For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 17, 2002
11:15 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Thank you. Well, it's my honor to welcome back -- (applause) -- the Mighty Falcons. It seems like Coach DeBerry is the charter member of the White House frequent visitor club. (Laughter.) I'm real proud of you all and want to congratulate you for a great season and for winning the Commander's Trophy again.
I recognize Pete Pace -- you look a little out of place here, Pete. (Laughter.) But I'm glad you're here. You're doing a fine job. General John Jumper, as well, is here. I want to thank the Lt. General John Dallager -- thank you, Superintendent, wherever you are. One of these days you'll invite me to the graduation ceremonies. (Laughter.)
I do want to thank the players for their hard work and the example they set. And, of course, I want to congratulate the Coach again. I was ready where he is going to go to the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. That's a big deal, if you're from South Carolina. So, Coach, congratulations for that. (Applause.)
The interesting thing about this group of seniors is they have never lost to Army or Navy. (Applause.) But upon graduation, they're going to be on the same team -- and that's important for them to remember.
During last May's visit, I said of Coach DeBerry, he is not just recruiting to win football games, he is recruiting to win our nation's war, if we have one. That was May. And on September 11th, war came to our country. And I want to thank you, Coach, for recruiting those who will help us win our nation's wars. Because, unlike the last time we met, we're at war. We're in the midst of a war, against a determined and fierce enemy.
I want the troops here to know that I take my job as the Commander-in-Chief very seriously; that my most important job is to protect America and to protect our homeland. I do whatever it takes, and I know you'll join me in doing whatever it takes to prevent the enemy from attacking America again, like they did, and causing thousands to suffer and to mourn and to grieve.
You know, what's interesting about Washington, it's a town -- unfortunately, it's the kind of place where second-guessing has become second-nature. The American people know this about me, and my national security team, and my administration: Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people. We will use the might of America to protect the American people.
We're in for a long struggle. It's a tough war. This is an enemy that's not going to quit. So, therefore, in order to protect innocent lives, this country must have the will and the determination to chase these killers down, one by one, and bring them to justice. And that's exactly what is going to happen, so long as I am the President of the United States of America. (Applause.)
I'm proud of what this group of Americans have done on the football field. No more proud than those who wear the blue, I might add. And I'm proud of your commitment to our country. See, this enemy of ours, they don't understand the Air Force Academy or what it stands for. They thought we were weak -- of course, they never saw the Air Force football team play. They thought we'd just roll over. They thought we might file a couple of lawsuits. They found out we think differently here in America.
We think differently because this is a nation that loves our freedom, loves our country. And this is a nation that has got citizens who are willing to sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves. We're here to honor a football team; we're also here to honor soldiers, men and women who wear our uniform and who are willing to sacrifice for the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.
Welcome back to the White House. May God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 11:22 A.M. EDT