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 Home > News & Policies > September 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 3, 2001

President Discusses Economy at Teamsters Barbecue in Detroit, Michigan
Teamsters Headquarters
Detroit, Michigan

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2:36 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, all.  Larry Brennan said there hadn't been a President come to a Teamster rally in 50 years -- only he's been long enough to know if that's 50 years.  (Laughter.)  I appreciate it. President George W. Bush greets the families of Michigan Teamster Union members during a Labor Day Barbecue at Teamsters Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan, Sept. 3, 2001. WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY ERIC DRAPER.

Listen, I want to thank you all very much.  First of all, thank you for your hospitality -- and thank you for being so nice to my wife. (Applause.)  Yes, I brought my wife.  (Applause.)  You think I travel without her, you're crazy.  (Laughter.)  Best decision I ever made was to ask Laura to marry me.  There's a lot of folks wondering whether the best decision she ever made was to say, yes.  (Laughter.)

But we are honored to be here on Labor Day to celebrate the American worker.  And it's a good place to be, right here in Michigan, where people work hard -- (applause) -- with the Teamsters, who made an historical record of setting the example of how to work hard.

I want to thank the working families who are here to greet us.  And I want to thank the working families all across America, who make our nation unique and different.  I mean, we're different because our folks aren't afraid of hard work, and they know what it means to support family, and they know what it means to make their communities better.

So thanks for having us and giving us a chance to celebrate.  I appreciate the officials who are here, your Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and the Mayor of the great city of Detroit, all out here to say a few nice words to the President -- it makes me feel good on Labor Day. (Applause.)

I also want to thank Bill Black for his hospitality and the leadership of this Local for letting me come.  (Applause.)  Some folks might have thought they took a risk inviting a Republican here, but I stand before you -- I stand before you as a proud American, first and foremost.  (Applause.)

And I'll tell you another proud American is traveling with me, and we just came from the Green Bay, Wisconsin area, and Doug McCarron is the President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.  Where's Doug?  There he is.  (Applause.)  He gave them a stem-winder this morning. But we were there to celebrate the carpenters of America, as well.

And I understand we don't necessarily agree on every single issue; but we agree to listen.  And I agree about this:  that you've got a good man running the Teamsters in Jimmy Hoffa.  (Applause.)  I don't know if that will help him or hurt him in his reelection campaign.  (Laughter.)  But let me tell you something about him.  Like Doug, if he's got an issue, he brings it forward in a straightforward way with the union workers -- with the union workers in mind.

And we listen.  We listen.  Ours is an administration that answers the phone.  We don't ask the question, how did you vote.  We ask the question, what's on your mind, is it good for America.  And that's why we're working together on some key issues.

Let me tell you another thing about Jimmy Hoffa.  He's running a good union.  (Applause.)  And in an above-board way, in an above-board way.  And make no mistake about it, people are beginning to notice, particularly in Washington, D.C.  (Laughter.)

Now, let me tell you, I'm a little concerned.  I'm proud of our workers; I'm concerned about the fact that our economy is just bumping along.  This is a Labor Day where we can't celebrate a booming economy. For the last 12 months -- let me repeat -- for the last 12 months the economy has been way too slow.  And people are hurting.  And people are suffering.  And there are families who wonder about how they're going to feed their kids, and I understand that and we've got help in Washington.

But the best thing we can do is ask the question, how do we make sure our economy grows.  And I came up with this answer:  our economy can grow best when we give people their own money back; when we give the hard-working Americans their own money in the form of rebates, so that you spend it.  And that's what's going to help this economy rebound.  The federal government must keep a lid on spending and remember that when the American consumer spends, it is the best way to kick-start a soft economy.

The biggest threat to economic vitality and economic growth is if Congress over-spends.  And that's why I'm glad to have Peter Hoekstra on my side.  He not only supported tax relief for the American families, he understands that Congress and Washington should not over-spend.

Now, I came in, I saw a sign that said, thank you for the rebate, Mr. President -- as if that's my money to give back.  But the person holding the sign, I appreciate the thanks --

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It's my money.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  It's not the government's money, it's the hard-working Teamsters' money, it's your money to begin with.  (Applause.)

There's another issue that we're working on.  And Jimmy Hoffa was on national TV yesterday talking about it.  And that's energy.  He understands good, sound energy policy means jobs for American workers.  And if we run out of energy, if we become more beholden to foreign sources of energy, it's going to be hard on the working families in America.  So he stood strong, as did Doug, with our administration as we developed the first energy plan in a long period of time for this government.

Now, energy means we've got to conserve better, and we will.  But it also means that when we can find exploration activities in our own country, it makes sense to do so.  It not only means independence, it means jobs. And I appreciate the leadership that Jimmy Hoffa took on good, sound energy policy in America.  (Applause.)

We're working hard on good education policy.  One of the reasons I like to come to picnics like this is people bring their families.  They bring their families to say hello to the President, they bring their families because they want to celebrate their off days with their kids. That's what I like.  And I understand a lot of folks in this audience understand the most important priority you have -- and not necessarily driving a truck -- but if you have a child, it's to love your child with all your heart and all your soul.  The most important thing you can do. (Applause.)

It doesn't matter what your job is, what your political party is.  If you're a mom or a dad, your most important job is to love your child and let them know that on an everyday basis.  In order to make sure America works the way we want it to, we've got to have an education policy that starts at home, with moms and dads setting a good example for their children, surrounding their children with love, giving their children confidence.

And then we've got to make sure we've got a public school system that works.  And that's why we're proposing education reform that insists upon local control of schools, but at the same time that says, we're going to measure to find out whether or not children are learning to read and write and add and subtract.  And if they are, we're going to praise the teachers.

But if we find schools that won't teach and won't change, we'll demand something different.  There are no second-rate children in this country called America, and there are no second-rate dreams as far as I'm concerned.  (Applause.)

We're going to be focusing on the economy and education.  And another issue I'm focusing on is security.  And for those of you who serve the United States in the military, I want to thank you for your service.  For those of you who have got relatives in the military, let me assure you I understand a strong military is needed to keep the peace.  (Applause.)

And, finally, we'll be talking about opportunity.  Opportunity not only means good education, opportunity means not only letting people keep their own money so you can spend it, so you can make the decisions for your families.  But opportunity means also understanding there are people in our society who hurt.

And, therefore, in order to make sure people realize the American Dream is meant for them, that we must rally the great compassion of America.  And oftentimes that's found in our churches and synagogues and mosques.  And our government must not fear institutions of faith that exist to love a neighbor, just like you'd like to be loved yourself.  We shouldn't resist faith-based programs -- we ought to welcome them, we ought to encourage them, we ought to spread them out in neighborhoods so nobody feels left out in America.  (Applause.)

I was walking in the audience here and somebody stuck out their hand and said, Mr. President, I pray for you.  I can't tell you how good that makes me feel.  They didn't say, let me check your voter registration card -- (laughter) -- they said, I'm praying for you.

And that speaks to the greatness of our country, I want you to know that; that ours is a nation of people on bended knee.   Ours is a nation that's got great values.  One of the values is hard work; another value is family; and another value is faith.  We're a nation where you're free to choose.

But there are a lot of faithful people in America, and that's what gives me great hope for the future of this country.  I know we can work our way out of the economic doldrums we have.  But I also know that we can love our way out of the problems we find in our neighborhoods, in our communities.

And my job as your President is to set a tone that will encourage the very best from each citizen.  My job as the President is to lift our sights and raise our spirits.  And my job as the President of the United States is to set an example for which you'll be proud.

I accept the challenge.  I'm honored to be here as your President. Thank you for your hospitality and may God bless you all.  May God bless you.  (Applause.)

END  2:47 P.M. EDT