Earlier this week I traveled to New York City to go on The View and talk about the Pickens Plan. Right out of the gate Whoopi Goldberg asked me was whether I was a Republican or a Democrat. My response to her question? "I'm an American first."
When you cut to the chase, that's the core message of the Pickens Plan. Ending our country's addiction to foreign oil isn't about being a Republican or about the Democratic Party. It's about America. It's about the future of our country. Is that a Republican issue? Is that a Democratic issue? In both cases the answer is yes, and the reason why is because securing our energy future is an American issue.
Last year, the money we spent on imported oil could have funded highway repairs in this country for the next seven years. Does that burn you up? It sure does me. Why on earth are we shipping half a trillion dollars overseas to a few friends and a lot of countries that don't like us when we could be building tens of thousands of schools right here in the United States? I'll tell you why: leadership.
For the last 40 years, each and every presidential candidate has said, "Elect me, and I'll make our country energy independent." All of us know how that story pans out. Back in the 1970s when Richard Nixon was president, we imported one-quarter of our oil. Today that percentage has almost tripled.
Since I launched the Pickens Plan last summer, I've met with citizens, senators, students, governors, and elected officials from coast to coast. I made a point of sitting down with both presidential candidates to explain the obstacles and the opportunities facing us and to pledge my support to ending this senseless outflow of American dollars. A lot of people have voiced support for developing our energy security, but one of the true leaders has been Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
That point was hammered home a few weeks ago when Sen. Reid hosted the National Clean Energy Project in Washington, which was sponsored John Podesta's Center for American Progress Action Fund. Who did the Senator invite? Republicans, Democrats, financial leaders, academics -- in a word, Americans. And for those of you with short memories, this event was not Sen. Reid's first energy summit. Last August in Las Vegas, he hosted the equally successful National Clean Energy Summit. Harry Reid gets it.
A lot of people feel more comfortable labeling Sen. Reid a lifelong Democrat and me a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. But as we've gotten to know each other better, it's become apparent that we have more in common than either of us could ever have imagined. His hometown in Nevada is a small town called Searchlight. I can tell you right now that the hardworking people where he grew up are just as incensed at our wasteful energy policy as my family and the friends who taught me so many important lessons growing up in Holdenville, Oklahoma. No matter where you are from or what your political party, being wasteful is not an American value. Spending hard-earned dollars at home, creating desperately needed jobs, investing in the infrastructure necessary to support our 21st century economy -- these are the sort of the values that Sen. Reid and I learned growing up. And I think they are some of the key reasons we've both been working so hard to get America to change its energy policy.
Tonight my work week wraps up in Los Angeles where I'll go on Bill Maher's HBO show. I'll do my best to make sure we spend more time looking at ways for America to end its addiction to foreign oil than discussing everyone's political affiliation.