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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 1, 2002

Remarks by the President in Pennsylvania Welcome
Harrisburg International Airport
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

9:21 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. Thanks a lot. I'm glad I came. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you. Thank you for such a warm welcome. Thanks for getting up early. (Applause.) The American spirit is obviously alive and well here in Pennsylvania. (Applause.)

Color and cheer blur together in a loud welcome during President George W. Bush’s visit to Harrisburg, Pa., Nov. 1.  White House photo by Paul Morse It's alive in our country, all across our country. It's a spirit that says we love freedom. (Applause.) It's a spirit that says that we're willing to serve something greater than ourself in life. It's a spirit that says, when you live in America, you have a responsibility -- and one of the main responsibilities is to participate in the political process. You have an obligation in democracy to vote. (Applause.)

So I'm here to urge the good folks of Pennsylvania to do your duty. It doesn't matter whether you're Republican or Democrat or could care less about political parties. You have an obligation as part of the citizenry of America to go to the polls and vote. And when you do, I've got a suggestion for you for Congress: George W. Gekas. (Applause.)

How about putting it this way: let's win one for George W. (Laughter and applause.) I'm talking about both George Ws on the stage. (Applause.)

Both George Ws married well, by the way. (Laughter.) I appreciate Vangie Gekas for coming today. I'm proud that she's working hard to see to it that the Congressman George W. goes back to the United States Congress. And Laura W. sends her best to George W. and Vangie. Laura W. being the great First Lady of America. (Applause.)

I'm proud that your governor is here with us today. Mark Schweiker has done a fine job on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania. (Applause.) As you may remember, he went from being the lieutenant governor to governor when I asked somebody you trained really well to join me in Washington, D.C. -- and that's of course, your former governor, and now my close advisor, my friend, a man who's doing a great job for the American people, Tom Ridge. (Applause.)

Ridge came in a long line of fine Republican governors, and you have a chance to make sure that lineage is continued. You have a chance this Tuesday to make sure you put the right man in the governor's office. And, of course, that man is your current state attorney general, Mike Fisher. (Applause.)

He'll do a fine job on behalf of all the citizens of Pennsylvania. He'll represent not just one section of the state, but the entire state. (Applause.) He's got a good record. He's got a good record in office and he's got a good record on the trail. I learned firsthand, after all, in the year 2000, he ran ahead of me by about half a million votes is all. (Laughter.) This man can appeal to people from all walks of life. And so can the next lieutenant governor of the state of pennsylvania, State Senator Jane Earll. (Applause.)

Arriving in Harrisburg, Pa., President George W. Bush walks with Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher, far left, Rep. George Gekas, center, and Governor Mark Schweiker Friday, Nov. 1.  White House photo by Paul Morse I want to thank Senator Arlen Specter for being here. I want to thank him for his service to Pennsylvania. I want to thank him for working with me on a lot of big issues -- no bigger issue than to make sure the federal judiciary is staffed and full of fine, fine people. The record of this Senate is a lousy record when it comes to the approval of judges that I name. We have a vacancy problem in America. We can't get our judges through the United States Senate because there's too much politics in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

The current Senate distorts the record of good people I put up. I'm going to continue to name judges that are honorable and decent and honest. (Applause.) Judges who recognize their job is to interpret the Constitution, not to try to write new law. (Applause.) And I want to thank Senator Specter for being one of the leaders in the Senate to work with the administration to make sure our good judges get approved on a timely basis. (Applause.)

One way to make sure our judges get approved on a timely basis is to change the leadership in the United States Senate. (Applause.) You've got some fine United States congressmen from Pennsylvania in Washington -- all of whom I call friends and all of whom I work closely with on behalf of the American people. And I want to thank them for joining us today: Jim Greenwood, Bill Shuster, Don Sherwood and Todd Platts. (Applause.)

I appreciate they're here to support their friend. They know both candidates in this race and there's no question in their mind -- like there's no question in my mind -- that the right man for this congressional district and the right man for America is George W. Gekas. (Applause.)

Not only am I here to urge you to vote, I'm here to urge you to get out the vote. See, there's a lot of grassroots activists here who have made a tremendous difference in campaigns past, and I want to thank you for what you have done. But I'm here to thank you for what you're going to do -- today and Saturday and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday. And that is to turn out the vote, to get your friends to vote, to go to your houses of worship, your community centers, the coffee shops and tell people they have an obligation to vote and they have the obligation to support somebody who's honest and decent, somebody who's represented this district since 1982, somebody who stands squarely with the President on key issues, and that somebody is George W. Gekas. (Applause.)

I also want to thank the Middletown High Band for coming today. (Applause.) It looks like I provided you a convenient excuse to miss class. (Laughter and applause.) I'll try to keep my remarks short so you can get back to the library. (Laughter.)

George and I believe in the value of hard work and personal responsibility. We believe in service to our community is incredibly important. We share a passion for education. I want to thank George and the other members of Congress up here for working hard on the education reform package we passed out of Washington, D.C.

First, this bill says that we're going to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations, because we believe every child can learn. And we must set high, high standards for every child in America. (Applause.)

The bill says that we trust the people of Pennsylvania to chart the path to excellence in the public schools of Pennsylvania. People care more about the children who live in Pennsylvania than the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. So we strongly believe in local control of schools. (Applause.)

Thanks to George's hard work, we're passing back $1.7 billion of federal money to Pennsylvania schools to help every child learn. But for the first time, we're now asking for accountability for those dollars. (Applause.) We want to know -- we want to know whether or not our children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. I see some of the seniors here, glazing over, saying, oh, no, I hate tests. Well, too bad. (Laugher.)

We want to know whether or not the dollars are well spent. In order to make sure no child gets left behind in Pennsylvania, we must have strong accountability measures. (Applause.) I appreciate so very much the fact that George shares with me our concern about our economy. Today, it looks like some more Americans are looking for work. And that's a problem. Any time somebody is looking for work and can't find work means we've got a problem in America. We want our people to be able to put food on the table, to support their families.

The foundation for growth is strong, interest rates are down, inflation is low, productivity is up. We've got the best workers in the world. We've got the best entrepreneurs in the world. We've got the best farmers and ranchers in the world. (Applause.) But we've got a problem when people can't find a job. We're kind of bumping along. And that's not good enough.

I need people in Congress who understand the role of government. And that's to create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which the small business can grow to be a big business -- (applause) -- in which the engine for job growth, which is our small businesses, have a chance to survive and thrive in slow economic times. The best way to do so is to let people keep more of your own money. (Applause.)

George and I know that if somebody has more money in their own pocket, they're likely to demand a good or a service. And when they demand a good or a service in our marketplace, somebody is likely to produce the good or a service. And somebody produces a good or service, it means somebody is more likely to find work.

Be wary of those who say, we must revisit the tax relief plan. That's Washington code word for, we're fixing to get back in your pockets. (Laughter.) During slow economic times, during times when we're worried about somebody finding work, the best economic stimulus is to let people keep more of their own money on a permanent basis. (Applause.)

And George understands that. He also knows we need to get a terrorism insurance package out of Washington, D.C. so the hard-hats can go back to work. We've got too many construction programs on hold because they can't find insurance, because of what the terrorists did to us. It's a proper role for the federal government to underwrite the terrorism insurance. But this bill needs to keep the hard-hats in mind. We need to make sure our hard-hats get back to work and not reward the trial lawyers all around America. (Applause.)

No, we've been through some tough times here in America. We had a recession for a while. And then the enemy hit us, and that hurt our economy. Then something else came up. There was a lack of confidence in the system, because there were some of our fellow Americans who decided they were going to fudge the numbers. And we're going to have the -- reveal the whole truth in the corporate accounting practices. They didn't understand that when you're running a corporation, you have a responsibility -- you have a responsibility to shareholders, you have a responsibility to employees. (Applause.)

I want to thank George Gekas and Arlen and the other members of Congress for joining me to pass a law which I proudly signed, which is the toughest corporate reform since Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President. Our message to those who believe they can fudge the books is: there is no easy money in America, only hard time if you don't do your responsibilities. (Applause.)

You need to send George back to Congress. We've got a lot of work to do on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania. We've got to make sure our health care system works. We want our health care system to be accessible and affordable. One of the problems we have is there's too many lawsuits these days -- lawsuits which make it hard for people to take their true cases into courts, because the courts are clogged; lawsuits which are running up the cost of medicine; lawsuits which are driving docs out of business.

If you're interested in accessible and affordable health care, you will join Representative Greenwood, Gekas and me in demanding that Congress pass medical liability reform on behalf of America's patients. (Applause.)

And you'll send somebody to Congress who understands we need to reform Medicare. Medicine has changed, medicine is modern -- and Medicare is stuck in the past. Medicare is old and tired and it's not doing its job. A modern Medicare system will include prescription drugs for our seniors, and George Gekas understands that. (Applause.)

No, there's a lot of issues we can work on, there's no more important issue, though, is to protect you. That's the most important issue, protect America, protect innocent life from the attacks of the killers. And they're nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers. That's all they are. They hate freedom. They don't value life like we value life in America. You see, we think everybody is precious, everybody counts, everybody has got worth.

That's not what the killers think. See, they hijacked a great religion and murder in the name of that religion. And so we've got to do everything we can to protect the homeland. We've got a man like George Gekas, who's the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Control and Claims. Seems like to me it makes sense if your country is under attack to keep him in that important position. After all, one of his jobs is to make sure our border is secure, that we know who's coming in and who's going out and what they're bringing, and whether or not what they're bringing could hurt the American people. (Applause.)

No, this issue on homeland defense is incredibly important if you're a clear-eyed realist. And I'm a clear-eyed realist. I'm not forgetting the threats that we face. And, therefore, I went to the Congress and said, let's work together to come up with a plan to better secure our homeland. There's a lot of good people working hard right now; a lot of people at the federal level, the state level and local level; a lot of good police officers and FBI agents; a lot of people running down every hint, every lead.

Listen, if we think we've got something going on, we're going to do something about it. We're on alert. We understand the enemy. We understand their hatreds. We know they hate freedom. We know we love freedom and we know we're not going to change in our love for freedom. (Applause.)

I want to thank the members of the House here who joined me in supporting a Department of Homeland Security which will work, which will make sense and works, so we can do our jobs, so we can enforce our borders, like George Gekas wants us to do.

It got stuck in the Senate. Arlen Specter didn't cause it to get stuck, I want you to know. It got stuck because some senators want me to give up a power that every President since John F. Kennedy has had. See, every President since Kennedy has had the capacity to suspend collective bargaining rules in the name of national security; to suspend rules that will inhibit us from doing our job; prevent us from putting the right people at the right place at the right time to protect the American people.

I'm not going to accept a lousy bill out of the United States Senate. I owe it to the people of this country to put in place a Department of Homeland Security which will work and which will prevent the enemy from doing harm to the American people. (Applause.)

I want to thank George Gekas for his support on putting forth a good homeland security bill. But the best way to secure our homeland, the best way to make sure you're safe, the best way to make sure one of the first high school graduating classes ever to have the battleground here at home, to make sure that battleground is safe is to hunt these killers down one person at a time and bring them to justice. (Applause.)

That's what we have to do. See, therapy isn't going to work. (Laughter.) That's not going to convince them. The only way to convince them is to keep that large coalition of freedom country -- freedom-loving countries intact. And, by the way, the doctrine still stands: either you're with us or you're with the enemy. (Applause.)

And we'll continue to lead this coalition and round them up one at a time. See, it's a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war we face. In the old days, you could destroy tanks or airplanes or boats and know you're making progress. These are the kind of people who hide in caves and send youngsters to their suicidal deaths. They don't care.

Look at Bali, Indonesia. See, the world kind of said, well, maybe they're not that dangerous. And all of a sudden they go to Bali, Indonesia and just over -- in a minute's time take innocent life after innocent life after innocent life. They don't care. And so we've got to get them. And that's exactly what we're doing.

The other day one old guy popped his head up. He was going to be the 20th hijacker here in America. Thanks to our friends and allies and thanks to a great United States military, this guy is no longer a problem for America. (Applause.) And that's the way it is going. We've hauled in over a couple of thousand of them. Like number weren't as lucky. In either case, they're not a problem to the United States or our friends or allies. Slowly but surely we're going hunt them down. It doesn't matter how long it takes.

And that's why I went to the United States Congress -- George Gekas supported me, the members of the Congress up here supported me -- to ask for the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President. There's two messages in that bill. One, any time this country puts our troops into harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training and the best possible equipment. (Applause.)

And, secondly, it doesn't matter how long it takes to win this war on terror and to secure our freedom, we're staying the course. There's not a calendar on my desk that says by such-and-such a time, Mr. President, you've got to haul it in. That's just not the way I think. Our friends need to understand that we're in this for the long haul. Our foes must understand we're in this for the long haul. We owe it to our future, we owe it to our children, to defend freedom no matter what the cost.

And that's exactly what we're going to do. We also owe it to our future and our children to see the world the way it really is, not the way some would hope it to be. You see, the world changed on September the 11th, 2001. Not only is the battlefield come home, but two oceans no longer protect us from true threats. It used to be you could sit back, kind of relax and say, well, there's a problem overseas and we can decide to deal with it or be involved with it if we want to, but we're okay at home because the oceans protect us.

I want the youngsters here to understand that change is a profound change, and U.S. policy needs to change with it if we're realistic and clear-eyed. And that's why I've raised the issue on Iraq. That's why I asked the United States Congress to think about this issue. That's why I've asked the American people to think about this issue. That's why I went to the U.N. to talk about this issue. Because in my judgment and the judgment of a lot of people, Saddam Hussein is a serious threat to America; he's a threat to our friends -- (applause) -- he's a threat to our friends, he's a threat to our allies. (Applause.)

This is a man -- this is a man who has told the world for 11 years he would not have weapons of mass destruction. This is a man who is close to having a nuclear weapon. This is a man who has deceived the world. This is a man who not only has weapons of mass destruction, he has used weapons of mass destruction. He has used them on his neighbors and, incredibly enough, he has used weapons of mass destruction on his own citizens. This is a dangerous man who cannot stand America because of what we love.

And so I went to the United Nations to remind this august body that they have a responsibility to help us keep the peace. I reminded them for 11 years and 16 resolutions later, Saddam Hussein has defied every decree and every resolution. I went because I want the United Nations to be successful, to help us keep the peace. The more people involved with peace, the more likely it is we'll achieve peace.

I went because I want the United Nations to be a strong body, not the League of Nations. I went to remind them that if their word is not kept, they will become nothing but a debating society, unable to keep the peace.

And so my message and the message of our United States Congress -- including George Gekas -- that spoke with one voice to the world is this: the United States will fulfill its obligations to peace; Saddam Hussein will disarm; if not, for the sake of peace, for the sake of securing the homeland, for the sake of protecting our friends and allies, the United States will lead a mighty coalition of freedom-loving nations and disarm Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)

See, I can't imagine what was going through the mind of this enemy when they hit us. They probably thought the national religion was materialism, that we were so selfish and so self-absorbed that after 9/11/2001 this mighty nation would take a couple of steps back and file a lawsuit. (Laughter.) They don't understand America. They don't understand the spirit of America.

They don't understand that when it comes to the defense of our freedoms, it doesn't matter how long it takes, it doesn't matter the cost, we will fulfill our obligations. This generation of Americans will do our duty to future generations of Americans by making the world a more peaceful place. (Applause.)

Out of the evil done to America is going to come some great good. If we stay the course; if we remain plenty tough when we need to be tough; if we remember we go into countries never to conquer, but only to liberate, like we did in Afghanistan -- and you've got to remember, many young girls go to school for the first time in their lives thanks to the United States of America. (Applause.)

As we keep in mind the values that are so important, that freedom is not an American gift, freedom is God-given for everybody in the world. (Applause.) No, if we keep those principles close, and steadfast in our purpose, we can achieve peace. I believe it.

And not only can we achieve peace around the world, we can achieve a better America here at home. Government can help. I talked about laws that we can pass, Medicare reform and education. But you've got to remember there are pockets of hopelessness and despair in this country. There are people who hurt. They hurt on a daily basis. Many of their problems can only be helped when a fellow American puts their arm around them and says, I love you, what can I do to help, how can I make your day a better day.

So my call to America, if you want to join in the fight against evil, is to do some good, is to love your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. (Applause.) We've got to remember that government can help and government can hand out money, but it can't put love in people's hearts, it can't put a sense of purpose in people's lives. That's done when neighbor loves neighbor and neighbor helps neighbor.

My call to the high school students here is help somebody in need. You see, the American spirit is more than just being a patriot, it's more than just being strong when it comes to the defense of our country. The American spirit means serving something greater than yourself in life, is helping people in need, is working to save America one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. (Applause.)

I met Nancy Fierer today. See, all of us can do something and be part of this great fabric and mosaic of compassion. Nancy Fierer came out to the airport today. She started the Susquehanna Service Dogs Program that provides service dogs and hearing dogs to children and adults who have physical disabilities. See, she decided upon herself to make a difference. It's the Nancy Fierers, and I'm confident many of you here, who are changing America for the better.

I want you to remember the story of Flight 93. I particularly want the youngsters to remember that story. It's the most profound story of recent history about people who served something greater than themselves, who captured that American experience -- American spirit that I'm defining for you today.

These guys were flying across the airplane, guys and girls flying across the airplane -- the country in an airplane. They heard the plane was going to be used as a weapon. Imagine. They were told on their cell phones by their loved ones. They made their determination that they must do something about it. They said, goodbye, said, I love you. They said a prayer.

One guy said, let's roll. And they took the airplane into the ground to serve something greater than themselves. They embodied the greatness of the American spirit: people willing to serve something greater than themselves so that lives would be better.

There's no question in my mind, and I will boldly predict that out of the evil done to America will come incredible good, because this is the finest nation, full of the most decent, compassionate people on the face of the earth. (Applause.)

Thank you for coming today. May God bless you and may God bless America. (Applause.)

END 9:54 P.M. EST

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