For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 17, 2006
President Bush Welcomes 2006 U.S. Winter Olympic and Paralympic Teams
The South Lawn
10:16 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Please be seated. Laura and I are so honored to welcome the 2006 Winter Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House. It is such a joy to have you all here, and congratulations for being champs. (Applause.)
I appreciate the members of the Congress who are here: Senator Thomas and Congressmen Shays, Buyer, Hastings and Ryun. Thank you all for coming, thanks for honoring these great Olympians. Congressman Ted Poe from Texas, as well.
I want to thank all the athletes who've taken time to come. We really appreciate your giving us a chance to pay respects to your athleticism and your character. I want to thank the coaches and the team leaders and the U.S. Olympic staff. I particularly want to thank the members of the Texas A&M Singing Cadets for joining us today; thanks for coming to provide the -- (applause.)
I wish I could have been at the games there in Turin, but fortunately we do have TVs here in the White House. (Laughter.) It was such a thrill to watch you all compete. Laura represented our country and really enjoyed getting to know you all. She came back and talked about the kindness and the integrity of our athletes. I appreciate the fact that you treated her with such respect. More importantly, I appreciate the fact that you represented our country with such nobility and dignity.
I thank you for the example you set. I don't know if you know this or not, but there's all kinds of people watching our Olympic and Paralympic athletes wondering whether or not it's possible for them to be able to achieve the same level of accomplishments that you all achieved. The fact that you compete hard and train hard and set high goals and succeed is a really important part of encouraging others to follow in your footsteps. Being a champ means that you've got enormous responsibilities and I thank you for upholding those responsibilities with the class that you've showed as athletes in Turin.
Thanks for creating so many lasting memories for the American people. We love our athletes. We follow your successes. We love it when the "Star Spangled Banner" is played. We also understand that not everybody is going to win the Gold, but we appreciate so much the fact that you competed so hard and in such a way that brought honor to our country.
The memories are such that we remember the -- America's first medal in ice dancing in 30 years with Tanith and Ben. Congratulations to you both. We appreciate the courage of Lindsey Kildow, who overcame a terrible crash in the training run and then decided to continue to compete. That kind of courage stirs our hearts. It's such a great example for people.
We appreciate Joey Cheek, who won the Gold and then turned around and donated $40,000 to help the refugee children of Sudan. What a wonderful example for all of us here in America to know that with our personal victories comes the responsibility of helping those who suffer and those who need help.
We're honored that the "Flying Tomato" represented our country, and we want to thank all the dudes and dudesses of the snowboarders who are here. (Laughter and applause.)
America's Paralympians overcame incredible odds to earn 12 medals for our nation. Laurie Stephens was born with spina bifida. She won two Golds and the Silver Medal in alpine skiing. What a strong example for people to look at Laurie and realize that I can achieve dreams, too.
Steve Cook, he lost part of his right leg in a tractor accident. But that didn't stop him. He's gone on to earn seven medals in cross-country skiing, including two Golds and a Bronze in this year's Paralympics. Steve, I appreciate your courage and I appreciate the example you have shown for others.
Lonnie Hannah is with us. She had breast cancer last year and came back to help the U.S. sled hockey team win the Bronze in a really thrilling game against Germany.
All of our successes in the Olympics and Paralympics require unbelievable skill and determination. And they also required the support of a lot of people in your lives. The honors you've won are a tribute to, of course, your coaches and trainers, but also to your parents and to your brothers and sisters and your friends and supporters who continue to cheer you. I know all of you join me in thanking those who supported you.
At the Games you showed the best values of our country. You were humble in victory and gracious in defeat. You made us proud. And so here on the White House South Lawn, I want to thank you for being such great ambassadors to our country. Welcome, and may God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 10:24 A.M. EDT