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 Home > News & Policies > June 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 30, 2003

VP Remarks at Bush-Cheney 2004 Reception
Remarks by the Vice President at the Bush-Cheney 2004 Reception
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Grand Rapids, Michigan

12:10 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Well that was a remarkable welcome for the number two man on the ticket. (Laughter.) No denying the power of raw charisma. (Laughter.) How about that, Secchia? (Laughter.)

But I'm -- been looking forward to this event today. It's always great to come back to see so many friends here in Grand Rapids. And it has become an important part of our lives over the years, ever since my association with Jerry Ford some 30 years ago. Lynne and I spent the weekend with the President and Betty, just the last weekend -- not the most recent one, but a week ago -- out in Colorado. And they're doing very well, asked to be remembered to everybody.

And I arrived just a short time ago this morning from Washington on Air Force Two with a fine public servant, our Secretary of Energy and your former Senator, Spence Abraham, is travelling with us. (Applause.)

We're all here for the same reason today, although I expect each of you paid a little more than I did to get in. But I'm grateful to everybody who worked so hard to help organize the event. And I want to thank your early efforts, and your generosity in help lay the foundation for an effective campaign organization next year. And I want to thank you all for your commitment to the reelection of President George W. Bush.

It's been three years now since the Governor of Texas asked me to help him find a running mate. I did my part, formed a committee, did a search, gave him some ideas. The name he settled on came as a bit of surprise to me.

There were a few other surprises after I joined the ticket in 2000. The last national campaign I'd been a major part of was the valiant Ford-Dole effort of 1976. When that was over with, I thought I knew everything there was to know about close presidential elections.

At the time that the Governor picked me three years ago to be his running mate, he said he wasn't picking me because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) He got 70 percent of the vote there. But I like to remind him from time to time those three electoral votes came in pretty handy. (Laughter.)

That decision, obviously, was crucial in my life, and it brought me back into public life, and has given me the high privilege of serving as Vice President of the United States. And I was proud to accept, because I know the caliber of the man that I'm working for. I knew that if the American people sent us to Washington, we would not be going there simply to mark time. We were determined to solve problems, instead of passing them on to next generation. We were determined to seize new opportunities for reform and to get beyond the old debates that have stood in the way of progress for all too many years.

And today, as we look ahead to the election of 2004, we already have a record of accomplishment to show for our efforts. The American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of a new era, because of the character and the leadership qualities of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

In the weeks following the terrorist attack on America in September of two years ago, people in every part of the country, regardless of party, took great comfort and pride in the conduct of our President. From that day to this, President Bush has led a steady, focused, and relentless effort against the enemies who struck America and killed our citizens. The al Qaeda terrorists and their supporters spent years plotting the attacks of September 11th. In the time since, they have begun to realize what a grave miscalculation it was to make an enemy of this country, and of this President.

To date, we've captured or killed nearly half the al Qaeda leadership. Those still at large are living in fear, and their fears are well-founded, because we are on their trail. In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime brutalized an entire population. They harbored al Qaeda, and that regime is no more. In Iraq, a dictator armed to threaten the peace and gave support to terrorists, and that regime is no more.

In the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan, and other fronts in the war on terror, we've depended on the skill and the courage of the men and women in our Armed Forces. They've faced enemies who have no regard for the rules of warfare or morality. They've carried our urgent and difficult missions in some of the most remote and hostile parts of the world. They've done all of this with bravery and honor that we expect of them. And as a former Secretary of Defense, I have never been more proud of our men and women in uniform than I am today. (Applause.)

There was a time, just a few years ago, when the military was taken for granted. Readiness was faltering, and morale was beginning to suffer. In the campaign of 2000, President Bush and I gave our word that the United States Armed Forces would be given every resource they need and all the respect they deserve. And we've kept our word. (Applause.)

Three years ago, we also promised to reduce the federal tax burden, to let workers keep more of their own money, and give the economy a needed boost. By the time we took office, the economy was in recession, and confidence was further shaken by terrorist attacks and corporate scandals. Under the President's leadership, we passed new laws to prevent and punish corporate crime. And to help create jobs and get this economy growing again, we've delivered the largest tax relief since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)

As the Governor of Texas, George Bush made education reform a matter of the highest priority. He followed through by uniting members of both political parties behind sweeping reforms, and he promised to do the same as President. Many doubted it could ever be achieved. Yet in a short time, President Bush transformed the education debate in Washington. He set forth clear principles, and worked with Congress in the spirit of good will until the No Child Left Behind Act became law. Because of that milestone reform, the days of excuse-making are over, and we are bringing high standards, accountability, and regular testing to every public school in America.

Education reform is one of those issues that lingered for years in Washington. On so many problems, the country was getting used to endless delay, and debate, not much in the way of results. Yet things have changed fundamentally. Instead of constant gridlock, the government is actually confronting old problems, and acting decisively against sudden dangers and challenges. And the critical factor, in every case, has been the leadership of the President of the United States. (Applause.)

On the President's initiative, we're carrying out the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s, with the Department of Homeland Security being created to protect the nation. After the many failed attempts of the 1990s, we now have trade promotion authority to open up new markets for America's farmers, and ranchers, and manufacturers. And under the President's leadership, Congress agreed to a budget that funds key priorities, while maintaining spending discipline. And we're going to hold Congress to that pledge, as well.

On issue after issue, President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. And one of the sure signs of his leadership can be seen every day in the people that he's brought into government. When you can look around the table and see people like Andy Card, Condoleezza Rice, Don Evans, John Snow, Don Rumsfeld, Spence Abraham, Colin Powell, you know you are working with serious public servants, and one of the finest teams, I've ever seen, assembled by a President.

All of us in this administration know that our job is not to rest on our record, but rather to keep adding to that record. Abroad, the fundamental interests of the nation require that we oppose threats to our freedom and security wherever they arise. This war on terror will continue until every enemy who plots against the American people is confronted and defeated. (Applause.)

Yet overcoming threats is only the beginning of America's responsibilities toward other nations. There is great work in this world that only America can do. In the Middle East, we are encouraging free markets, democracy, and tolerance, because these are the ideas and aspirations that overcome violence, and turn societies to the pursuit of peace.

On the African continent, the President's AIDS initiative will bring the healing power of medicine to millions of men, women, and children who now live in desperate need. Under President Bush, America acts in the world according to both our fundamental interests and our founding ideals. We believe in the dignity of life, and the right of all people to live in freedom. All who strive and sacrifice for the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.

Here at home, we have a full agenda, and some pressing business yet to complete. After so many years of inaction, we are finally nearing major reform on Medicare. Seven months ago, President Bush submitted a framework of Medicare reform to Congress that would give seniors access to prescription drug coverage, and offer them better choices under Medicare.

Last week, both houses of Congress took historic action and accepted that principle of choice for seniors. Now Congress must complete its work, and send a bill to the President that not only strengthens and modernizes Medicare, but provides seniors with better health care coverage and relief from the rising costs of prescription drugs.

Our health care system also needs liability reform, because doctors should spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.) The lawsuit culture is a national problem that requires a national solution. The House has passed a good bill. The Senate should do as well.

We're going to continue to press Congress to pass an energy plan. The President has proposed a comprehensive energy strategy that includes greater energy efficiency, conservation, cleaner technology, and the production of more natural gas and other fuels here at home. For the sake of our economic security and our national security, we must make America less dependent on foreign oil.

Another urgent matter concerns our federal courts, many of which have empty seats on the bench. The President has nominated superb men and women to fill these vacancies, selecting people of experience and proven judgment, who understand that the role of the courts is to interpret the law, not invent it.

Yet a small group of senators is trying to keep some of the President's nominees from even receiving an up-or-down vote. This is a disservice to the court, and it is unfair to these well-qualified nominees. The Senate has a responsibility to give every individual nominee a prompt hearing, and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. (Applause.)

We have achieved a great deal in these two-and-a-half years. But there is a great deal left to do in Washington. And across the world, this nation has many serious responsibilities and challenges. The campaign season will come in due course. And when it does, we will run hard and take nothing for granted. President Bush and I know that the key to victory is to do the work we've been given, and to do it well. We intend to make good use of every day that we have the honor of serving the American people.

Long before I took this job, I had the good fortune to work with other presidents whom I greatly admire. As a White House staffer in the aftermath of Watergate, I saw President Ford restore confidence in government by his decency and force of character. As a Congressman during the decisive years of the Cold War, I saw the conviction and the moral courage of Ronald Reagan. And as a member of the Cabinet under former President Bush, I saw the ideal of public service in its purest form, and came to know a leader of true honor and complete integrity.

Along the way, I learned a few things about the presidency, and the kind of person that it takes to do that job well. It takes the finest qualities of character: Conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, compassion, and courage in times of testing for the nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the White House today. (Applause.)

It's my great honor to work with President George W. Bush. And he and I are both honored by your confidence in us, and by your commitment to the cause we all serve.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

--END-- 12:26 P.M. EDT