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

Remarks by the President at Military Reenlistment Ceremony
The East Room

Listen to the President's Remarks

4:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know if the Commander-in-Chief is allowed to say this, but I'm going to anyway -- at ease. (Laughter and applause.)

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your service to the country. It's fitting that he is here today, because a few months ago Secretary Rumsfeld re-upped himself. (Laughter.) And the nation is better off for it.

General Shelton, thank you for being here. Joint Chiefs, thank you all for coming. Family and friends. Before I begin my remarks, I want to take note of a major event that took place today in the United States Senate. Just a little over an hour ago, the United States Senate, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, voted to give the tax relief to the American people. (Applause.)

The House of Representatives has already voted in favor of tax relief. So I'm pleased to report today that tax relief is on the way.

I want to congratulate the 62 senators who voted for this important measure. Senator Lott and Senator Grassley, Senator Baucus, Senator Miller, and Senator Breaux led the way in giving this victory to the American people. And they deserve our country's thanks and praise.

The economy needs a shot in the arm. So I call on the House and the Senate to reach an agreement on the final tax relief package this week. The sooner the Congress completes its work, the sooner the American people will have their own money in their own pockets to save and invest as they see fit. Our economy cannot afford any further delays.

And now to the task at hand. I am so appreciative that General Shelton and the other leaders of the military are here. The men and women now know how proud you are of their decision to take another tour of duty. And I'm proud, too. And I welcome you all to the White House.

For two centuries, this house has been the final point of decision in the chain of command. Here, President Wilson decided that American soldiers would have to go to Europe to fight in World War I. Here, Franklin Roosevelt first learned of the attack at Pearl Harbor, and within days, America began a four-year war in two theaters. Here, four modern Presidents dealt with the struggle in Vietnam, from beginning to end.

Every major military operation of the last 200 years was set in motion at the White House. The circumstances have varied greatly, but no President has ever had reason to doubt the ability and commitment of the American Armed Forces. You have shown that commitment today. Like many thousands of others who will reenlist this year, you've done yourselves credit, and you've paid your country a high tribute. The choice was yours to make, and you volunteered again, and your country is very grateful.

Our military depends on reenlistment. This is especially true now, as military technology and equipment grow more complex and more demanding. Perhaps more than ever, the success of our all-volunteer force requires that we keep the best people, the most experienced technicians, and mature leaders of the highest caliber. That is what America gains with each one of you who stays.

In return, America owes you every ounce of support you need to carry out your daily mission. When reenlistment declines, that's usually a sign that such support is missing. I have promised never to let that support waver, never to take you for granted. As long as I live under this roof, our country and our military will be prepared to meet any challenge the future may bring.

For many of you, the decision to reenlist wasn't made alone. You all know the saying: soldiers enlist, but families reenlist. (Laughter.) And we have many family members here. You're not taking an oath, but you're making an important commitment. And along the way, all of you have made your share of sacrifices. And I appreciate the chance to thank you for it.

When I speak of supporting the military, that means family members as well, the bases you call home and the schools where you send your children.

For those who are about to take the oath, congratulations. You repeat some familiar words. You will do so with self-assurance that you might not have done the first time. That comes with hard work and discipline and service to our country. I want each of you to return to your posts with the knowledge that you have my gratitude and full confidence. Thank you again.

And now it is my honor to turn over the proceedings to General Shelton, who will administer the oath of office.

END 4:38 P.M. EDT

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