|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
March 7, 2008
Vice President's Remarks at the Navy Recruit Training Command
Naval Station Great Lakes
Great Lakes, IL
12:45 P.M. CST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: At ease, please. And thank you very much for that welcome. It's almost enough to make me want to run for Congress again. (Laughter.) Almost. (Laughter.) But I'm glad to be here. I want to thank Admiral Lotring for his warm welcome this morning. And I appreciate the introduction, and the opportunity to be with all of you. Staff and instructors, special guests, and Recruits: I want to thank you for what you do for all of us. It's a tremendous honor to visit Recruit Training Command Great Lakes -- the Quarterdeck of the United States Navy.
A little while ago I had the chance to meet the men and women who spent last night going through Battle Stations. They were invited to come over here and listen to my speech, but the Admiral figured they'd suffered enough. (Laughter.)
But it was a memorable experience to be there with Divisions 105, 106, 107, and 108 as they took off the cap that said "Recruit" and put on the one that said "Navy." In that moment they became part of a great American tradition -- one that you Recruits will join in the weeks to come. I'm honored to be with so many fellow citizens who have chosen to serve a cause greater than self. I look at you with admiration, with confidence, and with pride. And I bring the great respect and good wishes from your commander in chief, President George W. Bush.
Over the past 97 years, this Naval Station has sent forth well over three million highly trained American sailors to defend the nation and our freedom. The standards have always been demanding -- and the superb staff and instructors here today have kept things that way. Generations of American families have known Great Lakes as a special place -- where a loved one of theirs answered the call of service and put on the uniform of the United States Navy.
That's what Great Lakes means to your family, and to mine. When I was a young boy, in the middle of the Second World War, I can remember my Dad joined the Navy and came here for boot camp. His next stop was Naval Station San Diego, and I can still remember when he was on leave and showed up at the house wearing his uniform. As it happens, it happened to be on my fourth birthday. It's one of my earliest memories, so I wasn't very old, obviously, at the time. I had a lot of questions for him -- where had he been? What had he been doing? He explained to me that he was now in the Navy. He said he was a yeoman. He pointed to the insignia there on his shoulder, which looked to me an awful lot like a bird. Being only four years old, I concluded that when Dad was home, he was just Dad -- but when he went back to the Navy, he turned into some kind of bird. (Laughter.) You see, very early in life, I decided the United States Navy could do just about anything.
When my Dad and his contemporaries went into the service, the country was in the midst of a war, which had begun on December 7th, 1941, with a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
Your generation also signed up for the Navy during wartime, when the country needed you most. You belong to the branch of our military that travels farther and wider than any of the others. To be credible, a military force has to be able to deploy where necessary -- and this requires the power to sail the oceans of the world in control of the surface, the subsurface, and the skies overhead. With a strong and well supplied Navy, we can project American influence across vast distances, protect our interests, deliver humanitarian relief, and provide a stabilizing presence.
That is the business you'll be in. In your careers most of you will go places you've never seen before. And in some spots, you're likely to encounter people who've never had the chance to meet or to talk to an American. For them, the main impression they ever get of the United States might be you. The way you carry yourself, what you say to them, and how you treat them -- all of these will have an effect on the people you meet. I'm confident you'll keep that in mind throughout the years ahead, and that you'll always reflect credit on the country you serve and on the uniform you wear.
Your presence at Great Lakes proves that you understand the core Navy values of courage, honor, and commitment. And the war on terror is about all of those ideals. The enemies we face in this struggle oppose and despise everything you know to be right, and fair, and humane. They serve an ideology that glorifies murder and suicide, and shows no mercy for innocent life. And they are determined to kill as many Americans as they can, by any means they can get their hands on.
These enemies operate in secret, they wear no uniform, and they carry no flag. And even before September 11th, 2001, the terrorists were at war with this country. But for years, they were the ones on the offensive. And they grew bolder in their belief that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 Americans. Following that attack, the United States forces were withdrawn from Lebanon. Time and time again, for the remainder of the 20th century, the terrorists hit America, and America did not hit back hard enough. In 1993 we had the killing of American soldiers in Mogadishu, and the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. We had the murders at the Saudi National Guard Training Center in Riyadh, the killings at Khobar Towers in 1996, the destruction of two American embassies in Africa in 1998, and, of course, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, which took the lives of 17 of your shipmates. The terrorists came to believe that they could strike America without paying any price.
And so they continued to wage those attacks -- making the world less safe and eventually striking the United States right here at home on 9/11. That day changed everything, because it brought home the true ambitions of these enemies. We saw clearly that dangers can gather far from our own shores and strike us right here at home. We learned that the global terror network is a strategic threat to this country, and must be dealt with as such. So our nation made a decision: To fight and win this war, we're going on the offensive, we'll confront the enemy directly and decisively, and we will persevere until the enemy is destroyed. (Applause.)
I don't think anyone believes that after 9/11 the terrorists decided to wait six or more years before hitting the United States again. The fact is they have tried repeatedly to wage additional attacks, and they are intent on trying again. There's no way to guarantee that they won't be successful.
But we've managed to avoid another 9/11, not because of good luck but because of hard work. A lot of very dedicated professionals get up every day to protect the homeland. We've improved our security arrangements, reorganized our intelligence capabilities, and worked closely with friends and allies to track terrorist movements all over the world. We've monitored enemy communications. We've interrogated high-value detainees, and gotten information that has saved American lives. It's good we captured them, and it's good that we found out what they knew.
Most of all, we have kept the pressure on the enemy -- going after the terrorists and doing what it takes to shut down their training camps, to deny them sanctuary, to disrupt their funding, and to bring them to justice. It's a huge task, because the terrorists view the entire world as a battlefield -- and that's why we're dealing with them systematically, from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond.
A lot of tough work lies ahead, because both sides in the fight understand what is at stake. The issue today in the broader Middle East is whether men and women will have the right to govern themselves, to chart their own destiny, and to have a decent chance to build a future of hope and prosperity. The alternative is to turn away from our responsibilities, and to permit radicals and extremists to seize more territory, to stir up more hatred, and to use that region as a staging ground for more attacks upon the United States. That's a danger we cannot and we will not accept. The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It's a battle worth fighting. It's a battle we're going to win. (Applause.)
We've carried into this battle three of the greatest advantages a nation or a military could ever have. First, our purposes are right and just. We stand for the highest ideals: liberty and equality; the dignity of the individual; and representative government. If given the chance, men and women will always choose to live in freedom -- and history shows that the advance of freedom leads to greater peace in the world. This great nation has always been willing to work and to sacrifice in that cause.
Our second advantage is the competence and the character of our people in uniform. Every branch of the service reflects the very best of our country, and our country is backing them up with the finest equipment and supplies and support that we can provide.
Third, we have the character to persevere -- and this is absolutely decisive in a long struggle. After 9/11, President Bush told Congress and the country that the war on terror would be lengthy and difficult, and it has been. And there's no question that the terrorists went into this fight thinking they could wear us down. They wanted to validate their belief that Americans don't have the stomach for a fight or the will to defend ourselves. They've learned otherwise. They now know they underestimated the American people, they underestimated our military, and they underestimated the President of the United States. (Applause.)
Less than two months from now, no one in this hall will be a Recruit anymore. You'll have your own Battle Stations and capping ceremony, and you'll be off to take up assignments in a fleet like none other that has ever sailed. In the months and years ahead you'll have much more training, many more challenges, and some of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
You don't know right now where you'll end up. You do know, however, that you'll be able to deal with any situation that arises. Right now the Navy is giving you the benefit of more than 200 years of experience -- some lessons that are big, and some that may seem almost trivial. But even the smallest bit of information you gain here is given for a reason. Maybe you'll never use it -- or maybe one day it'll save your life or the life of a shipmate.
I know that each one of you is working hard almost every waking hour, sharpening your capabilities as a person and as part of a team. Before you know it, your time at Great Lakes will be over. And as I said at the capping ceremony this morning, when you leave Great Lakes you can leave your doubts behind. You'll be ready, because this is the place where civilians become sailors. And you'll be proudly accepted into the finest Navy in the world. In all that lies ahead, you have my respect and gratitude, and the good wishes of the entire nation.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:58 P.M. CST