The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 24, 2002

Remarks by the President in Alabama Welcome
Hitchcock Field
at Plainsman Park Baseball Stadium
Auburn, Alabama

5:33 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Thanks for coming. I have the honor of being the second United States President to ever visit Auburn University. (Applause.) The first was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I don't know how he started his speech, but here's how I'm going to start mine: War Eagle! (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: War Eagle, Hey! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank all you War Eagles for being here. I particularly want to thank your President, President Walker. You did a fine thing when you picked a native Texan to run Auburn. (Laughter and applause.) And he's doing a fine job.

And I also want to thank so very much Stephen Renfroe, who's running the baseball program here. (Applause.) We'll leave behind some of my entourage to make sure the infield is smooth after we leave. (Laughter.)

I particularly thank you all for coming. It's a huge honor to be here. It's a great pleasure to be able to come and talk about some of the challenges which face our nation, talk about why I'm so optimistic that we can face any challenge before us, to talk about your duty as citizens. You see, we're almost upon an election, and you have a responsibility as American citizens to exercise your right, to exercise your freedom, to go to the polls.

I think you have a duty to go to your coffee shops and your community centers and your houses of worship and ask others to go to the polls. It doesn't matter whether they're Republican or Democrat or don't give a hoot about politics.

And I suggest when you go, if you're interested in your state and you're interested in your country that you remind them to vote for Bob Riley as your next governor. (Applause.) And as you're rounding up those votes, as you show your interest and concern for our country and our country's future, make sure you send to the United States Congress a man I can work with, and that man is Mr. Mike Rogers. (Applause.)


THE PRESIDENT: There's a lot of reasons you ought to be for these two, but a real good reason is they both married well. (Laughter.) Like me, they married above themselves. I'm honored to be with Beth Rogers and the next first lady of Alabama, Patsy Riley. (Applause.)

Speaking about first ladies, Laura sends her very best. (Applause.) She campaigned for Riley the other day in Mobile. I told him he drew the short straw here.

I just spoke to her. We're -- it's raining in Crawford, Texas, and that's where she is. She's on our place in Crawford. And tomorrow we are hosting the President of China, so she's sweeping the porch. (Laughter and applause.) But she sends her best. You know, when I asked Laura to marry me, she was a public school librarian. (Applause.) There's always one in every crowd. (Laughter.) And that one in every crowd, like Laura, has got to have a good heart, cares deeply about the school children. And, by the way, for those of you who are going to Auburn and thinking about becoming school children -- a school teacher -- (laughter) -- or a public school librarian, I want to thank you for that. It's a really important profession, it's a noble cause. (Applause.)

You know, when I asked her to marry me, she wasn't interested in politics -- and didn't like politicians. (Laughter.) Now she's the First Lady of the United States and she is doing a fabulous job on behalf -- (applause.) I'm really proud of her. People now know why I asked her to marry me. A lot of them are wondering why she said "yes." (Laughter.) But she sends her best.

I'm also honored to be here with a fabulous United States Senator named Jeff Sessions. (Applause.) I like working with Jeff. We work well together. We need more senators like him. One of my most important responsibilities is to name good judges, is to find good people to serve on the federal bench. I can count on his support. The problem is, I can't count on a lot of senators' support. They've been playing politics with my judges. I put good, honorable, honest people on there whose job isn't to try to rewrite law, but to strictly interpret the United States Constitution. They've got a lousy record in the United States Senate. (Applause.)

No, they don't like those kind of judges up there, so they play politics with them, petty politics. For the sake of a sound judiciary, we need to change the leadership in the United States Senate. (Applause.) I appreciate Congressman Terry Everett, I appreciate Spence Bachus and Sonny Callahan, three fine members of the United States Congress. And I'm glad they are here today. And I'm also glad to be up here with Jo Bonner, who's going to take Sonny Callahan's place, and he'll do just as good a job in the United States Congress as Sonny did. (Applause.) But you've got some good ones. You've got some good ones from Alabama up in Washington, and I'm proud to work with them, and I'm proud to call them friends.

You've also got a fine slate of people running for office here, good, honest, honorable Americans. I hope you get out and support them. It's important.

You know when it comes to talking about the governor, I know something about being a governor. I was one. And it seems like to me that, particularly when you look around the State Houses, you want you a governor who's going to elevate the discourse, who won't play the same old, tired politics of name calling and slashing and burning. You've got to have a governor who's willing to commit himself to change the tone in the State House, to bring people together to get something done on behalf of the citizens. You've got to have you a governor who will be honorable and honest and full of integrity, and that next governor is Mr. Bob Riley. (Applause.)

He's got his priorities straight. Education is to a state what national defense is to the federal government. Therefore, you better elect yourself a governor who makes education the number one priority. (Applause.) And that governor has got to have the right attitude about public education.

See, you've got to have a governor like Bob Riley, who is willing to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations, somebody who believes every child can learn, somebody who's willing to set high standards, somebody who refuses to leave any child behind. No, you've got to have you a governor who sets high standards but also understands that local control of schools is how you achieve excellence for every child in the state of Alabama. (Applause.)

The federal government is going to send $700 million of your tax money out of Washington, D.C., to help the schools here. And, in return for that money, we're beginning to ask the fundamental question as to whether or not our children are learning, whether or not they're learning to read and write, add and subtract. See, that's a fundamental question that Riley is going to ask as governor. You've got to ask that question.

If you believe every child can learn, then it makes sense to want to know whether every child is learning. And when they are, we'll praise the teachers. But when we find children trapped in schools that will not teach and will not change, you better have you a governor who's willing to challenge the status quo. No child should be left behind in the state of Alabama. (Applause.)

I appreciate I appreciate the fact that Bob Riley is an entrepreneur. He started his own business. If you're worried about jobs in the state of Alabama, it seems like you better have somebody who knows what it's like to create a job. Somebody who's actually met a payroll, somebody who can empathize with the small business owners of the state of Alabama. And that person is Mr. Bob Riley, your next governor. (Applause.)

And finally, I look forward to working with Bob when he's your governor on one of the most important initiatives I'm trying to push in Washington, D.C., and it's a faith-based initiative. It's an initiative that understands that government can hand out money. Government can't solve a lot of the harms and hurts in our society.

If you're really interested in saving people's lives, if you're interested in a society which is compassionate, decent, we must empower the houses of worship, the places of faith, to step in where government has failed and to provide love and compassion. (Applause.)

I'm not talking about one religion; I'm talking about all religions. All religions have heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. Bob Riley and I look forward to unleashing the great strength of the country, and that's the compassionate hearts of our fellow citizens to solve some of the needs and hurts in our society.

I'm also here to make it clear to you, as clear as I can for the people of this district: you need to send Mike Rogers to the United States Congress. (Applause.) And there are a lot of reasons why. We've got some big hurdles in the country and I need a man up there with whom I can work representing this great district.

One of the hurdles I face is that our economy isn't as good as it should be. It's bumping along. Any time somebody is trying to find work and can't find a job in America, I think we've got a problem. Any time somebody wants to put food on the table and they can't find a job, we need to do something about it.

Except our philosophy is different from some of them in Washington. The role of government is not to create wealth -- the role of government is to create an environment in which the small business owner can grow to be a big business; in which people with the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes; in which job creation is strong and evident. And the best way to do that is to let people keep more of their own money. (Applause.)

Here's the textbook we read from: it says that if you let a person have more of their own money, then they're more likely to demand a good or a service. And when somebody demands a good or a service in the 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 be able to find a job. The tax cuts came at exactly the right time in U.S. economic history. (Applause.)

And these tax cuts -- and that tax relief plan is good for small business owners, it's good for your ranchers, it's good for your farmers, it's good for working people, it's good for everybody. The tax relief plan did something on the marriage penalty. See, we believe the tax code ought to encourage marriage, not discourage marriage. (Applause.) The tax code is putting the death tax on its way to extinction, but there's a problem. See, the way the Senate voted it out, that after ten years from the time of enactment, the tax relief goes away. And that's not right. It creates uncertainty in the tax code. It creates uncertainty for people wanting to plan their business, to create jobs.

In order to make sure that our economy grows, in order to make sure the job base is strong, you need to have a congressman who will join me in making sure that tax relief plan we passed is permanent and doesn't go away. (Applause.)

I look forward to working with Mike to make sure the country is a stronger country. By the way, one way we need to make the country a stronger country is to make sure our health care system works, particularly for our elderly. Medicine has changed -- Medicare hasn't. Medicine is modern -- Medicare is stuck in the past. For the sake of a stronger America, for the sake of our seniors, we must reform Medicare and provide prescription drugs for the elderly. (Applause.)

No, there are a lot of issues that we can work on together and I look forward to working with him. I'm not going to have to worry about his vote, and that's important. I know he stands solid and square with the people of this district, and that's important. But the biggest issue we're going to have to work on is protecting America. The biggest issue we face, the biggest issue my administration faces and future Congresses are going to face is the protection of you.

You see, there's an enemy out there which hates us. They hate us because of what we love. And we love freedom. (Applause.) We love freedom and we're not going to change. (Applause.) We love freedom with every fiber in our body. We love the fact that people can worship an Almighty God freely in this society. (Applause.) We appreciate people's right to express themselves. We love the freedom of a political process where people can vote. We love a free press. We love every single thing about freedom and we're not changing.

And as a result, the enemy hates us. I want you to know that not only does our love for freedom differentiate us from an enemy, our value for life differentiates us from the enemy. You see, in our view, everybody is precious, every life matters, everybody counts. But the enemy we face is nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers who one the one hand hijack a great religion and, on the other hand, kill with impunity. (Applause.)

And so we've got a big chore ahead of us. It used to be that oceans could protect America. I remember conflicts across the sea and it didn't seem to bother us because oceans were there to guard us. After September the 11th, 2001, we've learned a new lesson: that if there's an enemy out there that hates us, the battlefield can come home.

And it's a lesson we've got to remember. It's a lesson I'll certainly remember. Which means that we not only have to be alert for the known enemy, the obvious enemy, the killers that bombed Bali -- Bali -- or continue to try to take innocent life. But we've got to worry about people who've been a problem for a while and are going to be a problem over time. And I'm talking about Saddam Hussein.

He's a man who -- he's a man who told the world he wouldn't have weapons of mass destruction. He lied and deceived the world. He's a person who not only has weapons of mass destruction, he has used weapons of mass destruction. He's used them in the neighborhood and he's used them on his own people. This dictator has defied the world over and over and over again. He also can't stand America, can't stand our friends, can't stand our allies. He hates freedom.

I decided to go to the United Nations and make the case that it's time to deal with this man, it's time to hold him to his word, it's time to disarm him. It's also time for the United Nations to show us whether or not they're going to be a body which can keep the peace; whether or not they're going to be the United Nations or whether or not they're going to be the League of Nations, an ineffective body. (Applause.) It's their choice to make.

I hope they act. I hope they show the world that this body is capable of keeping the peace. I hope they show the world that after 16 resolutions which were defied by Mr. Saddam Hussein, that the United Nations finally acts in the name of a peaceful world. I hope that Saddam Hussein hears the call for freedom-loving nations and does what he said he would do, which is disarm. But if he doesn't, for the sake of peace, for the sake of our children, for our children's children, if he doesn't act, the United Nations will not act, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm Mr. Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I say that because I believe in peace. I say that because we must be clear-eyed about the real world. I say that because, I understand, after September the 11th, the world has changed for America. I say that because our most important obligation is to protect you. Which is why I went to the United States Congress and asked them to join me in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

See, there's over 100 agencies scattered about in Washington, involved with protecting you. They're all over the place up there, and it felt like to me that they ought to be under one organization. So that if the number one priority is to protect the homeland, it becomes the number one priority of scattered agencies. If protecting the homeland is important, it seems like to me that under one umbrella, a new department, that it will be easier to change cultures. And we're making progress.

By the way, you need to know a lot of good people are working on your behalf, at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level. If we get any kind of hint, any evidence whatsoever that somebody might be thinking about doing something to America, we're moving. We're disrupting. We're denying. We're doing everything we can to protect the homeland. (Applause.)

But we can do a better job. And that's why the House of Representatives acted and I appreciate Bob Riley's vote and the other congressmen here's vote to get that out of the House. But it's stuck in the United States Senate. The Senate actually wants me to give up some power in order to accept their version of the bill. They want me to give up a power that every President since John F. Kennedy has had, which is the capacity to suspend collective bargaining rules for the sake of national security. And I'm not going to accept that. (Applause.)

I need to be able to move people to the right place at the right time to protect you. We've got a border issue. We need to know who's coming into America, what they're bringing into America and are they leaving America. (Applause.) We've got three agencies on the border: INS and Customs and Border Patrol. They're full of fine people, really good, hard-working Americans. But in some sectors they've got different strategies, they wear different uniforms. We need a seamless capacity to protect America. The Senate needs to give me the flexibility and the authority to put the right people at the right place at the right time to protect America. (Applause.)

But the best way to protect America, the best way to secure the homeland, the best way to protect our families is to hunt the killers down one by one and bring them to justice. (Applause.) And that is exactly what we are going to do.

It's a different kind of war. In the old days, you could count the number of tanks destroyed or ships that were sunk or airplanes shot out of the air and you say you're making progress. This is a war where the leaders hide in a cave, or they kind of hide in a dark corner of one of these cities around the world and then they send youngsters to there suicidal deaths. They don't care about innocent life. They're cold-blooded killers. And, therefore, the best thing for us to do is to get them on the run, to hunt them down and to bring them to justice, which is exactly what is happening. (Applause.)

I want you to know that therapy isn't going to work. (Laughter and applause.) The doctrine that says either you're with us or you're with the enemy, it still stands. And there's a lot of good folks hunting these people down. (Applause.) Sometimes you'll see us making progress and sometimes you won't. We've probably hauled in a couple thousand of them so far. And like number weren't so lucky.

The other day, a guy named Bin al-Shibh, he popped his head up -- (laughter) -- he is no longer a problem to the United States of America. (Applause.)

No, we've got a lot of work to do. There's still a lot of heavy lifting. There's still a lot of killers on the loose. But I've unleashed one of the finest militaries in the history of mankind. (Applause.) Yesterday, I signed the defense appropriations bill, it's the largest increase in defense spending since President Ronald Reagan was in office. (Applause.)

I did so because I wanted to send two messages: one, any time we put our troops, our youngsters into harm's way, they deserve the best training, the best equipment, the best possible pay; we owe it to our soldiers and we owe it to their loved ones. (Applause.)

And I wanted to send a message to friend and foe alike: that when it comes to the defense of our freedom, when it comes to answering history's call, we're in this deal for the long haul. There's not a calendar on my desk in the Oval Office that one day the date is going to pop up and say, it's time to -- it's time to pull them in. It's not the way I think, it's not the way America thinks. We've been called to action. Our generation has been given a charge to keep. We are responsible for this country's safety. We're responsible for our freedoms. And the message I sent by signing that defense bill, to the enemy: you've got a big problem with America, is what you've got.

I can't imagine what was going through their mind when they hit us. (Laughter.) You know, they thought we were so materialistic, so selfish, so self-absorbed, that after September the 11th, 2001 we might have filed a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) That's all we were going to do.

No, they don't understand this country. They don't understand the courage of our people. They don't understand the depth of love we have for freedom. They don't understand that we're a nation full of responsible citizens who understand we have a duty to future generations of Americans. That's what they don't understand. And they're going to pay a serious price for misunderstanding America. (Applause.)

I believe out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good. I believe that we can achieve peace if we are strong and focused and diligent, if we remember that freedom is not an American blessing, it's a God-given blessing for people all around the world. If we remain true to our beliefs, we can achieve peace. We can achieve peace for people here at home. We can achieve peace in parts of the world which have quit on peace. We can achieve peace in the Middle East, can achieve peace in South Asia.

No, amidst this talk about going to get them and hauling them in, you've just got to know that I believe in peace. And I believe peace is going to come. I believe peace is going to come.

And here at home, I know that out of the evil done to America can come a more compassionate country. See, amidst our plenty, there are pockets of despair and hopelessness. There are people when they hear the word "American Dream," they don't know what you're talking about. They don't have a dream; they're lost souls. Government can hand out money, but it can't put hope in people's hearts. That happens when a fellow American puts their arms around somebody in need and says, "I love you, what can I do to help you, brother? How can I help you?" No, the best way to fight evil here in America is to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. See, it's the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and compassion which change our country. (Applause.)

I met Shirley Rose Glisson today at Air Force One in Montgomery. She came out because she is a she's one of the soldiers in the armies of compassion right here in Auburn. She goes to Auburn United Methodist. (Applause.) She decided she was going to start a food pantry with members of her church. They now feed 30 hungry families. It's this act and thousands of acts like it which define the true character of our country.

You know, it's interesting about what happened on September the 11th. A lot of our citizens have taken a step back. They wonder what life is all about. The most vivid example of the new American spirit took place on Flight 93. People flying across the country. They heard the plane was being used as a weapon. They were on their cell phones to their loved ones. They said "goodbye." They said, "I love you." They said a prayer. A guy said, "let's roll." And they drove the plane in the ground to serve something greater than themselves. (Applause.)

You've got to understand that patriotism patriotism or the American spirit can be served all kinds of ways. It is more than just putting your hand over your heart. It is serving a great nation. And you can do so by helping somebody who hurts, somebody in need.

No, the enemy hit us. They had no idea who they were hitting. There's no doubt in my mind that this great nation can lead the world to peace. There's no doubt in my mind that we can have a more compassionate tomorrow for everybody who lives in this country because, my fellow Americans, we're citizens of the greatest country, full of the finest people on the face of the earth. Thank you for coming. May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

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