|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2002
Remarks by the President to the Republican Party of Alaska
Alaskan Heritage Center
1:45 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you, Governor -- I mean -- (laughter and applause.) Thank you all for coming. Listen, I've been in Alaska long enough to remember when Edith Holmes sang The Star Spangled Banner. (Laughter.) God rest her soul. I actually met Edith when I was living in Fairbanks in 1974. I had the privilege of voting in the Republican primary in 1974. As you know, you've got a one-month residency requirement -- and I met it. So I voted. I can't remember who I voted for, but I was a proud participant.
I know I'm the only President ever to have voted in any kind of primary in Alaska. (Laughter.) But I have such fond memories of Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage. And as you know, there was a period of time when you had kind of weak immigration laws and a lot of Texans came up here. (Laughter.) Many of whom were my friends. But such a fabulous state. And thanks for such warm hospitality. And who said your three electoral votes didn't matter? (Laughter and applause.)
I'm real thrilled to be traveling with Laura, obviously. The last time I went overseas she didn't go. It was right after 9/11; I went to Shanghai for a quick meeting and came back. Now the people of the Far East are going to get to see a fabulous wife and a great mother and a great First Lady for the country. (Applause.)
I do want to thank all those folks who put this on today, and I particularly want to thank the members of the Alaska congressional delegation -- Senator Stevens, Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young. These are three very accomplished, capable, smart people who also have got a little bit of seniority, which helps. (Laughter.)
But, Senator Stevens, I wish he were here because I would like for him to hear what I am going to say about him. He is a -- he's a great legislator who loves America, and he is smart, and I really, really enjoyed working with him. He is a wonderful representative of the state of Alaska, obviously. But those of you who know Ted Stevens, you can't pigeonhole him just for one state. He really cares deeply about the nation, as does Frank.
And Don Young and I have worked a lot of times together on this airport security bill. And it's a good piece of legislation, and he deserves a lot of credit for seizing a moment and getting some good legislation through. It was a period of time when it was so important for the country to see that the government was actually doing something constructive at home to make -- to kind of ease the nerves of the American people. And Don did a really good job of working that issue. And I was proud to sign the bill that he had a major hand in getting to my desk.
And I also want to thank all the statehouse folks and the Mayor, George W. -- another George W. -- (laughter) -- there is. But it's a thrill for us to be here. We're on our way, obviously, to Japan, South Korea and China. It's an important trip, because we've got a lot in common with those nations. We've got trading interests. And as I mentioned in the speech over there, that one of the things I am going to continually remind these nations, that trade ought to be a two-way street, that if we open our market, they ought to open up theirs.
And I will work hard to do that, because we have got a competitive advantage in a lot of important areas, one of which is agriculture. I truly believe that it is in our nation's interests and the world's interests that we tear down these barriers to trade, so that we can feed people who are hungry.
I'm also going to talk about our values. The world obviously knows that we're willing to defend values, the values of freedom. And I'll explain to the leaders firsthand my absolute determination to do that.
I told the country at different times right after September the 11th that the farther we got away from the date, it's likely that people would grow weary and tired of the efforts. Not me, nor my administration. History has called us into action. And action is where we'll be. I've laid out a pretty clear set of objectives early on in the war against terror, but -- all focused on defending freedom. And it's as simple as that. It's good versus evil, and freedom is under attack.
My job, obviously, covers a lot of fronts, but there's nothing more important than the security of the American people, and to prevent an attack. And as much as I wish I didn't have to say this, I still believe we are under attack. And I see threats every morning. Having said that, you can rest assured we're doing everything in our power to keep America safe everything possible, obviously, within the confines of the Constitution, we're doing.
And I'm proud to report that the team is really working hard. You know, when I first came into office -- or, not first came into office -- well, first came into office, actually right around the September 11th period, the FBI's function was really to run down spies or white collar criminals. And there's nothing wrong with that, that's an important function of the FBI. But I can tell you with certainty they've got a new major focus, and that's preventing an attack. We've got over 4,000 FBI agents around the country that are working hand-in-glove with state and local authorities, just to give -- just to keep running down every lead, and every hint, and every opportunity to keep the country safe. And we are. And I'm pleased with the efforts being made.
But I'm also a realistic fellow. And I know that, in the long-term, in order to keep America safe, we've got to keep this vast coalition we've put together, and rout out terror wherever it hides and wherever it exists. And that's what we're going to do. That's what we're going to do.
The amazing thing for me is that the country is so patient and so determined and so resolved. And I am very grateful for that, as I'm sure you can imagine. It is such a powerful feeling to know that I represent a great land that is united in our efforts to secure freedom.
The other thing that I find interesting is that not only are we going to leave the world a safer and freer place, but I believe the culture is beginning to change. And one of the reasons I first ran for office in Texas and then eventually the presidency, was I was concerned about a culture which, as I said in my State of the Union, said, if it feels good, do it. The second half of that is, if you've got a problem, blame somebody else. And my wish is for the country is that we issue in a period of personal responsibility. (Applause.)
That means if you're a mother or a father, that your most important job is to love your children with all your heart and all your soul. That's really what a period of personal responsibility means; we all rededicate ourselves to the parenting, if we're fortunate enough to have a child. Or it means that you'll love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. Or if you're corporate America, it means you will have full disclosure on all your assets and liabilities. (Laughter.) Seriously, so that you don't mislead your shareholders or employees. There's certain responsibility that comes to those of us who have been entrusted with people's lives, in my case, or corporate America's lives, or individual lives, and we must seize that moment.
And you know, I -- probably the most meaningful moment for me was on Flight 93, when the guys got on the airplane and they hear -- they get the word that something's happening in Washington, the plane's hijacked. They tell their loved ones they love them, they say a prayer, and they drive the plane into the ground. It is the epitome of taking responsibility to save somebody else's life. It's the ultimate sacrifice.
I believe the country is asking how best to make ourselves better. And as I said in the speech in there, one way to do that obviously is to practice acts of kindness. And it's that -- it's the compilation of these acts of decency and responsibility that will eventually define America and eventually win the war against terror. (Applause.)
We've got some -- besides the military, besides the budget items, there's obviously an issue that's relevant here to Alaska that I am passionate about, and that is energy. It is so important that our nation be wise about our energy policy, and be -- first of all, we've got to conserve better, and we will. There's new technologies coming on that will enhance conservation. And that's important, no question about it. The less energy we use and still are able to grow our economy, the less dependent we are on somebody else's energy.
But we've also got to explore at home. And there is no better place to do so than in Alaska. (Applause.) There is a myth that somehow the environment cannot be protected if you find natural gas. As a matter of fact, natural gas will help protect the environment. (Laughter.) And it is -- we've got to do everything in our power to send a clear message about reality, that nature and exploration can coexist in a positive way.
I want to thank the Teamsters. Jerry Hood traveled with us today, and I've met with Jimmy Hoffa. He understands that this is more than just national security. We're also talking about people's jobs. This is a chance for people to get to work, and to make a living, and to put -- and to help battle this recession that we face.
So I am -- I told Frank, I can assure you, this is not only important for our national security interests, it's right for America that we pursue this. And obviously you don't need to persuade your -- any elected officials here. But if you happen to know somebody else in Congress that seems to like it, tell them the truth, tell them how it works, tell them how important it is for the country.
But we're having the time of our lives and it's been an -- as you can imagine, a fantastic experience in many ways, sad in many ways, very emotional for a period of time. But I've never been more optimistic about a country or a philosophy. I believe that philosophy that our party honors is one that heralds the individual, recognizes everybody has got potential and that the job of the government is to help people realize their potential. It's not to create wealth, but an environment in which people are willing to take risks so that the entrepreneur can flourish, you can own your own business. We believe strongly in the freedoms that we adhere so closely to, that -- we believe in private property rights and the rights of every citizen.
And so it's a proud moment for me to be able to represent the Republican philosophy to the United States, but, more importantly, show that it works. It works for people.
And then so the tax cut that I campaigned on that we worked hard to get not only has made a huge difference in the lives of our citizens, but it came by at the right time. Just as the economy was -- declared stagnant and dead in the water, we got a tax cut going which means people have got more money to spend, which means it's kind of a boost in the arm for our economy. And I wish I could say we're out of recession. I don't think we are. But there are some positive signs happening.
So, all in all, I guess what I'm telling you is, one, I love being your President. I want to thank you for helping me get there -- (applause.) I am incredibly optimistic -- optimistic about the country, optimistic about peace, optimistic about our future. I just feel so strong and it's great to be a President of a land of so many good people. And they don't even have to be Republican, as far as I'm concerned. (Laughter.) People from all walks of life.
So thanks for greeting Laura and me. Thanks for giving us a good send off as we go on to this important foreign policy trip. And may God bless you all. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:54 P.M. (L)