PHILADELPHIA—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican candidate for president, addressed a packed, cheering crowd Friday at Moms for Liberty’s annual Joyful Warrior Summit here.
In a 30-minute speech, DeSantis rallied to the cause of parental rights, outlining victories his Florida administration oversaw and tearing into progressives’ actions against families and the U.S. as a nation.
“You start messing with our kids—we’ve got problems,” DeSantis said. “What we’ve seen across the country in the last few years has awakened the most powerful political force in ages—mama bears.”
The Republican governor began his remarks by calling attention to the massive protest leading up to the Moms for Liberty summit here. The demonstrations, threats, and vandalism were something he deals with daily, DeSantis said, reassuring the crowd that it’s “a sign that we are winning this fight.”
DeSantis noted the shift in progressives’ messaging over the past decade—from mocking Republicans and claiming no one from the LGBTQ+ movement was “coming for kids” to “events like they had in New York City, with some drag queens chanting, ‘We are coming for your kids.’”
Disturbing instances such as these are resulting in a political climate shift across the country, especially among parents with children in schools, he said.
He focuses on seeing these issues “as a dad,” not as a governor or presidential candidate, DeSantis said. He lambasted the all-too-common occurrence of voting for a candidate who makes empty promises, and Republican administrations that do far less than the candidates campaigned for, saying:
2024 is the time to put up or shut up. No more excuses about why we can’t win against the Left. No more excuses about why you didn’t do what you said you would do.
We have shown what winning looks like. We have beat the Left on issue after issue after issue. We are set for the biggest Republican triumph in our nation’s history. This can happen nationally. We will win these battles all across the nation.
As for which battles DeSantis planned to address, he dove into a fairly comprehensive list, stretching from sexually explicit content in school libraries and critical race theory in classrooms to the use of environmental, social, and governance standards, or ESG, in corporations.
“We are clear on our standards, we do not allow CRT in K-12 schools,” the Florida governor said. “We aren’t telling our children to hate our country and hate each other on your tax dollars.”
DeSantis also slammed progressives’ for slapping a “book ban” label on efforts to remove explicit sexual content from school libraries—something Moms for Liberty has been attacked for in recent months.
He suggested that all of the books the Left says are “banned” may be purchased at almost any bookstore in Florida—but that curating education content in a school isn’t “banning.”
“If it’s too inappropriate for the 6 o’clock news, how is it appropriate for a 6-year-old kid?” DeSantis asked after describing the book “Gender Queer.”
DeSantis said that while other Republican presidential candidates had taken the side of entertainment giant Disney, which routinely criticized his legislative efforts to limit sexual content presented to minors, he would continue to fight the “sexualization” of children.
“We oppose the sexualization of children,” the governor told the crowd. “We will never compromise.”
DeSantis also praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday upholding civil rights by forbidding colleges and universities from racially discriminating in admissions.
“Yesterday, we saw SCOTUS uphold the Constitution—no racial discrimination in college admission,” he said. “That won’t impact [Florida], we already have colorblind admissions—but we went further. We are the first state to eliminate DEI from our education system.”
DeSantis said DEI actually doesn’t stand for “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” but “division, exclusion, and indoctrination.” His administration in Florida achieved the first measure in the country to ban DEI in Florida’s public institutions, the governor said.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director for the Coalition for Jewish Values, noted DeSantis’ opposition to both critical race theory and DEI.
“I think it’s very important that he recognizes that both CRT and DEI are not just partisan, but particularly dangerous,” Menken told The Daily Signal.
DeSantis also celebrated Florida’s increased education freedom through school choice opportunities, higher teacher pay, and big leaps in reading and math performance while other states fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The largest noise from the Moms for Liberty crowd came in the form of a prolonged standing ovation after DeSantis hailed Florida’s recent ban of puberty-blocking hormonal procedures for minors.
DeSantis ended his address by calling on attendees to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty,” and promising to fight the “toxic ideology” of progressivism as president of the United States.
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