The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 31, 2004

Remarks by the President at the 2004 "Congress of Tomorrow" Luncheon
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

11:25 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. I thought I would give the State of the Union again. (Laughter.) Actually, I'll spare you. I do want to thank the leadership for the House and the Senate, first and foremost, for being such good friends and great Americans. Speaker Denny Hastert is doing a fabulous job on behalf of the American people. (Applause.) And I want to thank Majority Leader Bill Frist for doing a fabulous job, as well. I appreciate your leadership. (Applause.) The country is better off by having these two good souls leading the Congress. (Applause.)

I want to thank McConnell, Santorum, and Kyl, DeLay, Blunt and Deborah Pryce, as well, for sitting up here with me, and for your leadership. I appreciate it very much. I'm proud to work with you. I want to thank my friend, Dennis Miller, who is here. I'm honored that he is here. He's a solid American who -- (applause.) And, of course, like you, I was most impressed by the vocalist this morning, Tim Kelly. Thank you, Tim. (Applause.)

I know that a member of my Cabinet is here -- is that an accurate statement? Where's Elaine? Elaine, thanks. You're doing a great job. I appreciate so much your service. (Applause.) Your service is great; your choice of husbands is somewhat questionable. (Laughter.) That's not right -- I mean, what the heck. (Laughter.) I really appreciate what you've done.

I want the people -- as you travel around the country, please remind people that one of the jobs of the President is to find really good folks to serve our government, people from all walks of life; honorable, decent people who have put country ahead of self-interest. And I have done just that. And Elaine is an example of the really quality people that are serving our country and my Cabinet. And I want to thank you for being here. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to thank Jerry Climer for hosting this event and making sure it runs well.

I think one of the things I was thinking about what to tell you here when I was flying in from Washington was that we're serving in historic times. And first I want to thank you for your service during these historic times. It's not easy to serve in the Congress or the Senate. It's a tough life, when you come and you work hard, and you represent your constituencies, and then you fly home. I see Thomas of California, Heather of New Mexico -- some people who are traveling a long way to serve the country. And so the first thing I want to tell you is I'm proud of your service and appreciate your willingness to serve our country.

And I also want to thank your spouses, as well; I want to thank your family members. (Applause.) When you swear in, you never know what's going to happen, and you better be ready to respond. And this Congress, in working with this administration, can say, we have responded to the challenges of our time. We have met the tests.

As we look back on the last three years, we've gone to war to uphold the most solemn duty of government, and that is to protect its people. We have dealt with national emergency. We not only responded to the emergency, we all worked together to help heal the psyche of the country that had been damaged. We dealt with recession. The economy was negative in growth for the first three quarters of 2001. Yet we responded. Instead of trying -- sitting around committee rooms or White House conference tables trying to figure out what to do, we figured it out. And we acted quickly, and we responded. Instead of the economy still languishing as a result of some incredible problems we face, it's now growing, and it's getting stronger.

We had some people that didn't tell the truth in America, these corporate CEOs that forgot what it meant to be a responsible citizen. And we responded. The Congress and the White House worked together to pass meaningful legislation that sends clear signals to our fellow citizens, regardless of their party or where they live, we expect people who are running corporations in America to tell the truth. We responded.

What I'm telling you is, history has dealt us a hand, and we're playing it well for the American people. And I want to thank you for that, very much. (Applause.)

These are historic times, because we're at war -- you're a war Congress. And this upcoming year we will continue to make sure our troops have what it takes to fight and win the war against terror. And not only make sure we fight and win the war against terror, but to make sure we continue to promote our values of freedom and, therefore, peace, in parts of the world where people long for freedom and peace, where people are desperate for freedom.

See, what we believe is that freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each person who lives in this world. And America -- (applause.)

No question, we will win the war on terror by staying on the offensive. This administration and this leadership is committed to making sure that we stay on the offensive against the terrorists. And we will be. But, as well, we've got to make sure we continue to protect the homeland. And I want to thank the members of Congress for working to implement a plan that is now being executed to better protect the homeland; to take lessons learned and to look at flawed systems and coordinate better, so we can tell the American people as best as we possibly can, we're working together to make sure the homeland is secure.

I want to thank you for your understanding of that solemn obligation and for your willing to work to make sure the homeland security programs are funded and implemented.

At home, we've got to make sure that the economy keeps growing. And one of the things we've shown the American people is we understand how the economy works. The economy doesn't work by growing government; the economy works by growing people's wallets so they can spend, save or invest. The tax cuts we passed are working. I look forward to taking the case to the American people and explain as clearly as I possibly can, this Congress heard the needs of the people looking for jobs; it responded; the tax cuts are working, and now we need to make them permanent. (Applause.)

There's a lot on -- there's a lot involved with making sure the economy continues to grow, and that's cost containment of health care, controlling the costs of health care to citizens and small businesses and large businesses. And we've got to continue to make sure we're a trading nation and open up markets for our entrepreneurs; less regulation. There's a lot of things we can do together to keep the economy growing. But one clear signal we need to send to the American people and the markets is, we're going to be wise when it comes to the expenditure of the people's money.

And we submitted a budget that says just that. And we look forward to working with you on it. You spend; I propose. Together we're responsible. And this is going to be a challenging year for making sure we spend the people's money wisely. And I sent up an initiative to do just that. It cuts the deficit -- the plan cuts the deficit in half over the next five years. And we look forward to working with you to make sure we meet that important goal, so that we can say to the American people, we've set priorities. We understand whose money we spend, and we're going to cut this deficit in half through wise policy.

And finally at home, it's important for us to kind of play to the strength of the country, to remember the true strength of America. It's not our military -- and by the way, we'll keep the military strong -- and it's not the size of our wallets, although we want to make sure our wallets all across the country are healthy. The strength of the country is the hearts and souls of the American people. That's where we find our true strength. See, we understand the proper relationship between government and the people. It's the people's government we represent.

And, as well, we shouldn't be afraid to empower those organizations that are serving our fellow citizens in an incredibly important and efficient way. They're serving because of love, first and foremost. They're following their hearts to mentor a child, or to feed the hungry, or to help the addicted. Congress understands -- I know the leadership does, and I know you do, as well -- the true strength of America is the American people. We must listen to them, we will trust their judgments, and we must empower them to love their neighbors just like they'd like to be loved, themselves.

Oh, '04 is going to be an unusual year for us all -- it's an election year. And the people are probably saying, well, they're going to play politics with our time. That's not my attitude, and I know it's not the leadership's attitude. Working together, like we have done over three years, working together to accomplish important things for the people, we can show the cynics and the critics that we're capable of doing the people's business, election year or not.

And I look forward to working with you. I appreciate your friendship. I'm proud to be serving with such a fine group of people during historic times. And there's no doubt in my mind we're making a significant difference for this country's security, prosperity and freedom.

God bless you all. (Applause.)

END 11:36 A.M. EST

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