Priorities in Stockton, California
Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium
August 23, 2002
10:30 A.M. PDT
I'm honored to be here in the great city of Stockton, California. (Applause.)
I appreciate you coming to give me a chance to share with you some of my thoughts
and concerns and hopes about our great nation. I appreciate you being here.
I want to thank the Mayor. My only regret is the Mayor didn't take me down to
Billy Hebert Field (ph) to see the team play. (Laughter and applause.) I'm a
baseball guy. (Laughter.)
I want to thank so very much the members of the congressional delegation who
met me at Air Force One. I appreciate the hard work of Richard Pombo, who represents
this district. (Applause.) I was so pleased that he found a tie for this occasion.
(Laughter.) Doug Ose from the next congressional district is here with us. Doug,
thank you for coming. (Applause.) Two fine members of the United States Congress
with whom I have good working relations, people with whom I can work to do what's
right for the American people.
I picked I picked a fine Cabinet. You need to judge a President based upon the
people who he listens to. I listen to some mighty fine people, I really do.
I've got great advice, not only in the national security side but also on the
domestic side of my job. And I picked my neighbor, somebody from Compton, to
serve in an incredibly important position, particularly for the folks in this
part of the world, and that is to serve as our Secretary of Agriculture. Ann
Veneman is doing a fabulous job. (Applause.)
Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for helping put on this occasion. I particularly
want to thank the greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce for their hard work in
getting this all ready and inviting people to come.
There's one friend I've got here that I've got to say something about. He's
a great citizen from Stockton. He's been a longtime friend of mine and my family's,
and that's of course Alex Spanos. (Applause.) I like to be around optimistic
people. It's important to stay in touch with those folks who are optimistic.
Once again he has told me that the San Diego Chargers are going to win the Super
Bowl. (Laughter and applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: -- Super Bowl one last time --
THE PRESIDENT: That's right. (Laughter.) And, once again, he believes it. (Laughter.)
Today, at Air Force One, I met Malikah Rashied. Where is Malikah? Where is she.
(Applause.) There she is. Thank you, Malikah. (Applause.) She is a Freedom Corps
volunteer. She volunteers for the country. In this case, she works for the California
Conservation Corps, assisting in fire prevention cleanup projects, and cleanup
We need, by the way, to have a forest policy. (Applause.) I mention her because
I want people to understand that I understand the true strength of America.
It is not in the halls of our governments, but in the hearts of our people.
And there are people like her all across the country who are willing to try
to make the communities in which they live a better place for all of us. I appreciate
your service. (Applause.) I also appreciate you working on fire prevention.
And that's something the federal government needs to work on.
Listen, we cannot allow our forests to become places where kindling piles up.
It doesn't make any sense to me to fly over these huge fires that are consuming
much of the West and realize our forest policy encourages doesn't prevent, doesn't
work to make the forest healthier and safer. The forest the hands-off forest
policy proposed by well-meaning people has failed. And now we need to do something
about it. (Applause.)
We've got a lot to do in this country. We really do. We've got some big hurdles,
big challenges ahead of us. One of the things I've found in Washington is if
we can get rid of all the politics (applause) and get people thinking about
what's important for the nation, we can get some things done. We really can.
Oh, I know we'll never get rid of all the politics. But at least we can get
people thinking and setting the right priorities on behalf of the American people.
That's the most one of my most important jobs. And we're making some progress.
If you look at the record when people decide to come together, we're doing some
things right for the American people, starting with making sure the funding
priorities of the government is to win the war on terror. (Applause.)
A new priority has been to help secure the homeland by working with our brave
first responders, the police, the fire, the EMS teams all around the country,
those who work hard here in Stockton and all around America. It's been a priority
of ours. And both Republicans and Democrats have come together to fund that
priority for the good of the country.
I proposed some tough, new standards on for corporate reform. Like you all,
I took a look out there and saw a problem. And the problem was, we had some
folks who were trying to fudge the numbers. We had some people who decided they
weren't going to tell the truth when it came to their assets and liabilities,
to the detriment of not only shareholder and employee, but to the country itself.
You see, a few a few began to shatter the confidence of the American people.
And so we decided to do something about it. Republicans and Democrats came together.
I was honored and proud to sign the most comprehensive corporate reforms since
Franklin Roosevelt was the President. This wasn't a Republican idea, it wasn't
a Democrat idea. (Applause.) It's an American idea to hold people responsible
who betray the public's trust, and that is what we're going to do. (Applause.)
I remember giving a speech in New York about how I thought the accountability
bill ought to go. And at one point in the speech, I talked about the fact that
our business schools don't teach right from wrong. They're unwilling to say
to future business leaders, there's a right way to deal with things and there's
a wrong way. And I was lamenting that fact. And I called upon our business schools
to show leadership and to teach future leaders right from wrong.
And I was working a rope line afterwards and a fellow walked up who's a professor
at a business school. And he said, thanks for saying that, Mr. President, we
needed to hear that. And a large guy, I assumed he was one of the construction
folks that was there, construction union leaders that was supportive of this
initiative, he said, if you want to teach them right from wrong, Mr. President,
the best lesson you can send is put them in handcuffs. (Applause.)
And that's what's happening. And that's what happening. We cannot let a few
and I emphasize a few set the tone for the many who are decent, honorable citizens
of this country who take care of their shareholders, who are good to their employees,
who tell the truth. So we're working together.
The other day, I had the honor of signing a bill that both Republicans and Democrats
supported that gives me the capacity to open up markets for U.S. goods. Here's
my attitude about trade: If you're good at something, you ought to promote it.
If you're good about if you're good at growing crops, you ought to figure out
how to sell more of the crops. And we're the best in the world at farming and
I'm thrilled to be here in the breadbasket of America, because it gives me a
chance to remind our fellow citizens that we have an advantage here in America.
We can feed ourselves. (Applause.) And we've always got to be able to do that.
It puts us in a it gives us a strategic advantage, a strategic edge. Imagine
if we were going around the world asking for food. It would put the President
in a pretty tough position. (Laughter.) They may want to bargain a little high.
But, fortunately, we can feed ourselves and, not only that, we produce more
food than we need, because we're good at what we do. And therefore, it makes
sense on behalf of the producers to open up markets. We ought to be feeding
feeding the world. Where people are hungry, they ought to be eating American
food. We ought to be knocking down those tariffs and those barriers. We ought
to be leveling the playing field, and that's precisely what I'm going to do
with my new authority. (Applause.)
I told Ann and she would testify to this and I told Zoellick, who's our trade
man, I said, I don't want our agriculture producers to be shunted aside when
it comes to opening up markets. As a matter of fact, when you're good at something,
it ought to be the cornerstone of your policy. So I want agriculture to be the
cornerstone of good international trade policy, and it will be. And we made
I don't know if you've been following this, but we had a little problem with
the Russians for a while. They agreed to take our chickens, they were going
to buy U.S. chickens, and then all of a sudden they decided not to buy the chickens,
and that created a problem. It creates a problem for the chicken growers, it
affects prices of other commodities, truly does.
And it was interesting, at one of my press conferences with Vladimir Putin,
who I like he's a good man he said, you know, the good thing about our new relationship,
as opposed to talking about war, we're talking about chickens. (Laughter and
But I want the agricultural folks here to understand, we talked about chickens
up until yesterday when Secretary Veneman announced an agreement with the Russians
that they're going to take U.S. chickens, they're going to honor their obligations.
I bring these examples up because it shows what is possible in Washington when
people decide to work together. And they're getting ready to come back in August.
And when they come back in August (Audience interruption) -- and when they come
back in August (Audience interruption.)
THE PRESIDENT: And when the Congress comes back after their August break, I
hope they keep in mind the fact that we need to continue to work together on
behalf of the American people. We need to work -- (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: USA, USA, USA!
THE PRESIDENT: And as we work together to make -- (applause) -- to make America
more secure, we must do so on three fronts. We must work together to make sure
that there's economic security. We must work together to make sure there's homeland
security. And we must work together to make sure that we win the war on terror
to defend our freedoms. (Applause.)
I hosted some folks down to Waco, Texas, the middle of Texas in the middle of
August. They obviously had something on their mind. And it was a really interesting
forum to hear from people from all walks of life talk about the difficulties
they face, the hurdles they face, to create jobs. That's what I'm interested
When I hear somebody who wants to work can't find a job, I view that as a problem.
It concerns me. I want people to be able to find work. That ought to be the
cornerstone of any good economic policy.
And so part of what Congress needs to do is to get together and work on ways
to make sure there's economic security for the American people. The platform
for growth is good. It just is.
We've had problems. No question. When we came in, there was a recession. History
shows that for the first three quarters of my Presidency, we were negative growth.
The next three quarters have been positive growth, which is good news for the
American people. (Applause.)
Wages were rising. The productivity of the American worker is the strongest
in the world. We're good at our workers are really good. Our entrepreneurs are
innovative. We've got a good tax base, good monetary policy. Interest rates
are low. And so we've got the foundation for growth.
But I'm not content with our progress. And here's some things I'd like to see
done. First, I can't tell you how strongly I feel and passionately I feel about
the need to make the tax cuts that we passed permanent. (Applause.)
See, here's the chapter of the economics book I read and I admit, some of them
in Washington didn't read this chapter. (Laughter.) I believe that when times
are slow and, remember, the first three quarters of our administration was negative
growth. When times are slow, you let people keep their own money. And when they
keep their own money, they demand a good or a service. And when they demand
a good or a service, somebody produces the good or the service. And when somebody
produces that good or service, someone is likely more likely to find work. That's
how it works. (Applause.)
And therefore, the tax relief happened at the right time. Not only did we provide
lower tax rates which, by the way, is a spur to small business growth. Most
small business owners are soul proprietors. Most small business owners pay tax
rates at the individual rate because they're limited partnerships. Most small
businesses -- small businesses create most new jobs in America. And, therefore,
we ought to have policy that encourages the growth of small businesses. By cutting
individual rates, we understand the importance of small business. (Applause.)
And not only that, we put the death tax on the road to extinction. The death
tax is a bad tax. (Applause.) And not only that, we began to change the marriage
penalty, because we want the Tax Code to encourage marriage, not discourage
But here's why I bring up the issue. Because of a quirk in the Senate law, all
the work that we did reverts back to normal in 10 years, normal being what it
was prior to the tax relief. In other words it's kind of hard to explain (laughter)
but you get tax relief and you don't get tax relief, see. It stays in place
for 10 years and then it goes away.
And so Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have got to understand, for
the good of the economy, we need some permanency. People need to be able to
plan. They need to be able to know that what is real today will be real tomorrow.
Therefore, the tax cuts need to be made permanent. (Applause.)
We've got a problem when it comes to construction here in America, because many
folks cannot get insurance to cover losses from potential terrorist attack.
There's about $8 billion worth of projects that have been put aside because
people can't get terrorism insurance. That means we've got some hard-hats here
in America who aren't working who should be working. That means there's some
good, hardworking folks who aren't as active as they should be in the job market.
And therefore, I have asked Congress the House responded and the Senate came
up with a version, they need to get together to provide terrorism insurance
legislation to help these big construction programs go forward. This bill would
put people back to work so long as the House and the Senate understand that
the priority is not trial lawyers, but hard-hat workers in America. (Applause.)
Congress, when they get back, needs to give me an energy bill. In order for
the economy to be strong, we've got to have an energy plan. We've got to have
a bill that promotes renewable sources of energy, that encourages conservation.
But we need more energy explored here at home in an environmentally friendly
way. It is in our economic security that we find more energy at home, it is
in our national security that we become less dependent on foreign sources of
crude oil. (Applause.)
Congress needs to get to work on a reauthorization of the welfare bill. See,
the welfare bill is coming up again. And, by the way, it worked when we said
to people we will help them find work. It made people less dependent upon government.
It has been a successful, successful public policy in America. And we need to
continue that. There are some in the Senate who want to say work isn't important,
and so they've got all kinds of loopholes. I think work is incredibly important.
Work leads to dignity. (Applause.)
And therefore, they need to give me a welfare bill like the House bill that
says, we're going to help people help themselves by finding work. That's what
we're going to do. We're going to train people for jobs, but we're going to
insist that they work in return for help. (Applause.)
And there's one other vital piece of legislation that they need to get to me
before they all go back to their districts and campaign, and it's this. I want
to unleash the great compassion of America by recognizing the power of faith-based
institutions in our society. (Applause.) I asked the question, does it work.
That's what I asked.
Does it work if somebody's heart is changed and therefore they get off alcohol
and drugs? Does that work? And if it does, our government ought not to fear
programs based upon the capacity to change somebody's heart. As a matter of
fact, we ought to welcome those programs. (Applause.) We ought to say if you've
got an idea and you've got a cross on the wall or the star of David, or if you're
a mosque, we welcome those ideas to help change society one person at a time.
We'll never fund religion. Of course we're not going to fund religion. That's
not the purpose. But we want to help people, and we should not discriminate
against programs which have the capacity to help save lives. When we save a
life in America, we make America a better place for all of us. (Applause.)
Congress has got work to do on the homeland security front as well. My most
important job is to protect you all, our fellow Americans, from another attack.
That's my most important job. And make no mistake about it, there are cold-blooded
killers out there, and we're doing everything we can to find them. Some people
might not think they're out there. They're out there, they just are.
People say, why why would someone want to attack America? And the answer is
because we love freedom, that's why. (Applause.) They hate us because we value
each life. Each life is important here in America everybody counts. Ours is
a country that recognizes in our great diversity that every single person has
worth, and they can't stand that. (Applause.) They can't stand the thought of
a nation which recognizes that people can worship an Almighty God in different
ways, that we welcome that type of diversity in America, that we love that freedom.
They don't like free speech, they don't like a free press. They really don't
like anything about us, it turns out. (Laughter.) But they're killers. That's
the only way I can tell you how I think about them. They're cold-blooded killers,
and therefore my most important job is to protect the homeland. (Applause.)
And so when I looked at ways to protect the homeland, I realized when I looked
at our homeland security there in Washington, we've got over 100 agencies that
have something to do with protecting the homeland, and they're scattered everywhere.
In order to set the number one priority of these agencies to be the homeland
defense, I decided to create a Department of Homeland Security with a new Cabinet
secretary. I did not to create the size of government, but to make the government
work better. I did it to be able to start changing cultures within agencies.
I did it to make sure that agencies had that number one priority, so that I
could report back to the American people that we're doing everything we possibly
And the House of Representatives passed a good piece of legislation, for which
I'm grateful. The Senate is now wrestling with it, and I've got some problems
with how they're wrestling with it. You see, I need to my secretary needs to
be able to move people to different agencies, if need be, to protect America.
We need to put people in the right place at the right time.
I'll give you an example. We've got to know who's coming in the country, what
they're bringing in the country, and whether or not they're leaving the country.
And yet, when you go down to the border, you'll realize they've got the INS,
the Customs, the Border Patrol. We've got to be able to have the same strategy,
the same culture. We don't need three competing agencies; we need to figure
out how to bring people together to accomplish the objective, and that means
we need some flexibility. Yet, when you look at the Senate bill, it sounds like
they're more interested in special interests that have got lobbies in Washington,
not to people. They're more interested in having micromanaging the department,
they're more interested in protecting their turf, than giving us the flexibility
to do what it takes to protect the American people. (Applause.)
But the best way to secure the homeland is to hunt the killers down one by one
and bring them to justice. (Applause.) And so the first order of business for
both Republicans and Democrats when they get back to Washington is to get the
defense appropriations bill on my desk as soon as possible. They ought not to
play politics with defense appropriations at this time in American history.
And so the first order of business for both Republicans and Democrats when they
get back to Washington is to get the defense appropriations bill on my desk
as soon as possible. They ought not to play politics with defense appropriations
at this time in American history. (Applause.)
I've asked for the largest increase in spending since Ronald Reagan was President
-- defense spending -- since Ronald Reagan was President. I did that for two
reasons: One, anytime we commit our military into harm's way, they deserve the
best training, the best pay, the best possible equipment. (Applause.) And for
those of you who have loved ones in the military, you thank them on behalf of
a grateful nation and a Commander in Chief. And I thank you for the sacrifice
of your family. (Applause.)
And secondly, the defense increase sends a clear signal to friend and foe alike
that when it comes to defending our freedom, we're in this for the long haul.
You see, there's not a calendar on my desk in Washington that says, now time
to quit. (Laughter.) That's not the way I think. I believe history has called
us into action. History has put the spotlight right here on America. History
will determine whether or not we understand the value of freedom, the necessity
to keep a vast coalition together to make the world more peaceful.
See, that's my goal. My goal is for there to be a peaceful world. There's going
to be some steep hills to climb, because this is a different kind of war. It's
not the kind of war that many of our veterans fought in. It's not the kind of
war we can measure infantry brigades marching across plains or squadrons of
aircraft. We can't count the enemy's aircraft. We don't know how many foot soldiers
they have. That's not the kind of war. Remember, these are the commanders who
hide in caves and send their youngsters to their death. That's the kind of enemy
we fight. So we've got to think differently, which means we've got to use all
intelligence at our disposal. We've got to make sure we continue to talk with
our friends and allies, that when they know something, we need to know it; and
when we have learned something, we will share it with them. It means we need
It means we've got to be bold enough to enforce the doctrines. When I say, if
you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists, I mean it.
(Applause.) When I say, you're either with us or you're with the others, I mean
that, too. And we're enforcing that doctrine. And the Taliban found out exactly
what we mean.
I want the youngsters here to understand the nature of your government. We don't
seek -- we do not seek revenge here in America; we seek justice. (Applause.)
We don't want to conquer anybody. That's not the way we think. We want to liberate
people. See, we believe every life matters. It doesn't matter whether it's an
American life, every life counts.
And so when we liberated Afghanistan from the clutches of the barbaric regime
called the Taliban, young girls, many young girls went to school for the first
time. No, this great country, this great country -- applause.) This great country
has a vision of peace and justice and compassion for our fellow human beings.
But we also understand that in order to achieve those goals we're going to have
to do what it takes to make the world more secure. We're going to have to do
everything we can to rid the world of terror. And we're making some progress,
we're making some progress. We've -- the coalition has arrested, hauled them
in, however you want to call it, a couple of thousand of them. About that many
weren't quite as lucky so far.
We've got more work to do, though. We just do. Where they bunch up, we'll get
'em. We're making it clear that -- to other nations, once we get them on the
run, don't let them light in your part of the world. And so we spent time destroying
training camps and disrupting infrastructure and disrupting communication capacities.
We're getting them on the run. And you watch; slowly but surely -- slowly but
surely -- we will achieve the objective and bring them to justice.
And as we do so, we can achieve some larger objectives. And by the way, there
is another objective that we've just got to keep in mind for the sake of our
children, and their children. We cannot allow the world's worst leaders to harbor
and develop the world's worst weapons, to hold those of us who love freedom
hostage. We must not do that. (Applause.)
No, the enemy hit us September 11th, nearly a year ago. And I just can't imagine
what was going through their mind. They said, well, this nation is not going
to do anything. They're so materialistic, so self-absorbed and so selfish that
they might file a lawsuit or two -- (laughter) -- but that's all they'll think
about doing. They'll kind of crumble under their own greed and their own self-centered
attitude about life. They didn't know who they were hitting, though, did they?
Out of the evil done to America is going to come some good, because we're a
great nation. (Applause.) We can achieve peace -- we can achieve peace -- by
being strong and diligent, reminding people of the great, God-given values that
are important to all humanity. We can achieve peace, and will. We can achieve
peace -- you got to know how I think -- I believe we can achieve peace in the
Middle East by being strong and determined and to focus on what's best for people.
We can achieve peace in South Asia.
I know this seems like high hurdles, but we have a chance. Out of the evil done
to America can come some incredible good around the world. And some incredible
good can come here at home, too. See, it's important to remember, in this land
of plenty there are pockets of despair and hopelessness. There are people who
hurt. There are youngsters who wonder or not whether America is meant for them,
whether or not the American Dream applies to them. And, of course, it does.
See, I believe when one of us hurts, all of us hurt. When one of us is diminished,
all of us are affected. And therefore, we need to do something about it here
in America. I believe the enemy has wakened a spirit in this country that understands
in order to fight evil, in order to fight evil -- (applause) -- that in order
to fight evil, you can do so by loving your neighbor just like you'd like to
be loved yourself. And that's happening. (Applause.)
It's important for our fellow citizens to recognize that if you were to mentor
a child, you're a part of defining the true compassion of America. If you go
into a shut-in's home and say, I love you, what can I do to help you, you're
making a difference here in America. If you help feed somebody who's hungry,
you're making a huge difference in showing the world the true character of this
No, out of the evil done to America is going to come some good, because Americans
understand that being a patriot is more -- is more than just saying the Pledge
Allegiance; being a patriot is serving something greater than yourself. We learned
that lesson most profoundly on September the 11th, when citizens were flying
across the country, or thought they were, on Flight 93. They realized their
airplane was going to be used as a weapon to take life, perhaps in the Nation's
Capital. They were on the phones and they told their loved ones they loved them
-- they used the word, "love." They said a prayer, they said a prayer.
One guy said, "Let's roll." They drove the plane in the ground to
serve something greater than themselves in life. (Applause.)
It is that spirit of serving something, it is that spirit that recognizes while
one of us can't do everything, each of us can do something, one thing to help
change America one heart and one soul and one conscience at a time.
No, out of the evil done to America is going to come great good, because this
is the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, full of fantastic, compassionate,
decent fellow citizens. May God bless you all. And may God bless America. (Applause.)