The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 12, 2002

Remarks by the President to the NCAA Sports Champions
The East Room


President's Remarks

3:42 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all.  Welcome.  I like a good, short introduction.  (Laughter.)  Thanks, Chris, for being here.  I appreciate you hosting this, and welcome to the White House.

We have never had so many champions inside a room in the White House history, so thank you for making history.  Not only on  --  when you won the championship, but being here, as well.  It's such an honor to welcome you here.  It's an unimaginable honor to live here and to share this with people from all around the country.  This is the people's house  --  it isn't our house, it's the people's house.  And we're glad you're able to see it.  And we're glad to herald champs, as well.

I love to talk about champs.  I love to talk about winning and setting high standards and working hard to achieve those standards.  And that's exactly what you all have done, and I really want to congratulate you.

I want to welcome Elaine Chao, who is the Secretary of Labor, who is here.  And Mel Martinez, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. They have got something at stake  --  one's from Kentucky, one's from Florida.  (Laughter.)  Jim Bunning is here, who knows something about athletics, himself.  He's a Hall of Fame pitcher, fine United States Senator from Kentucky.  Jim Kolbe from Arizona, and Ernie Fletcher from Kentucky, as well  --  thank you all for coming.

I saw Donna Shalala the other day at an event, and she must have a pretty good touch.  (Laughter.)  After all, she becomes the President and they win two national championships.  Congratulations.  Welcome back to the White House, and thank you for your service to the country.  (Applause.)

I appreciate Peter Likins, from the University of Arizona, for being here, as well.  Where's Peter?  Thank you for coming, sir.  I appreciate your being here.  (Applause.)  Father Paul Locatelli, from Santa Clara University  --  thank you, Father, for coming.  I appreciate you being here.  (Applause.)  And of course, we mentioned the coaches and the captains.

Before we go have our picture taken, I do want to say a few comments about our country.  First of all, we defend freedom, and we'll continue to defend freedom to make sure that our children and grandchildren can grow up in a free world.  You know, the enemy, when they hit America, didn't understand us.  They didn't think we were a nation that could conceivably sacrifice for something greater than ourself, that we were soft, that we were so self-absorbed and so materialistic that we wouldn't defend anything we believed in.  My, were they wrong.  They missed  --  they just were reading the wrong magazine, or watching the wrong Springer show. (Laughter.)

They didn't understand America.  And what they really don't understand is the nature of people who care about our society.  They don't realize we're a compassionate nation.

And so I hope the champs who are here understand that with being a champion, you have a responsibility  --  a responsibility to uphold an example to others.  You probably know this; I don't need to tell you this. But when you're playing baseball at the University of Miami, there's some little 8th-grade kid watching your every move, trying to figure out how cool he can be.  If you're a star volleyball player at Stanford, somebody's watching.  Or from Santa Clara; there's some young child, young girl watching what it means to be a champ.  And you have a responsibility as a champ to make the right choices, and to set a clear example for others. And we all have a responsibility to love a neighbor like we'd like to be loved ourself.

We've got a strong military here in America, and that's good.  That's how we're going to make sure our homeland is secure, by using our military. But we can all stand up in the face of this evil  --  collectively, stand up by doing something good in society.

I hope the athletes understand this.  I hope you understand that you have a responsibility as a champ not only to set the right example, but to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.  You have a fantastic opportunity as champs to help define the character of America; to help say loud and clear that we will not tolerate evil, and that we will  --  the collective goodwill of our country, the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness will define the very nature of America; that we will stand strong against evil by the collective goodness of our country.

You've shown that on the playing fields, and I want to congratulate you for being strong and great athletes.  Show it on the field of life, as well, and America will be a better place.

It's such an honor to welcome you here.  May God bless your futures. May God bless your talent.  And may God bless America.  Thank you for coming.

END         3:50 P.M. EST

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