For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 12, 2004
President Speaks to Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
International Training Facility
Las Vegas, Nevada
11:02 A.M PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you all, very much. Thank
you all, very much, for coming. Thanks for the warm welcome. It's
good to be back here in Nevada.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) I want to thank -- I want
to thank Doug and the good folks here in this training facility for
welcoming us. I appreciate your smart work and your hard work and your
dedication to helping our fellow citizens gain the skills necessary to
be able to find work.
And I just want to talk a little bit about the importance of
education, but the reason I'm so grateful that the Carpenters have been
so hospitable here is that this is an example of what works. That's
what we're interested in in life; we're interested in finding things
that work and heralding them. And I want to thank Doug for your
I'm not the only Bush who's recently been in Las Vegas. You might
remember my wife was back here recently. (Applause.) She went on the
Leno show the next night. (Laughter.) She said something along the
lines, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. (Laughter.) I was
interested in hearing her say that. (Laughter and applause.)
She's doing great, by the way. I was a lucky fellow when she said,
yes. (Applause.) And she's a wonderful First Lady and great mom. I'm
going to meet up with her here in a little bit to continue our journey
throughout the West.
Really what I'm doing is traveling around, letting the people know
that I'm interested in earning your vote. I really believe that a
person running for office -- (applause). I'm also interested in
letting people know I've got more to do to make this country a better
place, a stronger place, and a safer place. And I appreciate the
chance to come and talk about my vision for the future of this country
I want to thank Doug, and I also want to thank his brother Mike.
I'm not sure which one of them is prettier. (Laughter.) But they're
both smart, and they're both good Americans.
I want to thank Dale Shoemaker for his leadership here. I want to
thank Doug Banes, and Andy Silins, Bill Irwin. These are all folks who
make this facility work well -- appreciate your hospitality. It's
great to meet the workers from all around our country.
I went to the facility next door where Doug and his folks are
training people how to work on these big GE engines and there's people
from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and southern Indiana, some are from McAllen,
Texas. People from all around the country are here to gain the skills
necessary to be able to work and put food on the table. And again,
that's why I'm here. This is a program that works.
I want to thank my friend the Governor, Kenny Guinn, for coming out
to say hello. I appreciate him being here. (Applause.) Congressman
Jon Porter -- he's a good fellow, a really good fellow, and I
appreciate him coming out. (Applause.) Congressman Jim Gibbons --
he's from northern Nevada. (Applause.)
I know we got members of the Nevada National Guard, First Squadron,
221st Calvary. I appreciate you being here. (Applause.) I appreciate
you being here. Thanks for your service.
I told you, one of the things I'm working on is to make the country
a better country. See, I know the strength of the country is the
hearts and souls of the citizens. Right here in Nevada, you've got a
lot of loving citizens who are willing to help neighbors in need.
When I landed today, I met a fellow named Mike Peschl. Where are
you, Mike? There he is. Thank you for coming, Mike. Here's what Mike
does. Mike has now worked on his 34th home for Habitat for Humanity.
It is a -- (applause) --
He spends every Saturday at a Habitat building site. What he is
doing is helping to transform America one heart and one soul at a
time. He knows what I know, that there's nothing better at a Habitat
site to work with the eventual homeowner. And that accomplishes two
things. One, it shows somebody cares about them. That's what Mike
works -- Mike is loving a neighbor like he'd like to be loved himself.
You know what else it does? It encourages an ownership society in
America. We want more people owning things. We want more people
owning their own home in this country. (Applause.)
We'll continue rallying the armies of compassion all across the
country. See, I understand government can hand out money, but it
cannot put hope in a person's heart or sense of purpose in a person's
life. (Applause.) That's done when people have heard a call and are
willing to put an arm around somebody who is lonely or hurts or is
addicted and says, I love you, brother or sister; what can I do to help
you? America will change. America will change one soul at a time.
The stronger -- the stronger America is an America where people can
find work. And I was obviously concerned about our country after a
recession. That means people weren't working. It means we were going
Of course, we started to recover from that recession, and then we
got attacked, and that hurt our economy. Make no mistake about it, the
attacks of September the 11th hurt. We had some corporate scandals.
That hurt. And we've got people who don't tell the truth, it begins to
shake the confidence of our economy.
We dealt with these situations. I'm going to talk a little bit
about the war later on, but we passed laws that say to our corporate
citizens, you will be held to account if you do not tell the truth to
your shareholders and your employees. (Applause.)
We've overcome the obstacles. You know why? We've got great
workers. We've got productive, hardworking people in America. We've
overcome these obstacles because the entrepreneurial spirit is strong,
the small business sector of our economy is alive and well. We have
overcome these obstacles because our farmers and ranchers are good.
We've overcome these obstacles because we refuse to -- we refuse to be
intimidated. The spirit of America is strong, and our economy is
strong as well. (Applause.)
I also believe one of the reasons that we have overcome these
obstacles is because we provided well-timed tax relief to the small
businesses and the workers of America. (Applause.) If a construction
worker has got more money in his pocket, he's going to demand an
additional good or a service. And when they demand that additional
good or a service, somebody has to produce the good or a service. And
when somebody produces a good or a service, somebody is more likely to
keep a job or find work. That's how the economy works. That's why the
tax relief was important.
We also helped people with families. If you're working and you've
got a child, we helped you raise that child by raising the child
credit. (Applause.) If you're married, we helped you with the
marriage penalty. Let me -- (applause). It's a backward tax code,
isn't it, when you penalize marriage? We ought to be encouraging
marriage in our country. (Applause.)
We helped small businesses.
Listen, this economy is strong, it's getting stronger, there's
still work to be done. I mean, think about it, the unemployment rate
in this state is at 4.2 percent. People are working in Nevada.
(Applause.) People can make a living in this state. (Applause.)
National unemployment rate is at 5.5 percent, of the strongest economy
in the world amongst industrialized nations.
But there's more to do. In order to keep jobs here at home, we
need an energy policy in America to make us less dependent on foreign
sources of energy. (Applause.) In order to keep jobs at home, we
ought to be confident about our ability to compete in the world.
There's some economic isolationists that want to wall us off. I
think that's a mistake. Listen, we've opened up our markets. It's
good for American consumers when there's more products coming in for
people to choose from. That's how you get better quality at better
price. What I'm asking is for other countries to treat us the way we
treat them because we can compete with anybody, anyplace, anywhere in
the world. (Applause.)
In order to make sure jobs stay here, we got to have health care
policies that make it more affordable for people to have health
insurance. Most small businesses have trouble affording health
insurance. Large businesses are fine. It's the small business sector
that is having trouble providing health insurance for our fellow
citizens. And therefore, I think small businesses ought to be allowed
to pool risk across jurisdictional boundaries so they can get the same
discounts for health insurance that big companies get. (Applause.)
Listen, we're going to use technology to help change health care to
make it more efficient, to cut down on mistakes, and to help control
costs. The health care industry needs to become modernized. It needs
to welcome technology so that it can be a more efficient deliverer of
services. We've got to make sure that the patient and doctor are
central to the decision-making processes in health care, not federal
bureaucrats. That's why I'm for health savings accounts, which are
We'll make sure the Medicare modernization bill I signed works,
gives seniors choices and prescription drug coverage. We'll continue
to provide community health centers for the poorest of our citizens.
And to make sure that health care is available and affordable, we need
medical liability reform. (Applause.)
You know what I'm talking about in Nevada when it comes to medical
liability reform. (Laughter.) You've seen the costs of frivolous
lawsuits. Ask your small business neighbor what it's like to try to
provide health care when the costs are going up because of these
frivolous lawsuits. Ask your neighbors what it's like when there's a
threat of lawsuit. That's why we need tort reform, as well. These are
practical ways to make sure this economy grows. (Applause.)
And finally, to make sure this economy grows and continues to grow,
we need to be wise about how we spend your money in Washington, and
keep your taxes low. (Applause.) Just be careful -- all I ask you is
be careful about all this talk about taxing the rich. You know how
that goes. The so-called rich hire accountants and lawyers to maybe
not pay as much, and therefore, in order to meets all these promises
guess who gets to end up stuck with the bill?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We do.
THE PRESIDENT: The working people. Be careful of this language.
We've heard it before in American politics.
Now, one of the reasons I'm here is because I understand the
importance of education when it comes to making sure our workers are
able to find jobs. (Applause.) Doug's outfit has been really
innovative. In other words, what he says is, is that, we got the
skilled workers. We got hard working people, and now we want to match
their desire to work and their skills with the jobs which actually
exist. That's why we went and saw the -- these big turbine-driven
engines. People are looking for workers, people who know these
engines. And so that's what the apprenticeship program was all about
and the skill training programs are all about, it's the practical use
of people's time so that people can do what they want to do, which is
work. And my attitude is, is that we ought to listen carefully to the
strategy employed by this union and implement at places like our
community colleges, as well.
See, there are a lot of people who want to work but the jobs, the
nature of the jobs are changing. These jobs are changing. And
therefore, they need help. They need a little extra education to be
able to fill the new jobs. I think, for example, of meeting with
textile workers. Their jobs left, but there's enough government money
to pay for the re-education. And now they're in the health care field,
and they're making more money in the new job after getting some
That's what Doug understands, a little added value. If you help
somebody with some extra training, they become more productive. And
more productive workers makes more money. And so the federal
government ought to be wise about how we use taxpayers' money, and that
includes providing training at community colleges for people who want
to work and need new skills to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
So I've laid out a plan to double the number of workers that get
re-educated, find additional skills so they can make more money. They
got to have innovative training accounts. They need less bureaucracy.
If you look at the work force training programs in the government, if
you put an objective look on them, you'll find that a lot of money goes
to bureaucracy and not enough goes to the workers. And that's what we
want to focus on. We want to focus on the people who we're trying to
help. We want to make sure that -- (applause.) I believe we ought to
increase our budgets for these training programs, and we'll call upon
-- continue to call upon Congress to do so -- because it's money
See, I think the role of government is to help people help
themselves. And one way to do so is through good valid education
programs, just like they do here at this site. (Applause.) Doug was
telling me he went over to the Labor Department to tell them what for,
I guess, or at least to give them a little nudge in the right
direction. But I appreciate that. The reason I bring that up is I do
think it's very important to work with people like Doug and the union
here, to help people understand that we need a million new jobs to fill
the construction jobs over the next decade. And that's a challenge all
of us have got to work on together. We've got to make it clear there
are jobs available. That's why these job fair hosts need to be
notified about the opportunities available for our citizens. That's
why we need guidance counselors to understand. That's why the
governors, like Kenny, must understand that there are great career
opportunities available for people in the construction field. And
there's also an opportunity for these good people to be able to be
trained and get the skills necessary. Like right here at this union
The other thing we've got to do is make sure our kids learn early
before it's too late. Listen, when I got up there, there was -- too
many of the kids were being shuffled from grade to grade without the
skills necessary to succeed. It's time somebody said, let's stop this
practice. For the sake of our future, let's make sure we raise the
standards and hold people accountable in our public schools.
(Applause.) We did. We've increased funding at the federal level for
public schools by some 49 percent since 2001. But now we're asking
some questions, like is the money being well-spent? Can you read, can
you write, can you add and subtract? Seems like legitimate questions
to ask. (Applause.) And if not, here is extra help to make sure our
children can read, write, add and subtract -- early before it is too
There is more work to do to make sure a high school diploma means
something. There is more work to do for intervention programs in
junior high, for example. And there is more work to do to spend money
to encourage our children in math and science, because the truth of the
matter is, for example, those 1 million construction jobs are going to
require a higher level skill than ever before. And our schools must
lay the foundation to help these folks with the jobs of the 21st
century. That's what we're talking about, and that's the kind of
education program that makes sense. (Applause.) That's why I'm at
this facility. Education is the best way to make sure we keep jobs
right here in America. (Applause.)
I want to talk about a couple more issues before I want to spend a
little time on how to -- on how to secure the country and make the
world a more peaceful place. But I do want to talk about two issues
related here to Nevada. One, water. I was raised in Midland, Texas.
(Applause.) There you go. (Laughter.) Remember what it was like out
there? No water. I understand how precious water is. People in
Nevada understand how precious water is. And there is a role for the
federal government. For example, there is a role for the federal
government to resolve disputes like the Colorado River water dispute.
I instructed Gale Norton, my Secretary of the Interior, to work
with all parties to develop innovative strategies, to develop
conservation plans to help meet Nevada's water needs. And there is an
agreement in place. After years of discussion and adherence to the
status quo, we got an agreement. What I'm telling you is that we see
problems, and this administration works to solve them. (Applause.)
Last summer we lost what's called Water 2025 initiative. Gale is a
Westerner, by the way; she understands water needs. She understands
the problems in the West. She understands there are competing
interests for scarce water. This program promotes conservation, as I
mentioned. It expands the use of voluntary water markets. It provides
advanced technology, like automated pumping and canal controls. It
funds research into new technologies to better deliver water and
conserve resources. In other words, it is a comprehensive strategy to
deal with a problem that needs to be dealt with.
And we look forward to working with the states and the local
authorities to better safeguard this precious resource. I know the
Mayor of Henderson is with us today. Mr. Mayor, we will listen to
you. And I know Kenny will listen to you. This is an effort where
we've all got to work together to bring the stakeholders in place so
the people of this part of the world will have water not only today but
in future years.
And we're spending money. My budget for Water 2025 more than
doubles the $8.4 million that had been spent to date to $21 million. I
mean, we're beginning an effort to make sure that the people of this
part of the world understand how precious your resource is and how best
to not only conserve it and use it, but to develop it in a way that
will enable your quality of life to continue on.
The other issue, of course, I want to talk about is Yucca
Mountain. This is a vital question, and we need to keep facts, not
politics, at the center of the debate. (Applause.) It's an issue
that's been developing for a while. Since the 1987 congressional vote
to focus exclusively on Yucca Mountain, Presidents have considered this
issue, as did I. When I campaigned here in this state, I said I would
make a decision based upon science, not politics. I said I would
listen to the scientists, those involved with determining whether or
not this project could move forward in a safe manner. And that's
exactly what I did. I listened -- I listened to the -- I listened to
the people -- (applause) -- who know the facts and know the science,
and made a decision.
Now, I've listened, also, as well, to your Governor and Senator
Ensign and to the congressmen and to your fine Attorney General. They
didn't agree with my decision. I understand that. They made
themselves very clear. And I said, well, I appreciate your opinion,
but I will -- I'll tell you what I will do. I will allow this process
to be appealed to the courts and to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
and I will stand by the decision of the courts and the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission. (Applause.)
Now, my opponent is trying to turn Yucca Mountain into a political
poker chip. (Laughter.) He says he's strongly against Yucca here in
Nevada, but he voted for it several times. (Applause.) And so did his
running mate. My point to you is that, if they're going to change, one
day they may change again. (Laughter and applause.) I think we need
-- I think you need straight talk on this issue. I think you need
somebody who is going to do what he says he's going to do. (Applause.)
Let me talk about one other subject. I know it's on your mind,
it's clearly on my mind -- and that's how best to secure our country.
(Applause.) We -- they're -- first of all, no President wants to be a
war President. That was my last choice. And the enemy attacked us and
we got to respond.
I'm going to share some lessons about September the 11th: first,
the nature of the people that attacked us. I tell people that you
cannot negotiate with these folks. You cannot -- you cannot reason
with them. Their hearts are so filled with hatred, they're willing to
take innocent life (snaps fingers) like that. These are people that --
they only understand one thing and that is force and justice. And
that's what they will get. We will pursue them wherever they exist.
Thank you all. (Applause.) See, I understand we must pursue them
overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) I
understand. The second lesson is that this is a different kind of war
than we were used to, and this is a shadowy network of cold-blooded
killers that can hide in cities around the world where they can find
safe haven. And therefore, in order to better secure America, we not
only needed to say to them that we will bring you to justice, but we
needed to say to their allies and people willing to harbor them, or
feed them, or hide them that you're just as guilty as those who came
and killed the people in America. (Applause.)
And when America speaks, it better mean what it says. And so when
I said to the Taliban, give them up or face serious consequences, I
meant exactly what I said. (Applause.) And today the world is safer,
and America is safer because Afghanistan has been liberated from the
Taliban. I want you -- just think about this -- in less than four
years' time, Afghanistan has gone from a brutal dictatorship that
denied many young girls the right to go to school, that was more than
willing to drag their moms or women into the public square and whip
them, and in some cases, kill them, to a society in which over 8
million people have registered to vote. They're going to have
presidential elections in October. (Applause.) Afghanistan is an ally
in the war on terror.
Another lesson of September the 11th is that when we see a threat,
we must take it seriously before it fully materializes. That is a
vital lesson. It's a change, obviously, of doctrine because prior to
9/11, we used to think, well, gosh, if we saw a threat, we're safe
anyway. It may affect somebody somewhere else, but it surely can't
affect America. That's what changed on that fateful day. And it's
really important for our country to understand it. I want you to know
I clearly understand that.
And so, therefore, when we looked at -- when we looked around the
world and saw threats, we began to act in a different fashion. Now,
look, I want -- I would like to deal with all threat diplomatically.
That's the first choice. The use of our military is the last option.
And so we saw a threat with Saddam Hussein. You say, why did you see a
threat? Of course, we looked at intelligence and saw a threat, but we
also remembered the nature of the regime of Saddam Hussein. He used
weapons of mass destruction. He harbored terrorist organizations, Abu
Nidal's organization. This is a guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer.
He's a known terrorist, killed an American. He's in and out of Iraq.
Actually, he received safe harbor in Iraq.
Now, Zarqawi's network -- he's the people -- he's the guy now -- he
just beheads people like that to try to shake our will and our
conscience. Saddam Hussein paid the families of suiciders. Paying
people whose loved one goes and kills somebody is a part of a terrorist
act. He is a dangerous man. He was shooting at our pilots.
We had been to war with Saddam Hussein before. And he was a source
of instability. And so I looked at the intelligence. Now remember,
the United States Congress -- I thought it was important to bring the
Congress -- get Congress involved with this very important matter.
They understood the stakes. They looked at the intelligence. They
remembered the nature of Saddam Hussein. Members of both political
parties stood up and said, we support the President, if he has to use
force, in using force -- including my opponent. (Applause.)
It looked like for a while he was trying to squirm out of that
vote. (Laughter.) The other day, he said that knowing what we know
today, he still -- he agreed that the use of force in Iraq was
necessary. I welcome -- I welcome that clarification. (Laughter and
applause.) He's still got 82 days left in the campaign, though.
(Laughter and applause.)
I went to the -- I went to the United Nations. See, I -- as I told
you, I think diplomacy should be tried first. And I went to the United
States, and the U.N. Security Council voted 15 to nothing that said to
the tyrant, disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. And so the
world was once again saying to Saddam, you're a threat. Everybody
recognized that in the post-9/11 world that a threat needed to be dealt
with. He defied the world, as he had done for over a decade. He
systematically deceived the inspectors. Remember we sent inspectors in
to try to find the truth, and they were systematically deceived.
That's the reality. And so after a period of time, I had a choice to
make. Tony Blair had a choice to make. Other leaders had choices to
make. (Applause.) And that is, do we forget the lessons of the modern
world and hope for the best, and hope that Saddam Hussein all of a
sudden miraculously changes his attitude about America and terrorism
and weapons, or do we take action necessary to defend ourselves and to
spread freedom and peace? And given that choice, I will take action
every time. (Applause.)
Knowing what we know today -- I thought we were going to find
stockpiles; everybody did. But he had the capability of making
weapons. And if the world had turned away from watching Saddam, that
capability could have been passed on to terrorist enemies. It's a risk
we could not afford to take. Knowing what I know today, I would have
made the same decision, and the world is better off for it.
(Applause.) The world is better off for it.
Because America has led, the world is safer. We put together a
great coalition. Over the next four years, I'll continue to work with
our friends and allies. If you think about Afghanistan, there's nearly
40 nations there. If you think about Iraq, with allies and friends --
Japan, South Korea, Great Britain, the Dutch, the Danes, Poles --
countries all around the world understand what we know, that free
societies are peaceful societies. They understand the stakes. The
know what's really important. But I'll assure you, I'll never turn
over America's national security decisions to leaders of other
I also want to say to the loved ones who are here, those whose
loved one wear a uniform, the government has an obligation to your
husbands, wives, sons or daughters to make sure you've got all -- your
loved one has all he or she needs to fulfill the mission. That's an
important part of this debate. (Applause.) And I would ask you to ask
your fellow citizens to remember what happened when I submitted a
supplemental funding request to the United States Congress in September
of last year. It was an $87 billion request for more body armor and
fuel and spare parts and ammunition, money necessary so that we could
complete our missions. And it was overwhelmingly approved by the
Congress. Members of both parties supported it; my opponent didn't.
And he gave this explanation -- he said, "I actually did vote for the
$87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter and applause.) I
think you need somebody who speaks plainly and honors our commitment --
honors our commitment of our government to those who wear our uniform.
And that $87 billion was necessary. (Applause.)
I believe these are historic times. I believe history --
historians will look back and say, this was a really important period.
This is a time where we need firm resolve and clear vision about the
stakes. But not only -- not only must we stay on the offense to
protect our country, and not only make sure our homeland defenses are
wise and the strategies are good and the people are well-compensated --
and you've just got to know a lot of people are working hard to protect
us -- but we've got to also take on another mission, and that is to
deal with the conditions that give rise to terrorism.
So there's a long-term strategy, and it's spreading freedom. We,
in America, understand that liberty can be a transforming power for
societies. If you've got a loved one in Iraq -- does anybody here have
a loved one in Iraq? You do? Thank you. (Applause.) Let me -- I
appreciate -- I appreciate that. I want you to know that your loved
one is serving the country and the world in a powerful way. Not only
-- as I said, we'll defeat people there so we don't have to face them
here, but a free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East is going to be a
transforming event. This is a part of the world where people --
(applause) -- the people are desperate for freedom. This is a part of
the world where people -- they're frustrated, the deep resentments
because they're not free. We, in America, believe everybody deserves
to be free. We believe it's the Almighty God's gift to every man and
woman on Earth -- freedom. (Applause.)
And, therefore -- and therefore, I want you all to know that the
long-term consequences of a free Iraq will make our children safer; it
will make the children in other parts of the world safer, as well.
It's going to -- this is -- these are transforming times.
I'll tell you an interesting story, at least I think it is. I was
having lunch with the Prime Minister of Japan -- a dinner with him, and
he's a friend of mine. And there I was sitting down with the head of a
country that my dad fought against, and I'm sure some of your dads
fought against him, too. It was an enemy, and he represented a country
which was an enemy of our country. We lost a lot of lives in World War
II because we fought each other. And after World War II, my
predecessor and others understood, however, that a country could be
transformed by liberty, by the habits of liberty. And they stuck to
their guns. They didn't listen to the critics and the pessimists. And
eventually, Japan became a self-governing nation where the people were
And therefore, the discussion had changed over a period of time,
hadn't it, from one where there was war, and Prime Minister Koizumi and
I were now discussing peace. We were discussing how best we could deal
together with Kim Jong-il and his nuclear weapons ambitions. We were
talking about the peace. This country loves peace. I want there to be
a peaceful world. (Applause.) But I was able to have that
conversation, in large part, because after World War II, there was a
strategy to help our enemies become free countries. Some day, an
American President will be sitting down with an elected leader from
Iraq, talking about the peace,
talking about how to make the world a more peaceful place.
That's what's at stake. And that's why it's really important for
us to complete the mission. There's a lot of people watching America
right now. They're wondering whether or not we've got what it takes to
complete the mission. They hear things like, well, I'm going to
substantially reduce our troops in six months. That's a bad signal, as
far as I'm concerned. It's a signal that says all the enemy has to do
is wait us out. It means that the Iraqis who are worried about their
future -- after all, what they don't want to do is go back to the day
where a tyrant could come and summarily execute them if he felt like
it, therefore, they're afraid to take risks for peace. So they kind of
say, well, I wonder whether or not this country really means what it
says. It's essential that when America speaks, it means what it says
and that we should not be sending mixed signals to allies and enemy
We will succeed. We will succeed. You know why we're going to
succeed? One, we do have what it takes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible). (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: We -- we do have what it takes. We've got the
vision and the courage and the willingness to serve a great cause. The
other reason we'll succeed is because people want to be free. People
from all walks of life want to be free. Mothers and dads in Iraq want
to raise their children in a peaceful environment, just like moms and
dads here in America do. People long for peace. They want peace.
They've got peace in their hearts. They long for a world where -- that
is a decent world. And that stands in stark contrast to the enemy.
And we've been called --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You rock, Mr. President! (Laughter and
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish my one story that is a compelling
story. I've told it several times here on this trip and out on the
road. It's the story about the time seven Iraqi citizens came to see
me in the Oval Office. The Oval Office is a powerful place. It's --
you know, people walk in and just get overwhelmed by the majesty of
this shrine to democracy. I do, on a daily basis. And the only person
I know that didn't was my mother, who walked in and continued to tell
me what to do. Anyway -- (laughter) -- that's a cheap shot, I know.
Anyway, the seven men come in. They -- they're Iraqi citizens.
All seven had had their right hands cut off by Saddam Hussein because
the currency -- his currency had devalued and he needed to blame
somebody. And one fellow explained to me why him, and it was because
he had sold dinars to buy -- I think he said Euros or dollars to buy
gold so he could then manufacture jewelry. He was a small merchant.
And so he picks these seven guys out and cuts their right hands off.
And then burns an X in their foreheads and charges them for the
Fortunately, a documentary was made of the plights of these
people. And a guy in Houston, Texas saw it. He was a successful
person who believed that you have a duty in life to help others, and
flew these seven men over to Houston where they were fitted with new
hands. And it was shortly thereafter that they came to see me. And it
was -- I'm telling you, it was a powerful moment to see the stark
contrast between a society that -- where somebody could just summarily
say, I don't like you, I'm going to chop your hand off, and a society
full of compassionate people that were willing to heal the hurt by
helping these people with a new hand. (Applause.) And that's what
we're really working on.
I told these men there, I said, come in the Oval Office. I want
you to be in a place where the office is bigger than the person.
That's what free societies that are stable societies do. They have
institutions that are bigger than the people. And some day, I said to
them, you will have institutions bigger than your people, so that never
again can somebody summarily disfigure you.
And that's what we're talking about, really, when you think about
it. We're talking about the difference between good and evil. We're
talking about the difference between compassion and tyranny. And we're
talking about a world in which people are able to realize their hopes
and dreams and aspirations without fear of brutal tyranny.
America will be safer, and the world will be better, because of the
actions we are taking today. May God bless you all, and may God bless
our country. (Applause.) Thank you all. (Applause.)
END 11:48 A.M. PDT