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 Home > News & Policies > April 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 23, 2001

Remarks by the President in Welcoming NCAA Men's Basketball Champions from Duke University and the NCAA Women's Basketball Champions from Notre Dame University
The South Lawn

listen Listen to the President's Remarks

10:20 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. Please be seated. This might be a long speech. (Laughter.)

President George Bush meets with national champion Duke and Notre Dame basketball teams at the White House Monday.

First of all, I want to welcome two great teams from two great universities. It is our honor to host you all here at the White House. I want to say congratulations to Coach K -- the reason I call him Coach K is because sometimes I have trouble pronouncing the long words -- (laughter) -- Coach McGraw, and the players, and the representatives from Duke and Notre Dame, welcome.

I want to welcome two fine United States Senators, Senator Helms from North Carolina, Senator Lugar from Indiana. Members of the United States Congress who are here, thank you all for coming.

In reviewing the rosters and the success of this club, it is clear that both Duke and Notre Dame recruited for athletic talent, but they also recruited character, as well. These championships go to prove that good people do finish first.

It is such an honor to welcome Duke back here. It turns out that there was another President named Bush that welcomed the Duke team. And they dedicated a basketball court right here on the South Lawn during that visit. The weather has been such that I haven't been practicing my sky hook lately. (Laughter.) Looking at the size of some of these guys, I'm not sure I want to try to do it now anyway. (Laughter.)

I know it took a lot of hard work to get here, and there were some very close games and tough contests. Particularly the "Fighting Irish" in their final -- in the final game won in the last second. I'm reminded about what Coach McGraw son, Murphy, said as he watched the game. He said, "That was scary." Murphy, I know what you're talking about. It reminds me of election night. (Laughter.)

There's no question that teams require good leadership. And I was struck by the quote of one of the stars here who said about Coach K -- just to prove to the press I can say it -- Coach Krzyzewski -- (laughter) -- "To me, he's been a friend, a mentor, and a brother. I am the luckier person for having him have me as a part of my life." That's what leadership is all about. That's what it means to be somebody who can set an example, and somebody who understands the responsibilities of the assignment. It's not just to win championships; it's to shape lives in a positive way.

And I love what Coach McGraw said. She said, "Usually there are negative things that occur during the season. But this year I've had not to call a single team meeting. I've gotten no complaints from professors. We can't even yell at the players, because they do everything we ask."

I need your help with Congress. (Laughter.)

Championships bring an awesome responsibility. Not only do you win a trophy, I think you have the obligation of understanding that you have enormous influence on people's lives -- people you don't even know. People look at the champs and say, how does a champ behave? What is a champ supposed to do? Champions not only cut down nets, but they can influence people's lives by sending positive signals by how they behave, not only on the court, but off the court. It's a big responsibility. It's a huge responsibility. And that's why these two teams are so fortunate to have great teamwork and great players.

I know this is a team effort, and I'm sure the two players I'm going to mention, Battier and Riley, are going to be somewhat concerned that the President has singled them out. But I want to remind people who may not know their histories that not only were they great players, they're great people. Not only did they set goals about being the best on the basketball court, they set goals of becoming all-academic stars, and they were. They set goals of understanding the Golden Rule, and living by it.

These are good people. And I'm sure your teammates are, as well. But they set the kind of example that America needs. And all of us who have got positions of responsibility, all of us, whether we're a President or a coach or a player or a President of a university, must understand that with responsibility comes the necessity to set the right signal all throughout America that there's a difference between right and wrong, that we can be compassionate, and that we can love a neighbor like we'd like to be loved ourselves.

So it's my huge honor to welcome good teams and good people to the White House. (Applause.)

END 10:30 A.M. EDT