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 Home > News & Policies > October 2002

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 22, 2002

Remarks by the President at Pennsylvania Welcome
United Sports Training Center
Downingtown, Pennsylvania

President George W. Bush speaks during the Pennsylvania Welcome in Downington, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2002. White House photo by Eric Draper.

10:45 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Listen, thanks for coming out this morning. It's such an honor being here. I appreciate -- I appreciate your interest in our country. I appreciate your interest in our democracy. I want to thank you for caring about --

AUDIENCE: Viva Bush.

THE PRESIDENT: Gracias. (Applause.)

As I was saying -- as I was saying, I want to thank you for caring about the elections, the upcoming elections. It's vitally important that citizens all across our country take their responsibilities seriously and to show up to the polls. Of course, I've got a few suggestions on who those citizens might support, starting with right here in Pennsylvania. (Applause.)

It is in Pennsylvania's interests that Jim Gerlach become the next United States congressman. (Applause.) I say that with confidence, because he is a good, honorable man who's got a good, strong record. People know he's the kind of fellow who does in office that which he says he's going to do. He's got a track record that inspires confidence from people of both political parties, people who don't care about political parties. No, he's the right man for this job, and I want to thank you for supporting him. (Applause.)

I say supporting him -- thanks for showing up. But just showing up isn't good enough. See, I understand how you win elections, and that's when people such as yourself not only go to the polls, but you convince your neighbors to go to the polls. You go to your community centers, your houses of worship, your -- wherever you go to hang out -- (laughter) -- your coffee shops, and you tell your neighbors about their responsibility. And while you're doing that, you tell your neighbors about Jim and others running for office.

And while you're telling them about Jim, you might as well tell them about your next governor. (Applause.) When you're out rounding up the vote, make sure you round up the vote for Mike Fisher and Jane Earll. (Applause.) I know something about his track record in getting votes. In the year 2000, I was a pretty heavy lift for the ticket, I must confess, here in Pennsylvania. He out-polled me by not 1,000 votes, not tens of thousands of votes, but hundreds of thousands of votes. This is a man who can appeal to people of both parties, because people in Pennsylvania know he can get the job done. (Applause.)

No, we're here to thank you for your care about America. I'm here to thank you for your participation in the political process. I'm here to ask you to turn out the vote. I'm here to ask you to do whatever it takes to make sure you crank up a good, healthy vote. It's important for our country. I'm also here to talk about how we can work together to make America a safer and stronger and better place.

Before I do, I want to recognize a fine United States Senator, and that is Arlen Specter. I'm proud that Arlen is here with us today. (Applause.) And I'm sorry that old Rick Santorum isn't going to be here, but he's a good fellow. (Applause.) He's a good fellow, too. I appreciate these two Senators a lot.

I'll tell you one reason I appreciate them. Because they understand what it takes to have a good federal judiciary. (Applause.) I've appointed good people to the bench; good, solid citizens who are not only fine lawyers -- (applause) -- but people who understand their job is not to serve as a legislator, but as a judge. We've got plenty of legislators. (Applause.) What we need are good, solid, sound judges. And the record of the United States Senate is abysmal when it comes to confirming my judges; it is a lousy record.

If we had more senators like Specter and Santorum, we would get the judges through. We would have a record for which the Senate could be proud. We need to change the Senate for a lot of reasons, and one of them is to make sure we've got a good, sound federal judiciary. (Applause.)

I appreciate Governor Schweiker for being here. I appreciate his service to the state of Pennsylvania. (Applause.) He has done a really fine job. He has done a good job and I'm proud of his service and I know he is, as well. I appreciate Mark. He's a friend. I'm honored you're here today, Mark, and thanks for doing what you did for the good folks of Pennsylvania. (Applause.)

I want to thank the members -- I want to thank the members here from the mighty Pennsylvania congressional delegation. That would be Greenwood, Platts, Pitts, and Sherwood. These fine members of the United States Congress have been steady friends and strong allies, and they represent your state with class and distinction. (Applause.) Thank you all for coming.

We've got another candidate on stage who we certainly hope she wins. That would be Melissa Brown running for the United States Congress. (Applause.) Melissa is running on a lot of issues. One issue she holds dear to her heart, as do I, is medical liability reform. (Applause.) It is a -- it's a key issue. And one of the things we've got to worry about is the affordability of health care and the accessibility of health care. We want to make sure our citizens have got access to health care at reasonable prices. One of the reasons why prices is rising is because of frivolous and junk lawsuits against our medical community. (Applause.)

Everybody ought to have access to the courts, and that's vital. People ought to be able to take their claims to the court of law. But the problem is, the scales of justice have tipped way too far one direction. There are too many lawsuits which prevent good people from getting their cases heard. There are too many lawsuits which are driving up the cost of medicine. There are too many lawsuits which are driving good doctors out of the practice of medicine. We need medical liability reform. (Applause.)

I appreciate you running, Melissa, and I wish you all the best. I want to thank Alan Novak and Bob Asher and all the good folks who are the grassroots activists here in Pennsylvania. I appreciate your care and your concern for our country.

Today, unfortunately, you draw -- you drew the short straw. Laura is somewhere else. (Laughter.) She sends her best. (Applause.) She's doing great, by the way. She is -- I'm really proud of her.


THE PRESIDENT: Yes, so do I. (Laughter.) Thanks for saying that. People now have figured out why I asked her to marry me. A lot of people are wondering why she said, yes. (Laughter.) But she's a great First Lady. I love her dearly. I'm proud of her. And I want to thank you for -- (applause) -- I want to thank you for your concern for her, too.

I'm concerned about making America a stronger and safer and better place; that's what I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about making sure that we meet some important goals. One of the most important goals of all is to make sure every child in America gets a good education. (Applause.) It's an incredibly important goal. (Applause.) That's one of the priorities of Jim Gerlach. He understands that's an important goal and priority if we want our country to be hopeful and strong.

We passed good legislation. The legislation challenges what I call the soft bigotry of low expectations. See, Jim understands this philosophy. These members of Congress do as well, as does Arlen Specter. He knows that, in order for us to have a hopeful society, we must, as a society, set high standards. We've got to believe every child can learn. It doesn't matter where they go to school, it doesn't matter if their parents speak English as a first language. It matters that we believe every child can learn. (Applause.)

We believe in local control of schools. See, we trust the people in Pennsylvania more than we trust the folks in Washington, D.C. to chart the path to excellence. (Applause.) We believe you ought to work with your governors and your school boards to make sure that children get the right curriculum and the right basic education in order to succeed. That's why we believe you've got to trust parents and teachers. We believe in promoting the basics when it comes to subjects such as reading. That's what we believe.

But we also believe this: If every child can learn, therefore, we want to know whether every child is learning, all across our country. So, therefore, in return for the largest increase in federal expenditures for education -- that was last year -- Pennsylvania receives $1.7 billion from the federal government -- (applause) -- the largest amount of dollars spent, we're now, for the first time, asking the question, is the money being wisely spent? For the first time, we're beginning to -- we're saying, show us whether or not the children of any state, children who are in the districts that receive this money, whether or not they can read and write and add and subtract. We want to know, because we believe every child can learn. We believe that every child in America has the potential, and we want to see whether or not they're learning. (Applause.)

And if -- and if they are, if standards are being met, if your vision that every child can learn is successful, we'll praise the teachers. And for those of you who teach, thanks for taking on such a noble cause and working in a noble profession. (Applause.) But as a society, to make sure no child gets left behind, we must be willing to challenge failure, to challenge the status quo. When we find children in schools which won't teach and won't change, we must have the courage as a society to demand something different for our children. No child should be left behind in America. (Applause.)

I look forward to welcoming yet another ally in this vision from the state of Pennsylvania, and that ally will be Jim Gerlach. (Applause.)

I also know I will have an ally when it comes to dealing with your money. You know, one of the interesting things, sometimes you hear in the debate in Washington they're talking about the government's money. Well, the government spent this money, the government spent that money. No, no, it's not the government's money. It's the people's money. (Applause.) Anytime somebody is looking for a job and can't find work means we've got a problem. So long as there are people trying to put bread on the table for their families and they can't find work, we've got to do everything we can to increase the job base.

Therefore, it's important to send people to Congress who understand jobs, understand the role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the small business can grow to be a big business, in which the entrepreneurial flourish -- entrepreneurial spirit can flourish in America. (Applause.)

When times are slow or when the economy is bumping along, one of the ways to make sure that the job base is invigorated, is to let people keep more of their own money. See, when you keep more of your own money, you're likely to demand a good or a service. And when you demand a good or a service in this marketplace, somebody is likely to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces the good or a service, somebody is more likely to find work. The tax relief plan came at exactly the right time for our country's economy. (Applause.)

Over the next 10 years, the tax relief plan means there will be $58 billion more in Pennsylvania citizen's pockets -- over 10 years. That's your money. You get to decide what to do with the money. You get to decide how to spend it. There will be $7 billion in child tax credit savings. There will be $3 billion as the marriage penalty begins to get reduced.

By the way, the marriage penalty is a bad tax. (Applause.) The code ought to encourage marriage, not discourage marriage. (Applause.) That's a savings of $68 billion more money in your pockets if the tax cuts were permanent. But they're not permanent. Senate rules have it that the tax cuts won't be permanent. That's why this is an issue in this campaign. In order for small businesses to plan, in order to make sure a horrible tax, the death tax -- I say horrible; it's bad on small businesses, it's bad on farmers, it's bad on ranchers. If you're worried about urban sprawl, you ought to be for the permanent repeal of the death tax, so people aren't forced to sell their properties because the federal government -- (Applause.)

For the good of our economy, for the good of job creation, for the good of a stimulative package, we need to make sure the tax cuts are permanent. (Applause.)

I mean, there's a lot of things we can work on together. We need an energy bill which encourages conservation and renewables, but also makes us less dependant on foreign sources of crude oil. We need a terrorism insurance package that will get our hard-hats back to work. No, there's a lot Congress can do to make sure that the jobs picture improves for everybody, all across America. I look forward to working with Jim in the United States Congress to make sure that people who want to find work are able to do so, all across the country.

And as we work to make America a stronger place economically, we've also got to work to make it a safer place. And I say that because so long as we love freedom -- and we love freedom -- there's going to be an enemy which hates America. (Applause.) It's hard to explain to your youngsters why somebody would hate us. But you've just got to tell them there are some who have hijacked a great religion. These people don't value life like we do in America. See, we say every life matters. Everybody's precious. Everybody counts. (Applause.)

That's not how our enemy thinks. They're nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers. They hate freedom. They hate countries which embrace freedom. And therefore, they hate us since we're the beacon for freedom. We love our freedoms and we will not change. (Applause.)

Times have changed in America. Times have changed after September the 11th. It used to be we thought oceans would protect us. A lot of us growing up said, we don't have to really worry about some of the conflicts overseas. We may be involved, we may not be involved, because we're protected, we're isolated from the harsh realities of some of the killings that were taking place on different continents, so we could pick and choose. We don't have any choice in this new war, see. We learned that the enemy has taken the battlefield to our very own country. My most important job is to protect America. My most important job is to do everything we possibly can to protect innocent life from a group of killers.

That's why I've started and stimulated a discussion on Iraq. I wanted the American people to know that there's a new reality which we face, a reality that oceans no longer protect us. The reality that this person in Iraq has killed his own people with weapons of mass destruction, a reality that he has invaded countries. The reality that he has stiffed the United Nations for 11 years. Sixteen different resolutions have been passed calling on this man to disarm. Sixteen times he's ignored world mandates. These are the realities we face and we must deal with it.

I appreciate the members of the Senate, I appreciate the members of the House of Representatives for voting overwhelmingly with one voice this message, that Saddam Hussein must disarm, that the world -- (applause) -- for the sake of peace, for the sake of peace here at home, for the sake of peace in the Middle East, for the sake of world peace, Saddam Hussein must do what he promised.

For the sake of having an international body which is effective, the United Nations must make the resolve, must be resolved to deal with this person; must resolve itself to be something more than the League of Nations; must resolve itself to be more than just a debating society; must resolve itself to help keep international peace. (Applause.)

It's an important time in our history to determine whether or not we're going to be a nation which is willing to work with others to keep the peace. The answer is, you bet. But if they won't, the United Nations can't make its mind up, if Saddam Hussein won't disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him for the sake of peace. (Applause.)

These are the new realities we face in America, the serious realities that we must deal with for the sake of our children, for the sake of our children's children. The new reality here at home is to do everything we can to protect the American people from a possible attack.

I want to thank you for training a good man named Tom Ridge, to be the first Advisor on Homeland Security. (Applause.) He's doing a very good job. I know you're proud of him, and so am I. Our friend has not let us down. One of the things he advised me -- along with others in my administration -- was that the best way to protect the American people in the long run is to set up a department of homeland security.

Let me explain to you why. First of all, you've got to know that there's a lot of good people working a lot of long hours to do everything we can to disrupt, deny any enemy. If we get a hint that somebody's thinking about doing something to us, moving, trying to do something to us, we are moving. We're absolutely on alert. We're doing everything we can to protect the American people. (Applause.)

I appreciate that the House of Representatives moved incredibly quickly on a department of homeland security. They passed a really good measure. It gives us a chance with the homeland security to take over 100 agencies involved with defending the homeland and putting many of their functions under one department, so that the number one priority of these agencies, and/or the good people working in these agencies, is your protection.

One way to make sure we focus the attention of a scattered group of agencies is to have one agency, so that if need be, cultures can change; if need be, there can be a direct focus. The Senate can't get the job done -- they've yet to get the job done. I want to thank Senator Specter's leadership on this issue. He's deeply concerned about the protection of the homeland. He and I have had some quality discussions on this issue.

But let me tell you what the problem is in the Senate, from my perspective -- that the Senate has said, we will give you a department of homeland security, but you've got to pay a price. And the price is, is that we'll roll back an important authority that every President since John F. Kennedy has had. And that authority says that I have the ability to suspend certain labor rules for the sake of national security. For the sake of security -- securing the country, we won't have labor rules get in the way of the President being able to do whatever it takes to protect America. (Applause.) We've got a border which we must enforce. We need to know who's coming into America, what they're bringing into America, and if they're leaving when they say they're going to leave America. (Applause.) It's an important function of the federal government.

Except there's three different agencies down there -- three agencies full of really fine people. You've got your Customs, your INF and your Border Patrol. Sometimes they have different strategies per sector along the border. They're wearing different uniforms. They've got different cultures. They all share in the responsibility of protecting our border. For the sake of homeland security, this administration and future administrations must have the ability to put the right people at the right place at the right time to protect America. (Applause.)

We asked Customs agents to wear a radiological detection device to determine whether or not weapons of mass destruction were coming into America. It makes sense to us. If you're worried about weapons of mass destruction, wear one of these devices. The head of the working group there said, no, we're not going to have this on a mandatory basis. For the sake of national security, that work rule ought to be suspended.

Now, they got it finally resolved. It took four months of discussions to determine whether or not Customs agents ought to be wearing a radiological detection device. Look, work rules are important; the right to people to organize is very important. But for the sake of national security, the Senate will not take away one of the most precious authorities Presidents since John F. Kennedy has had. (Applause.)

I know this: I wouldn't have to worry about Jim Gerlach's vote on this issue. I know where he would stand. (Applause.) The best way to secure America, however, is to hunt the enemy down, one person at a time, and bring them to justice. The best way to protect America is to find these killers where they try to hide and bring them to justice, which exactly is what the United States of America is going to do. (Applause.)

And we're making good progress. We're making good progress. Sometimes it's hard to tell it, because this is not the kind of war that we're used to. You used to -- could count territories seized or tanks destroyed or airplanes knocked out of the sky, and say, gosh, we're making progress. The fleet has been damaged; therefore, we're making progress. These are killers who hide in caves and send youngsters to their suicidal deaths. That's who we're trying to find. They kind of ooch around the dark corners of the world and look out, peep out around the corner; in the meantime, send these suicide squads. It doesn't require a lot of equipment. It doesn't require a lot of money, although we're doing everything we can to cut off their money. But we're making progress.

One reason we're making progress is the doctrine that says, either you're with us or you're with the enemy, it still stands. That doctrine is firm. (Applause.) Our coalition partners understand the stakes. This bombing in Indonesia reminded everybody how dangerous these people can be. They don't care about innocent life; they could care less. It doesn't bother them in the least that innocent citizens lose their life. What bothers them, though, is that the United States and our friends and allies are on the hunt. And we're going to stay on the hunt. We're going to get them running and we're going to keep them running until we bring them to justice. (Applause.)

Slowly but surely, we're finding them. Slowly but surely, we're hunting them down, one person at a time. We've probably hauled in or arrested, whatever you want to call it, a couple of thousand. Like number weren't as lucky. The point is, is that when you combine it all, we've made a fairly good size dent into the al Qaeda terrorist network. The other day a guy named bin al-Shebh popped his head up. He's no longer a problem for the United States of America. (Applause.)

It takes a while. It's going to take a while. It's just the realities of the 21st century. The new kind of war is going to require a patience and determination by this great nation. See, we remember. We not only remember what took place, we also understand the stakes. We understand our responsibilities. We understand our duty to not only people who live in this country, but because every life matters, we understand our duty elsewhere. And that is to defend freedom. Slowly but surely, we're going to defend, and we're going to defeat this enemy.

And it doesn't matter how long it takes, my fellow Americans. It just doesn't matter, as far as I'm concerned. There is not a calendar on my desk that says, well, such and such a date, it's time to haul them home, it's time to quit. That's not how we think in America. Tomorrow I'm going to sign a defense appropriations bill, one of the largest increase -- the largest increase since Ronald Reagan was the President, for two reasons -- two reasons. I want to share with you why I asked for this increase.

I want to thank the Senate, I want to thank the House for passing that bill. We're going to send two messages. One, any time we put our troops into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training and the best possible equipment. (Applause.) That's the very least we owe them and their loved ones. And for those of you who have got loved ones in the military, our military has my complete confidence. There's no finer group of men and women who wear the uniform than the uniform of the United States of America. (Applause.)

And the second message we send, and the second message we send -- it doesn't matter how long it takes, this country is in for the long haul; that we believe in freedom, that we understand obligations, that we understand that some in the world may blink, but we're not blinking. (Applause.) We know that history has called us into action and we're going to do everything we can to defend America and to defend the freedoms which we hold dear.

There's no question in my mind we're going to succeed. I want you to know how I feel. I'm an optimist about the future. I'm an optimist because I know this, that if we remain tough and if we're strong and we continue to speak clearly about that which matters in life -- if we hold dear the values of freedom, if we fight terror, we can achieve peace. We can achieve peace not only for America -- (applause) -- we can achieve peace in parts of the world where some have quit on peace. We can achieve peace in the Middle East, can achieve peace in South Asia.

No, the United States has got an opportunity to lead the world toward peace. The enemy hit us. They didn't know who they were hitting. They probably thought -- they probably thought we'd file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) They don't understand America. They don't understand our people; they don't understand our courage; they don't understand our drive. They don't understand that we long for peace, but we're tough enough to achieve the peace if we have to be. That's what they don't know.

And what they didn't also understand is that here at home, the evil done to us is going to lead to a better America, is going to lead to a better America. (Applause.) Now, government can help -- government can help have a better America. We have a good education system. We're working hard to achieve that. We need to make sure our medical systems are modern. Listen, medicine has changed; Medicare hadn't. Medicine has evolved; Medicare is essentially stuck in the past. For the sake of our seniors, for the sake of a better life, we need to modernize Medicare and make sure there's a prescription drug benefit for our seniors. (Applause.)

We need to make sure, as we rewrite the welfare laws, as Jim can tell you, it's important to make sure that work is the cornerstone of welfare policy. People find dignity in work, and therefor,e we can make America a better life by helping people find work and be trained for work and be qualified for work. (Applause.)

But government is limited in its capacity to make America a better place. We can hand out money, but what government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. This is done when a fellow American puts their arm around somebody in need, and says, I love you. That's how that is done.

America is going to be a better country after the evil done to us, because we understand that in order to change America, we can do so, one person, one soul, one conscience at a time, by loving somebody just like we'd like to be loved ourselves. Out of the evil done to America is going to come incredible good, because this nation's strength lies not in the halls of our government, but in the hearts and souls of the American citizens. (Applause.)

A lot of good folks took a step back after that fateful day, and said, what is my life all about? Moms and dads say, we're lucky enough to be a mother or a dad, I'm going to remind my child every single day I love them. A lot of good folks said, I want to help the community in which I live be a better place.

No, the enemy hit us, but in so doing, they aroused an American spirit that understands that being a patriot is somebody more than just putting your hand over your heart. Being a patriot is serving a cause greater than yourself. Being a patriot is helping those who hurt find solace, those who are hungry find food, those who yearn for love find love.

No, the enemy hit us, but they didn't know who they're hitting. There's no question in my mind that we can achieve peace. There's no question in my mind that we will be a better country, because this is the finest country, full of the greatest people on the face of the Earth.

Thank you for coming. May God bless, and may God bless America.

END 11:23 A.M. EDT