. You know, I was born and raised in Florida, but I spent seven years, as was mentioned, in New England with the education. And I can tell you this:  I’m one of the few people in this country who was able to get through both Harvard and Yale and come out more conservative than I went in.

[laughter and applause]

I’m just going to say that.

And just for the record:  all seven years I was in New England, I rooted for the Red Sox over the Yankees.


Now I know that you don’t endorse candidates. You can’t endorse me.  But I want you to know I endorse what you’re doing. I appreciate what you’re doing. As somebody who’s fought and won these fights in Florida, I can only think what kind of terrain you have to deal with in Massachusetts when it comes to the political fight.  [laughter]  So God bless you all for doing that.

We’ve delivered results, and really that’s, that’s what matters. First, we’re standing as Floridians and as Americans in favor of the State of Israel and their right to defend themselves.


I was not happy with the lack of urgency displayed by the Biden administration, so yesterday I signed an executive order authorizing emergency rescue operations from Israel for our Floridians who are in Israel, and we are going to be bringing them back to Florida, starting tomorrow.


We’re proud to have stood up for what’s right over these last four or five years.  When COVID-19 hit, and places around this country were closing churches, I signed an executive order saying everybody has a right to worship and all churches have a right to be open in the state of Florida.


We have enacted universal school choice in our state. Every parent can send their kids to the school of their choice, including for religious education.


I’m the father of a 6, 5, and 3-year-old – girl, boy, girl, 6, 5, 3 — and I want my two girls to have the same opportunities to compete in sports as my son does, and so I was one of the first governors to sign legislation protecting women’s sports in the state of Florida.


You know, this is ridiculous. You have people swimming on the men’s team for three years and then switching to the women’s team?  And somehow you’re the women’s national champion? Give me a break. So we stood up for what was right and got the job done.

We also saw what was happening with the youth, and with some of these physicians trying to force things like puberty blockers and sex change operations, and so in the state of Florida we have banned those practices. We are not allowing the mutilation of minors.


We’ve also led the nation in securing parents’ rights when it comes to education. Parents have the fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children.  And that means a number of things. One, it means you as a parent have a right to know what’s being taught in your kid’s school — curriculum transparency.  And if there are materials there that are violating state standards or they’re not age-appropriate, you have a right to blow the whistle on that. So parents in Florida have done it. Unfortunately, there have been pornographic books that have been put into very early grades. They blow the whistle on it, it gets taken out.

Now what the media will say is, “Oh, that’s banning books. Florida’s banning books.” First of all, there’s not a single book that’s been banned in Florida. You can buy any book you want as an adult. Bbut that doesn’t mean every book is appropriate for a fourth-grader or a fifth-grader. So I did a press conference, probably about nine months ago, and we called it “Exposing the Book Ban Hoax.” And instead of me talking at the podium to start, I just played a two-minute video that showed the images of the books that the parents had objected to. The local news stations who were covering that press conference immediately cut their feed, because they said it was too graphic to air on TV. Well, if it’s too graphic for the 6 o’clock news, how is it O.K. for a fifth-grade school child?


We’ve done more than any other state to get ideology out of schools.  The purpose of schools is education, not indoctrination. [applause]  We eliminated Critical Race Theory from our K-12 schools. We’re not teaching young kids to hate our country or to hate each other.  Not with taxpayer money.

And we even stood up against the left, against the media, and against a company from central Florida that some of you may have heard of [laughter], called Disney, the most powerful company in Florida history, to say it is wrong to be injecting sexuality into the curriculum of elementary school kids.  It is wrong to teach a kindergartner that they were born in the wrong body.  It’s wrong to tell a second-grader that their gender is a choice. And so we thought it was important to establish that, because, you know, there’s a lot of other issues in society, but if we are going to teach our kids, ah, from a very young age that they can just switch genders at the drop of a hat, we are not going to succeed as a country. O.K — this is not true that you can change that, and it’s showing that there’s an agenda that is taking precedence over basic education.

So Disney came out against it. A lot of people said, “Ah, well, the governor’s not going to be able to stand on there. They’re just too powerful.” And all that stuff.  Well, here I stand. I don’t back down. We do what’s right.  [applause]  We make sure to get the job done.  [applause]

We’ve also eliminated the so-called pronoun olympics in our schools.  [laughter]  No teachers are allowed to force students to produce pronouns.  It’s ridiculous, and we’re not going to do it.  And that gives a lot of people a lot of relief.

We have done more than any state to not just fight but to defeat what I call the Woke Mind Virus. And sometimes you know, “Woke, you know, all this stuff, don’t talk about it,” whatever — listen, we have to have a society rooted in truth, and woke represents a war on the truth. Don’t tell me that a man can get pregnant and expect me to accept that. I will not, it’s not true, and we can’t have a society based on that.  But I also know that that ideology, when it affects government institutions, when it affects schools, when it affects businesses, it has a corrosive effect on society. It becomes – we do a lot of battles for religious liberty in Florida, a lot of protections — you guys have a tough fight here, we’ve seen different things happen — and if someone wants to mention God in a public, the left freaks out, they say you’re establishing a religion. The reality is they’re the ones that are trying to establish a religion. They want woke ideology to be the religion of this country. They want you to bend the knee if you believe something that conflicts with that. And that’s why you see things like you guys have this thing in Massachusetts where you have these Catholic foster parents that wanted to do the foster care, but because they don’t bow down to the gender insanity and the gender ideology that the elites here in this state support, and somehow they’re not allowed to participate in a program?  That’s discrimination, and it is them imposing their left-wing beliefs substituting for religion and discriminating on society. So you’ve got to win the war against the Woke if you want to be able to have a society that is able to thrive.

We fought a lot of fights in Florida, and we delivered big victories. One of the things I can say about us is, well, one, we don’t back down from these fights. What I found is when you stand up for what’s right on a lot of these issues, the media is a hundred percent against you. The left-wing groups are a hundred percent against you. A lot of elites in our society — corporate elites, some other elites — are against you. But you know, the people are with you. And it’s not just Republicans. I mean, parents’ rights in education, I have all the Democrat, working-class Democrat parents, they were with us on that issue. They are with us against Woke. [applause]  We are the majority on all these issues.  [applause]

But what we’ve done in Florida is, we’ve won those fights, which is important.  But we’ve said, “I’m not going to surrender every institution or any institution to the radical left.”  We’re not going to let them control our schools. We’ve beat the teachers union on all these different issues. We’re not going to let things like ESG take over our economy in the state of Florida.  No.  We took two billion out of BlackRock in our pension fund.  [applause]  We banned social credit scores, and social [inaudible]  We’re not going to let them have control over our bureaucracy. So, so those are things, winning the fights, not just on a policy level, but on the institutional level, is why the state of Florida is the freest state in all of these United States. So we’re proud of that.


Now I’m not giving a campaign speech, because I know this is a non-, a non-profit.  [Laughter]

But I just have to say that one of the reasons I’m running for president is because we’ve got a lot of problems in this country.  And we can’t have it that every time all these states do dumb things people have to up and move to Florida.  [laughter]  I can’t handle all these people coming to Florida.  [laughter and applause]

We’d rather have freedom that’s going to spread throughout all the land. And that’s what we’re going to do. And we’re going to get the job done.  [applause]

So I appreciate you guys for what you’re doing.  As somebody that’s spent some time in a very hostile environment in Cambridge, Massachusetts [laughter], I know it’s not easy. But you’re doing the right thing, and you have my support.  So thank you all, and God bless you.  [applause]  Thanks for your good work.  Thank you so much.



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