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President Bush delivers remarks to Cabinet and Sub-Cabinet Members in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 16, 2002.  White House photo by Paul Morse.
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President's Visit with His Team

March 7, 2007
Remarks by the President to Political Appointees
and Federal Government Employees

DAR Constitution Hall
Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Sit down. (Applause.) So I have to follow Tony Snow and Laura Bush. (Laughter.) Anyway, thanks for being here. First, I love my wife. (Applause.) I think the country is really fortunate to have her as the First Lady. (Applause.) Thank you. This may seem counterintuitive, but the pressures of the White House and the pressures of the job have made a really good marriage better. And I, frankly, don't see how you can do this job unless you have somebody you trust and love by your side at all times. And I'm a lucky guy, I do.

Also, I've got a group of people who are willing to put their personal lives aside and focus on the country, and that's you. And my first message to you is, thanks for serving America. I love it. I find it a huge honor. I'm enthused by the opportunity to serve our country. And I hope you share that same sense of enthusiasm. It is -- when you look back at a chapter in your life -- and I happen to believe you can define your life by chapters -- I hope that you say, that chapter of my life in which I was fortunate enough to serve the American people was one that was enriched -- an enriching experience, because I tell you, when it's all said and done for me, that's what I'm going to say.

Many of you could be doing a lot of other things. You can make more money, you can work less hours, you can take less grief -- but serving the United States of America is vital and it's important. And I can't thank you enough -- (applause.) I thank you all for serving. I particularly thank my Cabinet. (Applause.) I guess it's a pretty good excuse for them to take time off from their jobs to come here and listen to me. (Laughter.) But get back to work. (Laughter.)

I heard Tony -- I heard some of what Tony said, and that is that he is excited, and I am excited -- and he's right about the next two years. And he said, he mentioned something, "sprinting to the finish line." That's what I feel like that's what's going to happen.

In Washington, it's -- they tend to kind of try to write you out of the game as quickly as they can. In other words, the spotlight is beginning to shift for the next group that's going to be in the White House. Just so you know, the spotlight might try to shift, but my focus isn't going to shift, and neither should yours. So no matter what happens in the political process, or what may be happening on Capitol Hill, my job, and your jobs, are to finish our job, and that is to do what we think is right for the American people.

Now, what does that mean? Well, you know, the President's job is to set goals -- like, you can't accomplish anything unless you know where you're going. And the goals have to be pretty clear. They have to be easy to understand and they have got to be profound. And I heard Laura talk about some of the goals, I heard Tony talk about some of the goals -- I will rattle off a few for you, too: Win the war on terror. (Applause.) Protect the homeland. For those of you -- (applause) -- yes, thank you.

Make sure that our veterans have great care throughout their active duty career -- I guess they're not veterans during active duty -- make sure those who wear the uniform get good care while on active duty, and then as a vet. (Applause.) Balance the budget without raising taxes. (Applause.) Restore the parks, and pay the people who run the parks a good salary. (Applause.) Make sure every child can read, write, and add and subtract. Make sure that we have a health care system in which the doctors and patients make decisions. Make sure that we have got an energy policy that makes us less dependent on oil, and at the same time, better stewards of the environment. (Applause.) We've got a lot to do.

Laura mentioned the rug. Okay, I can't resist talking about the rug, because it helps define my job. You know, a lot of people from my home state of Texas -- (applause) -- there you go -- who I grew up with and who Laura grew up with come and visit us. And it's really exciting to take a buddy I grew up with in Midland, Texas, and say, here's the White House; here's where we live, and this is the Oval Office. And they walk around inside the Oval Office amazed that they are there. Then they get sober, and are amazed that I am there. (Laughter and applause.)

And they say, what's it like to be President? You know, they're sitting out there in West Texas, and they read about all the noise and all the stuff you hear in Washington, and they say, what is it like? And my answer to them is, if I had to give you a simple job description, it was the job requires making a lot of decisions -- I mean, a lot.

And as Laura mentioned, the first decision was the color rug. And she was right, good decision-making requires delegation. Good decision-making requires creating an environment where people can walk in and tell you what's on their mind. The problem with the Oval Office, it is the kind of place where people stand outside and say, I'm going to walk in and tell him what for; they walk in, and they're overwhelmed by the environment, and they say, man, you're looking beautiful today, Mr. President -- (laughter) -- precisely the kind of environment that is not good for making decisions.

So I have worked hard to surround myself with people who are confident enough in their own abilities to walk in and say, "You're not looking so pretty, Mr. President, and here's what I recommend." And I do a lot of it, just so you know. And I hope if you're in a leadership position, you do the same thing.

One of the interesting aspects of the presidency is, how do you create not only an environment in which people level with you, tell you what's on their mind, but an environment in which people have got high job satisfaction. In other words, they're happy to work the long hours that is expected of them. It's a tough deal working here in Washington, as you know. If you're a mother with young children, like my friend, Margaret Spellings used to be -- (laughter) -- well, she used to -- she's still a mother, but her children aren't so young, but when she first got up here, they were -- she had to balance the most important priority in life, which is being a mother, and being the Domestic Policy Advisor to the President.

One way to help with the job satisfaction is to give people access to the President. People might come in and say, "Honey, I had a great day today. I told old George W. Bush what to do." (Laughter.) I don't mind that, because part of being able to accomplish big goals is you've got to have a team of people who work together. Now, not everybody agrees. You don't want your President to get homogenized advice. You need people who speak frankly, who aren't intimidated by the surroundings of the presidency, who are happy to be going to work, and are plenty capable of giving independent advice.

But the final ingredient to making good decisions to meet big goals is, once I make up my mind, it's, "Yes, sir, Mr. President." And that's the kind of team I have surrounded myself with. (Applause.) And those are the kind of people you work for, people who know how to set goals and work to achieve them.

And I heard Tony say, "results-oriented people" -- why are we here if it's not to achieve results, other than -- maybe having a nice spring and getting a seat at the Kennedy Center on occasion? Why else be here if it's not aimed at accomplishing something for the country? That's what we're here for. (Applause.)

What Laura didn't tell you about the rug is that I believe the job of the President is to be a strategic thinker. In other words, the job of the President is to set the strategy for the country. And so the strategic thought on the rug was, darling, I need you to design a rug; make it say, "optimistic person comes to work." So if you were to walk in the Oval Office, you would see a spectacular rug with the presidential seal in the middle, with what looks like sun rays emanating from the center. It screams optimism. I don't see how you can lead unless you're an optimistic person. Matter of fact, I know you can't lead unless you're an optimistic person.

You have to believe in your very core that the decisions you're making will lead to a better tomorrow. I want you to know that I believe in my very core that the decision to liberate Iraq was important for the security of the country -- (applause) -- and I believe will lead to peace. That's what I believe. I'm optimistic that no matter how tough it may look -- and it's been tough at times for a lot of you -- to work in an administration that had to make the tough decisions on war and peace -- and these have been tough times for the country. Nobody likes war. It's wearying on the psyche of the country. But just so you know, my attitude is I'm optimistic that people will look back and say, I'm glad they made the decision they made in the early 2000s. It's made the world more peaceful.

Part of making good decisions is to make decisions based upon something other than opinion polls and focus groups. You can't make decisions -- now, in Washington they spend a lot of time on polls, as you probably know -- you can't make a decision on a poll. Polls are fleeting. Public opinion is -- can vanish in the air. The best way, in my judgment, the only way to make decisions is to make them on principles. (Applause.)

So in the Oval Office, when you walk in there, once you get beyond the spectacular rug that Laura designed -- she didn't ever tell me about the fact that she delegated beyond the delegation, by the way -- (laughter) -- is that there are paintings of Texas. And the reason they are there is that's what I like, and that's who I am. I came with a set of principles that I learned throughout my life, and I'm leaving with the same set of principles. (Applause.)

And I will share two principles that I hope help explain some of the more difficult decisions I have made. One of them is this: I believe in an Almighty, and I believe a gift of the Almighty to each man and woman and child on the face of this Earth is freedom. That's what I believe. (Applause.) That's not a political statement, that is a core belief. It is something that I firmly believe.

And if you believe that freedom is universal, I believe we have an obligation to help free people. That doesn't mean the use of the military. There's all kinds of ways to free people. We can free people from the scourge of hunger, or the pandemic of disease, at home and abroad.

I believe that -- when the Iraqis went to vote, I was pleased, but I wasn't surprised. And I wasn't surprised because I believe in the universality of freedom. And one of the things that troubles me in this world is that some are willing to say, it's okay if somebody lives under the thumb of a tyrant; maybe people can't self-govern, because freedom isn't universal -- this kind of moral relativity in the world that I think is a mistake for the United States to assume.

So I'm optimistic about decisions because I believe people want to be free, and if given the chance will take the risks necessary to be free. And that's what you're seeing. And it's hard work. It is really hard to go from tyranny, which thrives upon fear, to a free society, which requires responsibility. But nevertheless, I am not surprised that people are taking risks to be free, because it is universal.

I believe to whom much is given, much is required. We have been given a lot in the United States of America. Therefore, I believe we're required, to the extent we can, to work to eliminate, for example, the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. (Applause.)

Both of these statements I have just made to you are statements based upon principle, yet do fly in the face of certain attitudes in our country. One of the dangers I fear for America is that we become isolationist. For example, why should we care? We've got our own problems here at home; why should we care if a child is orphaned because his or her parents have died because of HIV/AIDS? Why is it in our interests that Sunnis and Shia may be fighting in a part of the world? That's isolationist.

To me, isolationism will invite dangers. If we become isolated in a global world, we will not have been doing our most important duty, which is to protect America, for this reason: A lesson of September the 11th, which I have never forgotten -- I've never forgotten that day, or my determination to do what our most important job is, to protect the country -- is that what happens overseas matters here at home. See, that's what's changed. (Applause.) And therefore, we have got to resist the temptation to become isolationist.

Isolation can lead to protectionism, which, in my judgment, would keep people impoverished and deny entrepreneurs new opportunities. What's interesting about our history, if you really look at it, isolationism and protectionism tended to run hand in hand, followed, thereby -- followed closely thereafter by nativism, which basically says we're not a welcoming society; thereby standing in stark contrast to the great tradition of America, which is the melting pot, that people from different backgrounds and different religions can come and live under the rubric of the great American spirit. And so it's important for us to understand history and, at the same time, resist the easy temptations to ignore basic principle.

Speaking about history, on the walls there is a portrait of George Washington, so I'm looking at him all the time. George W., the first George W. (Laughter.) And Abraham Lincoln is on this wall. I read three histories of George Washington last year -- I'm reading a lot. People say, well, how can you read a lot if you're, like, the President of the United States? I say, because I don't watch TV. I go home and -- (laughter and applause.) I don't know if I should admit this -- I can't name -- I mean, I can name a show, but I can't tell you what time it is on, I don't know what channel it's on, and I, frankly, don't give a darn. (Laughter and applause.)

Anyway, it shows how culturally out of touch I am. (Laughter.) But I am reading a lot. And I can remember Laura, by the way, telling -- she was a librarian, and she used to tell children, read, because your mind can travel. Well, that's what I find. I'm reading. And so I read three histories on George Washington. My attitude about history is, if they're still analyzing number one, 43 doesn't need to worry about it. (Laughter and applause.)

You make decisions based upon principle, and then you let history write it long after you're gone. The President who tries to write history, short-term history, worries about "the legacy," is a President who won't think strategically for the United States. If you're trying to do big things for this country, to achieve certain goals, then the whole history of an administration is going to take a while to become -- in perspective. Laying that foundation for peace based upon liberty takes a while. It takes a while for certain historical -- it takes a while for certain events to unfold.

And so just so you know, I'm not worried about it -- I'm really not -- about standing in history. As a matter of fact, I don't believe there's anything such as short-term history. I don't think you can write an accurate history of somebody's administration until long after that person has faded out and passed on. I just don't believe it. As a matter of fact, short-term history tends to be pop culture and reflect the political attitudes of the historian more than the history of the administration.

The other portrait is Abraham Lincoln. So that's the place on the wall where the President puts the most influential President. So, like, if you think about my dilemma, I've got a dilemma about influential, if you know what I mean. (Laughter.) My dad's portrait hangs in my heart; he doesn't need to hang on my wall. (Applause.)

So I put Abraham Lincoln on the wall. Listen to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln: 600,000 Americans died during his presidency; he lost his son. I can't imagine the pain it would cause someone to lose a child. I have tried to comfort people -- the toughest part of my job, by the way, is to comfort the families of those who have lost a loved one as a result of a decision I have made. And it's got to be incredibly painful. When they say there's a hole in the heart, I'm sure that's true.

Well, Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of a civil war in which 600,000 people lost their lives, he lost his child. The person died -- Willie died in the White House, right upstairs where we live. And his wife wasn't happy. Mrs. Lincoln, who was a high-spirited woman, very much involved in encouraging Abraham Lincoln to take on the presidency, came to Washington and was reviled by the press, and she wasn't a happy person. And let me just tell you something, if the First Lady isn't happy, I can assure you -- (laughter) -- the President isn't happy.

I'm fortunate in that Laura is happy. She knows what I know, that job satisfaction is incredibly high if you're fortunate enough to be the President and First Lady. It doesn't take much to put joy in somebody's heart; it just doesn't. You can imagine when Laura walks into a classroom in Mississippi, and distributes part of her foundation's earnings to buy books, how happy that makes someone feel. It doesn't take much.

I remember stopping at a lemonade stand in Minneapolis during the 2006 campaign. And I was just thinking after I got back -- we stopped, and, of course, there's like an army of people -- a poor little six-year-old child was wondering what -- (laughter) -- who is this? (Laughter.) Anyway, word got out, and the neighborhood emptied out. And I got back in the limo -- we did the pictures, and I bought the lemonade, and the press corps crowded around, all the things that happen -- but I said, how cool is that, to be able to imprint a lasting memory in someone's mind by just simply stopping to buy lemonade? This is a fabulous job I have been fortunate enough to hold. (Laughter.) I'm not kidding you, it doesn't take much to put joy in somebody's heart, which means our job satisfaction is really high.

That wasn't the case for Mary Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln had a tough presidency, yet he never lost sight of a certain principle, and that principle is, all men are created equal. In the times of unbelievable turmoil, this great President focused on the truth -- all men are created equal. And as a result of maintaining that belief even in the darkest moments, he earned the respect of even his critics. And he left behind, by the way, a country that was united. Abraham Lincoln could have easily cut a deal to save his own political skin, and divided the nation into two. And he left a legacy of influence and power. And it's really the question that the modern presidency must face, and that is, what do you do with the influence?

I want you to listen carefully to the debates from not only this next race, but races throughout this century, and listen carefully to the answer from the presidential candidates of, what do you do with the influence? I made my decision. My decision was to use our enormous influence to improve the chances for peace. Now, the debate really is, do you go alone, or do you wait for collective wisdom?

I want to share a story with you about the Global Fund on AIDS. I told you that -- the principle on which I made the decision to commit our nation in the -- battling HIV/AIDS, particularly in the poorest of countries that are unable to do it themselves. Condi and I were talking about it one day, and she said that Colin Powell and Tommy Thompson were going to recommend the creation of the Global Fund on AIDS, which meant that it would depend upon the participation not only of the United States, but other nations. I was reluctant. I was hesitant. But nevertheless, being the open-minded fellow that I am -- (laughter) -- I listened. And I said, well, create the Global Fund. And as a matter of fact, to provide incentive, we will match a certain percentage of every dollar put in there.

After one year, or six months -- I can't remember the exact timing -- but it was, like, us and one other country that had decided to participate in the Global Fund on AIDS -- it was empty. As far as I was concerned, that was not acceptable. The goal was to deliver compassionate help to solve a pandemic, and yet, the mechanism wasn't working.

So I went to Congress and asked for $15 billion over five years for the United States to move unilaterally in 17 poor countries. We took the lead, and then guess what happened. The Global Fund filled up. My point to you is, when America leads for a cause that's noble and just, others follow, and we shouldn't wait for permission to do so. (Applause.)

The final painting on the wall is called "A Charge to Keep." It's based upon a Methodist hymn that was sung in my inauguration, the first inauguration as governor of Texas. And it's on loan from a buddy of mine and Laura's from Midland. And I like it, because I like the painting itself. It's a WHD Koerner. It's not a Texas painting, it's a Colorado painting. And it shows a horseman traveling up an incredibly difficult path. There are two people following the horseman; there may be 2,000 people following the horseman, you don't know, but he's leading. And there's a look of determination on this horseman's face.

The hymn is a Methodist hymn written by one of the Wesley boys, who -- there are a couple of Methodists here, that's good -- (laughter.) There you go. Well, you don't need -- this isn't a revival. Anyway -- (laughter.) And it's a great hymn; it talks about serving God.

The other interesting thing about the painting is O'Neill was the guy that introduced me and Laura in his backyard. He said, would you like to come over and have barbecue? This was in Midland, Texas. I don't know if you -- if you don't know Midland, it's out in the desert. It's an exciting place, but it's not really pretty to look at, but the people are great. (Laughter.) And he said, Jan and I are having a barbecue, come on by, and there's just going to be four of us. And it was Laura, and we were married three months later. I make good decisions. (Laughter.) And particularly in this case. (Applause.)

I hope she says she makes good decisions, too. I will tell you this: She wasn't -- I promise you, when I asked her to marry me, she wasn't thinking President. (Laughter.) As a matter of fact, she didn't like politics. Maybe that's why she's such a great First Lady, is that she didn't like politics, that she came with -- (applause.) She's got plenty of good advice, and I hear a lot of it. (Laughter.)

Anyway, I want to share two things about the painting. The painting is based upon a religious hymn. I'm a religious person, but the role of the President is never to promote religion. The job of the President, and anybody in public life who has been elected, is to promote the right for people to choose whether or not they're going to be religious. Let me put it to you this way: You're a -- equally American if you're agnostic, atheist, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim. We're all Americans. And what's valuable and sacred is the right for people to be able to have that choice. (Applause.)

That is what distinguishes us from al Qaeda. (Applause.) And that is a necessary freedom to guard forever. If we ever lose that sense of freedom, we will have lost the very being of America. You've just got to know that. And so for those of you who are young enough to move on and decide to take on other assignments in government, whether it be in the next decade or so, remember that. Remember that you've got to jealously guard the freedom of religion.

Having said that, I don't see how you can be President without a belief. Now, there are plenty who probably did. And one of the most unusual aspects -- “unusual” isn't the right word -- one of the most interesting revelations to me is the power of prayer, the power of millions of people who pray for me and Laura. I can't -- look, I'm not enough of a poet -- I can barely speak English -- (laughter) -- to be able to describe to you what that means. I'm just telling you, in the midst of what looks like turbulence, I feel joyful.

The hardest part of the job, by the way, is the lead-up to tough decisions. That's the hardest part of the job. The run-up to whether or not we ought to withdraw, steadily pull back, stay the same, or reinforce was difficult. And I spent a lot of time on it, and I thought long and hard about it. But having made up my mind, I feel calm. And I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that total strangers, and some who aren't strangers, actually lift me and Laura up in prayer. It's a remarkable country, when you think about it. It's a remarkable country -- (applause) -- that people would take time out of their lives to pray for the President, some of whom didn't want him to be President, and they still pray for him.

Really, it's a unique place. I think it's the strength of the country. Matter of fact, I know the strength of this country lies in the hearts and souls of our citizenry. Think about a country where, after a devastating storm like Katrina, there was an army of volunteers literally pouring into the region. It didn't require one government edict, not one law. There was a universal law motivating people to go help a neighbor in need -- love your neighbor. I was overwhelmed by the presence of red-eyed people that had been working all night to help save a stranger. I'm not surprised that this country is capable of rallying during tough times, because there are millions and millions of citizens who are willing to serve something greater than themselves.

And that's really what the painting is. It talks about serving something greater than yourself. That's what you do. You serve something greater than yourself, which is the United States of America. And that's why I started off by saying, I hope you take great pride in the honor of doing so.

I want to share with you the final thing, and then it turns out I've got more to do than this, but -- and so do you. (Laughter.) Like, don't linger. (Laughter.)

The one I had chosen to use is called the "H.M.S. Resolute." H.M.S. means Her Majesty's Service. Therefore, the desk came from England. And it did. It was given to America after we had rescued the H.M.S. Resolute in the Arctic. The ship was sent back to England. Queen Victoria, out of gratitude, upon the decommissioning of the ship, had a desk carved from the wood inside the ship. And it is a spectacular-looking desk. It's nice to look at. It's a nice size. It's not overwhelmingly large, but it's big enough to hold papers. It is a -- (laughter) -- it's ornate, but ornate in a way that fits into -- it looks good on the rug, let me put it to you that way. (Laughter.)

There is a door on the front of the desk. It is a door that was placed on the front of the desk by Franklin Roosevelt. He was a great President. He dealt with some unbelievably difficult times. And it's pretty heady for a guy raised in Midland, Texas to be sitting behind the desk with a door that Franklin decided -- I call him "Frank" -- (laughter) -- to put on the front. He did it, by the way, because he didn't want people to know he was in a wheelchair.

My, have times changed. First of all -- and a lot of people didn't know he was in a wheelchair, like, a whole lot. So early in my presidency, I'm watching a ball game, Barney and I are watching the ball game. I eat the pretzel, it get stuck in the throat and I pass out. (Laughter.) And by the time I wake up, it's like the banner underneath the sports thing, "President Bush chokes on pretzel." (Laughter.) Making international news, you know. The guy is in a wheelchair, very few people know it; I eat the pretzel, and it's like instant -- (laughter.) Things have changed in the presidency. (Applause.) Which means there's nothing you can do that the people don't know about. If you're not optimistic, the people will know it. If you're wringing the hands, the nation will wring its hands.

And therefore, when you're making decisions, you better make them based upon something you believe that's etched in your soul, that you firmly believe will lead to a better tomorrow. Otherwise, you can't escape the scrutiny of the American people. I mean, there are a lot of people watching the President; a lot.

Out that door poked John John Kennedy, arguably the most famous Oval Office photo. It's a classic. When you've got people in the Oval and you're saying, that door, John John Kennedy poked his head out. Like if you're probably under 25, you're looking -- what picture is he talking about, you know? (Laughter.) It's kind of a demarcation zone. (Laughter.) It definitely captured the spirit of an era in which a lot of baby boomers grew up. On the bottom of the desk is a layer of wood that was put on there so that Ronald Reagan wouldn't bump his knees.

Sitting and making decisions behind that desk and sitting behind it is a heady experience. And when I have time and reflect about what it means to be following other Presidents, here's the lesson I've learned: that the office of the presidency is larger than the person; that the -- if the person thinks that he or, eventually, she will be bigger than the presidency, they will have failed the country. That's why I call the Oval Office a shrine to democracy, in honor of the institutions that provide the ballast for the ship of state.

People come and go, people have all got their faults, but, yet, that institution that we jealously guard and that we all work for provides ballast, so that the people of the United States can feel secure in their lives and comfortable in the knowledge that their government will be of justice and fairness. (Applause.)

I want to give you one quick -- politicians love to hear themselves talk, and so forgive me. (Laughter.) One quick story, and then I really do have to go. A lot of amazing things happen in the Oval Office. There's been a lot of memorable events. One of the most memorable came as a result of a phone call that we got from Texas, a guy named Marvin Zindler, who is a news -- if you're from Houston, you might remember Marvin. (Applause.) There you go. Well, Marvin is an interesting person. He was a famous news guy, he made a fair amount of money, and like many of our fellow citizens, he recognizes money can be used for good. And he heard the story of six small-businessmen in Iraq who had been horribly mistreated by Saddam Hussein, and he wanted to do something about it. And he asked, would I see them, and I said I'd seen them.

Here's their story. The Saddam dinar devalued. And the tyrant needed a series of scapegoats, and so he found small-business people, non-political people, who sold dinars to buy other currency so they could buy raw materials to make their products. They just happened to have sold dinars on the wrong day. And he needed a scapegoat, so he found the six small-business guys, and he cut off their right hands and carved "X"s in their foreheads.

Zindler hears about them, and he flies them to Houston, Texas, to put new right hands on them. They have just gotten their new right hand, and they've come to see the President. Now, you can imagine the emotional roller coaster of these fellows. They had been -- six months earlier is when Saddam had done what he did to them. And they come walking in the Oval Office. And it is -- I'm an emotional guy at times, and when you have some guy look at you and hug you and call you "liberator", it's emotional.

The guy pulls out the Bic, and he gets the hand right, and writes a blessing to America in Arabic with his new hand. He's just learning how to use it – they’re all kind of feeling how it goes. What a contrast between a society in which somebody gets summarily plucked out and gets their hand cut off, and a society where a total stranger fits him with a new hand. Amazing place, isn't it, when you think about it?

And so I'm talking to the guys, I'm trying to impart some wisdom. I finally collected my thoughts. I'm trying to figure out what to say. And here's what I said -- I said, "Welcome to the Oval Office." (Laughter.) Not a very original beginning, but nevertheless. I said, "This is the place where the institution is bigger than man. And if your government," -- no, "If your country so chooses," -- before they voted, by the way -- "If your country so chooses, we will help you put institutions in place so that never again can somebody like you be summarily tortured by a tyrant."

And that's the hard work we're doing. And that is the lesson of the greatest office on the face of this Earth, an office which I am proud to hold and proud to work with you, as we represent our country.

God bless. (Applause.)


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