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

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
November 10, 2003

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Portland, Maine
Portland Town Hall
Portland, Maine

4:05 P.M. EST

MRS. BUSH: Hello everybody. How are you all? It's great to be here. I'm so glad to be in Portland to talk about Preserve America, because Portland is such a great example to the rest of the United States. First, Portland is really fortunate to be blessed with so many really beautiful, historic houses and buildings, and then, of course, such a magnificent site on the ocean, it's such a beautiful -- right on the Casco Bay.

But this is a great place to talk about Preserve America for both reasons, both because our history is here in Portland. The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, for instance, is a really wonderful house to have been restored, and then also because of the really beautiful natural setting. Portland has one of the most magnificent natural settings, I think, in our whole country.

I love to come here, as you all know. I come every year. I've come every year since I married, 26 years ago, except for the one when I was pregnant with twins and couldn't travel. But I love the chance to come and so this was really a nice opportunity to talk about something that Portland has done so well that they could teach other parts of the country about it.

All right, any questions?

Q Mrs. Bush, what are your thoughts about reelection campaigning and how Iraq will figure into it?

MRS. BUSH: Well, we're just starting the reelection campaign. We don't have a candidate yet on the other side, so we're -- I think when we actually have a candidate, I'll have more thoughts about the reelection campaign. But I'm looking forward to it.

I'm looking forward to campaigning. I like that. I like seeing our friends all over the country, which is really what politics is. Politics is a real people business. I'll have the chance to travel all over the country by myself campaigning for my husband and then with him. And I look forward to that.

In a lot of ways, every campaign is the same; in a lot of ways, every campaign is different. But there are certain things you expect from every campaign and certainly one part of the campaign are the slings and arrows that you get from the other side. After it seems like a lifetime in politics with campaigning for my husband for Congress in 1978 and then for his dad twice -- or three times, actually, two times for Ronald Reagan and two times -- four times, two times for George H. W. Bush, and then for governor with my husband and then for President with my husband, I feel like I'm pretty experienced at the campaign business.

Q Mrs. Bush, could you share with us perhaps a little bit of the thrust of your message at tonight's fundraiser, what you plan to tell Maine Republicans?

MRS. BUSH: Well, this will be a group of friends and supporters, and so mainly I'm going to thank them, thank them for their support for the President, thank them for their hard work, and ask them to continue to work hard once the campaign really starts going.

Maine is a very important state for us. We have a long-time association with the state. We have many lifelong friends, my husband does, in Maine, and my family does. So that's what I'll let them know.

But I'll also talk about what's happened in the last two-and-a-half years, the reform in education, the No Child Left Behind Act, tax relief, all of those issues, and including, in the world, AIDS relief in Africa, little girls going to school in Afghanistan for the first time in their lives, Iraq building a -- being able to build a free country now. All these are challenges that our country has faced.

What happened on September 11th was a huge challenge that we'll be dealing with for a while. But the one thing I've really learned as I've traveled around this country, and had the privilege to travel around, is how strong Americans are. And I don't know if we surprised ourself a little bit, if we thought we weren't as strong as previous generations. You know, we had road rage and whatever else. But after September 11th, I think we found out we had the strength that other generations of Americans had shown us before.

Q Mrs. Bush, some have criticized your trip today and the President's trip to the South today as fundraisers in disguise, paid for by the taxpayers.

MRS. BUSH: Well, that's not right, because they're paid for -- the trips are split over -- the amount of money is split by the political campaign. And this is a message, the Preserve America message, is a very important message that I've taken around the country and I'm really glad to be in Portland, because Portland is such a great example of a Preserve America city.

Q Mrs. Bush, I see on the poster there that, along with Main Street and big cities, the Preserve America initiative aims to protect natural landscapes. How do you reconcile that with your husband's administration's fairly consistent attempts to open more public land to resource extraction and development and logging --

MRS. BUSH: Well, my husband is very, very committed to protecting the United States' most fabulous natural resources, all over our country. I hike in the national parks every summer myself and have for a long time. All of those beautiful public spaces and the beautiful private spaces that are protected because of private landowners are very crucial to our country and to our environment. And my husband is very, very supportive of making sure our beautiful natural resources are protected.

Q Preservation obviously takes lots of money. The auditorium upstairs cost $10 million to preserve. A lot of cities are struggling to fund other things. Why would it be important to find that money for that preservation effort?

MRS. BUSH: Well, this Preserve America program will help cities, work with cities to figure out ways to get funding, to have public-private partnerships, to approach individuals who will fund.

But the reason it's really important is because our past is really important and our heritage is really important. And I think what another thing we learned on September 11th is how important it is for all of us and especially for our children to know about what's happened before, and what our grandmothers and mothers and grandfathers and fathers have done before us, so that we enjoy the really unbelievable benefits we enjoy, both economically and all the freedoms that we're blessed to have. I think that is one of the reasons that historical preservation is so important.

I wasn't clear from the information I read about the program, whether this is new money or simply putting a label on existing resources, federal money --

MRS. BUSH: There is some money, but mainly it is technical support. It's ways to help cities and counties preserve their own heritage and ways to figure out how to do it. One thing that Portland could do is the same thing. Portland can help other people with their example.

Q Is there any new money --

MRS. BUSH: I think there is a little bit of new money in it. It's a direction also to federal agencies, for federal agencies to inventory all of the historical properties, the tribes, for instance, or any other parts of a federal agency are responsible for. So that also federal agencies take a responsibility to make sure they preserve, for instance, all the national parks.

And a lot of national parks are historic sites. Not all of them are parks like Glacier and Yellowstone and Yosemite and all those others.

Q Are you encouraging private investment in the national parks?

MRS. BUSH: Sure. Private investment in the national parks, in the sense of the foundations that give to national parks?

Q Or more -- will there be more commercial activity in the national parks? Mr. Nau was saying that all -- that the Preserve America, one point of it was to increase tourism and investment in areas.

MRS. BUSH: Well, that has a lot to do with economic vitality of cities, and I think that's really what he was talking about. Portland, for instance, the Old Port is a revitalized part of town that was totally empty. And not only revitalized it, but has drawn a lot of tourists for the economy of Portland.

The national parks, as you know, have concessionaires. The hotels and the restaurants in the national parks are run by concessions that are given by the national parks, and I think that they are managed very well. I know that certainly the Grand Canyon is very, very strict, if you go on a river trip through the Colorado River and hike out, on the number of outfitters that can be there. So there is a balance.

We want people to use the parks. They are a huge national asset and treasure. And I don't think you want to close the parks to Americans that want to be able to camp or hike in parks.

4:15 P.M. EST END

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