with Displaced Workers in Town Hall Meeting
Orlando County Convention Center
December 4, 2001
3:20 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please be seated. Thank you all very much.
I'm really happy to visit Florida. (Applause.) The weather is beautiful. There's
a lot of interesting things to do here. I recommend people from outside of Florida
to come and take a look at Florida. (Applause.) It's a nice place to visit and
a great place to live -- one reason why is because you've got a great Governor.
I'm not very objective. (Laughter.) I also -- I'm proud to be traveling today
with two members of my Cabinet. First, somebody who made a living and raised
his family right here in Orange County, and that's Mel Martinez -- (applause.)
There's no better person to help promote a significant part of the American
Dream, that being home ownership, than somebody who came to our country from
a country that doesn't encourage home ownership. Somebody whose parents had
the foresight to encourage him to be extricated from a tyrannical society. Somebody
who understood Fidel Castro doesn't trust people to own property. And that's
Mel Martinez. We're working together to make sure home ownership becomes a reality
for any citizen in America who shares that dream, regardless of where they live
or their background.
I'm also traveling today with the Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao. (Applause.)
And there's a lot of members of the United States Congress who have traveled
here -- homegrown Congressman Ric Keller. (Applause.) Ander Crenshaw is with
us. Thank you for coming, Ander. (Applause.) Congressman Mark Foley, I appreciate
it. (Applause.) Congressman John Mica. (Applause.)
I recently worked closely with John and other Republicans and Democrats to forge
an airport security bill, which will allow the federal government to supervise
the security of our airports, to make sure that those who travel are comfortable
with the fact that we're doing everything in our power to make air travel as
safe as it can possibly be.
Thank you, John, for your leadership on that issue. (Applause.)
Congressman Adam Putnam -- I had to check to make sure he was old enough, but,
Adam, thank you. (Applause.) Congressman Dave Weldon -- thank you, Dave, for
being here. (Applause.) Congressman Cliff Stearns, from Florida, as well. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank the Mayor, Glenda Hood, and all those who helped
encourage you all to come so that I can answer any questions you may have about
what's going on in the country and the world today.
Before I answer a few questions -- and I thought it was right, I know a lot
of citizens in Florida and around our country may have some questions to the
President, and I'm more than happy to answer some. Before I do, I do want to
say a few comments.
One of the other reasons I came here is to herald a program called "Operation
Paycheck." It's a program that Jeb has put in place to help displaced workers
find the training necessary to find work. To help displaced workers around this
part of the world -- (applause) -- to help those who want to help themselves
find the training necessary to allow them to learn new skills to find work again.
There's nothing that hurts me more than to know as we head into the holiday
season that some of our citizens and some of their families hurt because they've
been laid off as a result of 9/11. And we have a role in the government -- in
the state government, in the federal government -- to provide immediate help
as part of an economic security package, is to provide immediate help.
And so one of the things I did was announce a grant for the State of Florida
to encourage programs like Operation Paycheck one-stop centers for people to
find help. And, today, I was pleased to announce that grant on behalf of the
federal government. But there's more to be done. You probably read about the
fact that we're working with Congress. And I must say, relations with Congress
are a heck of a lot better than they have been in the past, because congressmen
and senators of both parties are interested about what's doing right for the
And part of an economic security package is to make sure that we extend unemployment
insurance benefits for those who have been laid off as a result of 9/11, and
provide money -- monies to help those who have been laid off with things such
as child care or health insurance or transportation to a community college,
to enable them to learn a new skill.
We have a role to play. And I urge the United States Congress to stop talking
and to get an economic security bill to my desk. (Applause.) The House has acted,
and for that I'm grateful. And there's always -- the Speaker can tell you, there's
always a difference of opinion sometimes between the House and the Senate, whether
it's at the state or federal level. But the Senate needs to get a bill, get
it reconciled, and get it to my desk, so we can say we're doing the people's
business in a way that will make you proud.
The truth of the matter is, economic security, however, the long-term depends
upon our ability to get our economy cranked up again, so new jobs are being
created. We've got to think about how to stimulate job creation. The question
that needs to be answered is how to create more jobs. And I've laid out a blueprint
to do just that.
I think we ought to -- and help people with more money as we head into the Christmas
season, by making sure that those who file, but didn't pay taxes get a rebate,
just similar to the rebates you all have just recently received. That will help
low and moderate-income Americans. We ought to accelerate the tax cuts that
we have in place. More money in people's pockets mean more economic activity.
We ought to reform the corporate income tax system. This current system says
that as you lose money, you begin to pay more taxes. That doesn't make any sense
if we're worried about job creation. I don't think we ought to be looking back
for a decade, but I do think we ought to reform the system as we head forward,
to make sense. And finally, I think we ought to provide incentives for corporate
America to buy more plant and equipment. That will encourage job creation.
We ought to ask the question in Washington, what does it take to create more
jobs, so hardworking Americans can be able to put food on the table? That's
what we ought to be asking. (Applause.)
Two other points I want to make before I answer your questions -- is there's
no question, as well, that in order to make sure our economy recovers and people
are able to find work, we've got to do everything we can to prevent the enemy
from hitting us again. We've got to be diligent. (Applause.) And so we're following
every hint, every lead, every possibility within the confines of the Constitution.
My job is to provide security for the American people. My job is to make sure
that we use the assets at our disposal to ferret out those who might hurt America
and to bring them to justice. (Applause.)
We can protect our homeland by beefing up law enforcement, by encouraging the
FBI to focus on prevention, by working closely with local authorities -- and
we're doing that. But in the long-term, the best way to make sure America is
safe is to find those who would commit terror against America, no matter where
they run or where they hide, and bring them to justice. And that's exactly what
we're doing. (Applause.)
For those of you who are the parents or the spouse or the brother or sister
of a member of our military, who may not be home during the holiday season,
first, I want to thank you for your sacrifice, but let you know that the cause
is just. And I know you're as proud as I am of how our military is fighting
the war on terror. (Applause.)
We rescued humanitarian aid workers. We're, slowly, but surely, demolishing
the government that felt comfortable in housing and abetting and feeding and
hiding those who committed murder in America. And, slowly, but surely, we're
tightening the net on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. (Applause.)
They think they can run, and we'll tire. They think they can hide, and we will
tire. But they have sorely misunderstood America. They don't understand our
will and our determination. This great land is united to bring freedom to the
world. We will bring them to justice, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
And so I'm honored that such a huge crowd would turn out. I want to thank you
all for coming. I look forward the answering your questions. I want to thank
you for your prayers, thank you for your love for the country. And now, if you've
got any questions, I'm here to answer them.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Since the September 11th tragedy, many Americans
with college degrees, including myself, have been laid off. What are some of
the things you're doing to help people like me, who have been out of work for
the past few months?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, there's a lot of money spent from the federal
level to help -- to help with reeducation. And one of the programs that I just
mentioned is the use of federal monies to empower state governments to provide
opportunities for reeducation.
I just went by a center today. I sat next to a TWA pilot, highly skilled, college-educated
man who got laid off as a pilot. His dream is to go back to a local community
college, become reeducated to become a computer programmer. In other words,
the idea is to mate those with skills with jobs that actually exist.
The problem with the kind of federal approach and only federal approach is,
is that we may encourage you to become trained in a job that doesn't exist.
And so the real thing is, is there money available for job training. Is there
money available from the federal government to say to Governor Bush of Florida,
here is some dough; set up a system that will actually match people with skills
and jobs that exist.
There are jobs in Florida. And the fundamental question is, how do we encourage
those with skills, to funnel those with skills into those jobs.
Secondly, I do believe we ought to extend the amount of time one can receive
unemployment insurance benefits. I think that's important. And I also believe
that we need to have what's called national emergency grants, which are basically
federal expenditures to states to allow people to help, for example, make health
And one of the things I worry about and I'm deeply concerned about is somebody
who has had a good health care plan is no longer able to afford health care.
And so we ought to help people be able to afford those premiums and those benefits
until they're able to get back to work.
The long-term, though, is -- I keep repeating it is -- let's stimulate job growth.
The best thing for you to be able to find a job is for there to be more jobs
available. And I believe -- I believe we're on the verge of doing just that.
I mean, we've got great tax policy in place.
We cut taxes this year; we've got taxes cut for the next years coming, which
will stimulate economic growth. Alan Greenspan has got monetary policy in such
a shape that interest rates are low. Energy prices are reasonable. And so, we've
got the framework for growth. And, by the way, the same entrepreneurial spirit
that existed in America prior to September 11th still exists today. They can't
take that away from us. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Mr. President, we appreciate you coming to the community and putting
a great spotlight on the tourism industry. For the past 16 years, I own a small
transportation company here, 10 of which I operate at the Orlando International
Airport. Due to the slowdown in the economy, and certainly the events of September
11th, I was forced to close my doors, putting 252 employees out of work, not
to mention their families and others who support my business.
We have taken advantage of some of the programs you've put into place, such
as the SBA disaster loan plan. We've been monitoring that, and found out that
the application is bogged down in the bureaucracy of the system. What can you
do to help us, as small business, speed that process, as our window is closing
rapidly on us? Thank you for your answer.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first get your card, and find out why your case is bogged
down in bureaucracy. I can't stand bureaucracy. (Applause.) I appreciate the
hardworking people who work for the federal government. I appreciate people
who care enough to work for the government to make people's -- to do their job.
I like that. But what I don't like is systems that get so cumbersome that those
who are trying to help you don't get the product out.
I put a good man as the head of the SBA, and I believe that he's doing everything
he can to make sure that applications don't get stuck in a system; that hardworking
federal employees are able to match their desires to help you with the ability
to do so.
So to answer your question, I need to know your case, and I'm going to send
a man right out here to ask you. Where's Logan? (Applause.)
QUESTION: First of all, I'd like to thank you for being here today, Mr. President
Bush. My name is Adam Hallsman, (phonetic) and I'm a 7th grader at Shelley Boon
Middle School (phonetic) in Haines City, Florida. I'd like to know what the
children and the small -- and the young people in America, how can they help
THE PRESIDENT: Listen to your mother. (Applause.) I'm still listening to mine.
(Laughter and applause.)
I'll tell you what you can do; I'll tell you how you can help the economy: Study
hard, learn a skill, have ambition, make the right choices in life so that when
you get old enough, you're a productive citizen. That's the absolute best thing
you can do. (Applause.)
But there are other things you can do. I see women of cover here, and I want
to thank you for coming from the Muslim community here in America. (Applause.)
Right after the attacks, I went to a mosque to send the signal that the war
against terror had nothing to do with the Muslim faith. It has everything to
do with evil, evil people. What you can do to help America beyond the economy,
is to remind people that regardless of our religious beliefs, we're all, first
and foremost, Americans. (Applause.)
And you know what else you can do? You can find somebody in need, and give them
a hand. (Applause.) I'm worried about the fact that charitable giving in America
has dropped off as a result of 9/11. It didn't drop off because of 9/11, it
dropped off because a lot of people gave money to help the victims, which is
great. But there's an aftermath to the attacks that we've got to worry about.
There are still people in America who hurt. They were hurting before September
11th; they hurt today.
And one of the things you can do as a 7th grader, and all of us can do, is remember
that, and give of time and money to help fellow Americans in need. I can't think
of any way better to make sure our country remains strong in the aftermath of
the terrorist attack, is to help, is to ask the question: What can I do? Is
to not only honor the values of America, but honor the values of a good neighborhood,
which is neighbor helping neighbor in need.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr. President. First of all, it is an honor to be
here with you, and we want to thank you for your godly leadership in serving
this country. (Applause.) My name is Irma Yapur (phonetic. And my question today
is in regards, also, to small business and self-employment. As many Americans
are losing their corporate jobs and are going into business for themselves,
is the government planning to provide assistance to the self-employed in small
business who do not have the tangible collateral and livelihood to support a
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we do. We've got an SBA whose job it is to encourage entrepreneurial
growth. Evidently, it may be somewhat bound in paperwork, unnecessary paperwork
requirements. (Laughter.) It's good to get out of Washington to get the real
story -- (laughter and applause) -- but the job -- but that's what the SBA is
for. It's to encourage -- and you're bogged down in paperwork, as well, I take
it? Okay. My man, Logan -- (laughter.)
Look, the government can never guarantee success in the private sector. That's
not what happens in a system based upon free enterprise. We can help people.
But there are no guarantees about business. We're a risk and reward oriented
society. And so the best thing we can do is help you to get your business started
-- but it's up to you to have a good product; it's up to you to understand the
market; and it's up to you to fashion a game plan that will work, and what we
can do is help there and there all kinds of ways to do that. (Applause.)
QUESTION: The first one is a thank you, from all of our employees and many people
who have worked. When the taxpayer rebates came, for many of them they said
they don't know what they would have done if it hadn't been for those. So very
much a sincere thank you for that. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: The second one is a question. What are we doing right now to assist
our allies in Israel during their time of terrorist attacks?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. The question is about Israel. I had the Prime Minister of
Israel in my office on Sunday. He was coming Monday, but decided to come sooner
because of the attacks. And I commiserated with him, because a lot of innocent
people had been killed or hurt as a result of terrorist activity.
The terrorist attacks on Israel -- first of all, Israel has got no better friend
than the United States, as far as I'm concerned. (Applause.) Israel is a democracy.
We share a lot of values with Israel. I have a dream. I can't think of anything
better than to have a dream for peace, for Israel. I think the Israeli people
want to have peace.
But we learned in such a vivid way that there are elements in the Middle East
who hate the thought of peace, and will be willing to use terror to derail any
type of peace process. And so the spotlight now flashes on the Middle East in
a terrible way, obviously. But it also reminds people around the world that
if we want peace, that it's important for those advocates of peace to help rout
out terror and to bring it to justice. It is incumbent upon Mr. Arafat now to
respond forcefully, to rout out those who killed. It's incumbent upon other
friends and allies of ours around the world to help bring those terrorists to
justice if we want peace in the Middle East, which I do. We've got to bring
the terrorists to justice. (Applause.)
We cannot let a few -- we cannot let a few prevent the many from achieving a
dream which is lasting peace in the Middle East. I hope that happens. I hope
it happens for the sake of Israel. I hope it happens for the sake of the Palestinians,
who suffer because of the lack of job opportunity, and killing, and war. I hope
it happens. But first things first. We must rid the world of terror.
QUESTION: Thank you, President Bush. It's great to have you here in the state
of Florida. I work at the airport at the Hyatt Hotel. And I'm worried -- I have,
luckily, kept my job, but now we're getting our hours cut and stuff. And they're
trying to do the best that they can, and I'm in jeopardy of losing my benefits.
Now, I'm a single mother of three kids, and I can't be without benefits, like
health insurance, per se.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. Well, I think that one of the things that we need to work
on during the next session is how to make sure that the working uninsured have
benefits. I proposed a plan through the tax credit system to provide just that
-- to make sure that you don't lose your benefits if this were to happen.
Of course, the key thing -- again, I keep harking back to this -- is, we've
got to grow our economy; is we've got to put a stimulus -- security package
-- a stimulus package in place that encourages job growth.
Now, the government did act quickly when it came to your industry. After all,
we provided a significant amount of loans and grants for the airline industry
to make sure the airplanes, which were directly hit by the attacks, continue
to fly. And I hope that the measures we have put in place -- financial measures
plus the security measures -- will convince the American people to get on airplanes
and come down to Florida so that your hotel has got customers. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Mr. President, I'm an educator for the Orange County Public School
System. And, first of all, I'd like to thank you very much for your ethics and
integrity, because that's what we're all about -- (applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
QUESTION: I'd like to share that I am very appreciative of the focus that you
and the First Lady have brought to your administration on reading instruction.
And we were very happy when that took place. And we can also appreciate the
fact that since 9/11, your energy and your focus has been diverted to issues
that are to protect our country, and we thank you very much for that.
But the reality is that 9/11 has also impacted education. We are about to experience
one of the biggest cuts that we have experiences in many years here in Florida,
and we're very concerned about our children and about our teachers and their
future, as well. And I would just like to hear from you where you are today
with education, in terms of your focus and energy.
THE PRESIDENT: You bet. Thank you very much. I appreciate that question. Education
needs to be the number one priority of any state. I'm convinced it's the number
one priority of this Governor here. I believe that there needs to be a clear
role for local people, state people, and a limited role for the federal government,
because I do not believe one size fits all when it comes to educating children.
Now, having said that, I do believe that the federal government has got responsibilities
for providing funds for disadvantaged and for beefing up reading programs around
the country. So one of the things that we're going to do is to work with Jeb
and other states on enhancing reading programs. There's no question about it,
that if a child can't read, all the rest of the subjects are basically irrelevant.
Reading is the absolute gateway to knowledge, and therefore what needs to be
done is a comprehensive national reading agenda.
To answer your question, it's about to happen when the Congress passes the education
reform bill and the education bill, the funding mechanism necessary for education.
But education is a priority not only here, but as my good wife reminded everybody
on the radio, it's got to be a priority around the world. There is no excuse
for the Taliban government to have treated women and young girls the way they
have, and not educated people. (Applause.)
Education is a domestic priority. No question about it, it's a domestic priority.
And we're increasing education spending at the federal government to help local
districts. But we also have got to remind people around the world, if we want
peace in the world, other nations must do a better job of treating people with
respect by making sure that they are educated, as well.
Speaking about education, you go to school, don't you? Let's hear your question.
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Ashley -- I just wanted to -- I don't have a comment,
but I have a question. Actually, I don't have a question, I have a comment.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You've been doing a good job for the United States. Can you shake
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I will in a minute. Oh, you want to do it right now? (Applause.)
I'll do better; I'll give you a kiss. (Applause.) You're a sweet girl. Thank
QUESTION: Thank you very much for coming to Florida. We love you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks. (Applause.)
QUESTION: And God bless you. This area is so dependent on tourism. Sine 9/11,
as you know, everyone knows it's so bad. Is there anything that the government
is doing to attract other industry into our area and to other areas that are
so dependent on this?
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- I would actually get Governor Bush to answer that
question. (Laughter.) I'm afraid to share the mike with him; he might never
give it up, though. (Laughter and applause.) Absolutely, there is a diversification
program. There is. And Jeb is wise enough to understand that this part of the
world needs to be diversified. And tourism will always be an integral part of
the Central Florida economy. But there is a lot of interesting diversification
going on here.
Now, the federal government's role is not to tell states how to diversify their
economies; the federal government's role is to provide an overall picture for
economic vitality and growth. Our job is to think about how best to grow the
entire national economy and let states figure out, and local districts and communities
figure out how to diversify.
One of the interesting battles we've got going in Congress is trade. We need
to be able to trade freely, it seems like to me, in the world. We've got the
best farmers in the world in the United States -- the best farmers. It seems
like it makes sense to open up other people's markets so we can sell our products
around the world. (Applause.)
Now, that is the place where the federal government, it seems like to me, has
got to address job growth and diversification through large national issues.
I'm sure the Congress -- these congressmen understand the value of free trade.
I look forward to working with them when it comes to trade promotion authority,
if it ever makes it to my desk. But it requires wise governors and local officials
to understand the opportunities through diversification. And I believe you've
got a good Governor -- I keep hating to tout the guy too much, because they'll
think I'm not very objective. But, I'm not. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Hi. President Bush, we'd like to thank you for coming here today.
And just to help you out with her question about -- I wanted to tap our Governor
on about, because we do have a program for people that -- I'm self-employed
and I don't make a lot of money, but we do have a program in this state for
people like ourselves, who we can buy insurance through the state for our children,
in case you lose your job. So I wanted to tap our Governor on that --
THE PRESIDENT: It's the CHIPS program.
QUESTION: No, it's Florida Healthy Kids here.
THE PRESIDENT: Same thing.
QUESTION: Right. (Laughter.) She said she don't qualify, but if you lost your
job, you would.
THE PRESIDENT: All right.
QUESTION: First of all, thank you. Second of all, I work in a Hard Rock Hotel
here in Orlando, and we love to have people come through our doors, just as
every hotel and every theme park here does. My question is for the federal government
-- not just for Orlando, but for everywhere -- what is being done to encourage
travel? I've seen a few commercials, not just within the country, but abroad,
what a great place to come --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there's a marketing plan commercials, not just within the
country, but abroad. We're a great place to come, and --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there's a marketing plan. One of the things -- if you noticed
how I started off my talk here -- I've got a rather large microphone these days,
and I've been encouraging people to travel. I think the best thing we can do
in America to -- first of all, you can't make people do what they don't want
to do. I mean, if they're not interested in traveling, they're not going to
travel. On the other hand, if they're worried about security on airplanes, we
can do something about that.
That's why we've rallied guard troops all across the country in airports. Until
we have the new security plan in place, we're putting guards in place. And we've
sped up the training and placement of air marshals on airplanes. I want the
American people to know that if you want to travel, and if that's your desire,
if you're planning to do this in your budget and you've been thinking about
it, air travel is getting safer and safer and safer. And that's the best thing
the federal government can do.
Now, we can -- we're not going to, you know, pick one part of the region over
another. I don't think that's the role of the federal government. But -- and
therefore, that's why Jeb and other states, my old state of Texas, for example,
is trying to encourage, always trying to compete for people who want to travel
to come to our respective states. But the federal government can help by making
sure things are more secure, and people feel safe. That's really our fundamental
responsibility right now, is the safety of the American people.
I know a lot of people have got some concerns about how safe we can make the
country, and if we're doing -- are we doing things within the Constitution.
I want to talk about a couple of things to put your mind at ease. I'll ask myself
a question: Why are you having the opportunity to have a military tribunal?
Now, I want you to remember that we are at war. The United States of America
is under attack. And at war, the President needs to have the capacity to protect
the national security interests and the safety of the American people. (Applause.)
And so, I asked: What are all my options as your Commander in Chief? What are
the options to protect America? What do I need to know about what might occur
to make sure that I can come in front of the folks in Orlando, Florida, and
say we're doing everything in our power, or we have every option in our power
to keep you safe?
Well, one of those scenarios is military tribunals. No one has been tried in
a military tribunal, except I, by executive order, provided myself with the
option of having a military tribunal, which will be used for -- no American
citizen will go to a military tribunal. They would only be used for those who
aren't American citizens.
And let me give you one example of why it may be necessary, why it may be necessary
to use such a tribunal. What happens if, in the course of this war, that we
apprehend or capture an enemy and we want to bring him to justice? In the course
of bringing him to justice, what if the information necessary to bring him to
justice would compromise our capacity to keep America safe?
In a court of law, there would be all kinds of questions that might compromise
our ability to gather incredibly important intelligence to prevent the next
attack from happening to America. It seems like to me that the President of
the United States ought to have the option to protect the national security
interests of the country, and therefore, protect America from further attack.
You've probably read about the interviews that are taking place. There are countries
that we're certain of where people who come from those countries are likely
to commit a terrorist act against America. And they're here on our soil. certain
citizens from those countries on our soil. We're a free country. They're here
because we're a great country. And we've got liberties that we'll protect. But
we're asking those who are here as guests, enjoying our freedom, to voluntarily
participate in helping us understand how best to protect the country.
Nobody is being forced into an interview. People are being -- why don't you
help us? Why don't those of you who are guests in our country help us make the
land more secure? It's in your interests, and it's certainly in our interests.
If you know somebody, or know something, help us.
We're in the business now of gathering as much information as we possibly can
gather, and we're acting on that information. People are detained in America
under material witness claims. It's against the law, by the way, to publish
the name of those people, before they get up in front of a grand jury. We've
got people that we've pulled aside because of who they may or may not know,
and it turns out they violated their immigration status. It turns out as we're
looking for leads, we've found people who have actually committed other crime.
All of them in America are entitled to a lawyer. All of them in America are
entitled to make phone calls. We're the freest society in the world. That's
what America is all about. And at the same time, we're doing what's necessary
to protect the people at home. (Applause.)
QUESTION: How are you doing, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Pretty darn good. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thanks for coming to Florida and talking to us. You've given billions
of dollars to the airline industry, to try to help get them stimulated and get
them going. Are you going to do any kind of grants or any type of benefits for
the hospitality industry, as we're struggling to get by?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, part of the key is, is that the first industry deeply affected
after 9/11 was the airline industry. And without an airline industry there is
no hospitality -- oh, there may be a hospitality industry, certainly not as
vibrant a hospitality industry as we would like.
It is the first major industry affected. And so our strategy was to make sure
that we provide the industry that actually affects hospitality directly the
means necessary to stay in business. To me, that seemed like the most important
initial leg of a strategy. And in the meantime, we're trying to help those workers
who have been affected within the hospitality industry.
I am hopeful that as a result of an airline stimulus package, or airline security
package, as well as a safety package and an economic stimulus package, this
economy will come back, people will have the money necessary to travel, people
will feel safe to travel, and the hospitality industry to recover.
But to answer your question directly, no, the answer is that the first step,
and we think the primary step, needed to be what we've already done.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what about tax incentives --
THE PRESIDENT: Tax incentives for travel? That hasn't made it to my radar screen
QUESTION: (inaudible) -- And my wife and my mother-in-law and friends, they're
in the tourism industry. Yes, my family has been very well affected by 9/11.
But I have a question about the youth. Is there anything that you or your brother,
Governor Bush, can do to give the youth the drive and will to look for a better
future? Because it seems like a lot of them don't -- it seems as if they don't
have anything to lose, so they don't have anything to drive for.
THE PRESIDENT: I can think of a couple of things. One is to remind moms and
dads of America that no matter what you're doing during the day job, your most
important job you'll ever have is to love your children, is to tell your children
you love them. (Applause.)
Secondly, it goes to this lady's point right here, is to make sure that every
child in America is well-educated, starting with every child learning to read.
There's nothing like an education to provide hope for people.
Part of the reason why people are discouraged is because they lose hope. They
say, well, this society isn't meant for me. A hopeful society is an educated
society. And so we've got to make sure we get it right, we have an education
-- a focus on education, understanding that education is the gateway to such
great freedom and opportunity.
And, finally, one of my initiatives that I'm most proud of that passed the House
of Representatives and I think will have a significant impact in America is
to rally one of the great strengths of our country, and that is the faith-based
initiatives and faith-based programs which exist all across the country. (Applause.)
I want to talk about one. I want to talk about a couple. First of all, governments
shouldn't worry about faith. We ought to welcome faith. We ought to understand
that -- (applause) -- we ought to welcome those programs that exist, because
somebody will say, what can I do, what can I do to help a neighbor in need.
What can I do. And it's not a particular faith I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the Muslim faith, I'm talking about Judaism, and I'm talking
about Christianity. No, the faith doesn't have a lock on a certain religion.
I'm talking about people who have heard a call. And there all kinds of program
all around America based upon faith. And many of them have asked the question:
What can I do to surround a child with love? What can I do to make sure that
a child has got -- somebody has got their arm them saying, somebody loves you.
There's a lot of children who have no love in their life. Imagine what it would
be like growing up in America, how tough it would be if your mom or your dad
were in prison. How tough is that? The degree of difficulty for success is incredibly
hard for a person. And we've got a program that we hope to get out of Congress
-- the House passed it -- get it out of the Senate -- that says, we want to
fund, make monies available for mentoring programs, faith-based or not, but
mentoring programs, the sole purpose of which will be to take a son or a daughter
of a person in prison and encourage some loving soul to say, I love you; America
is meant for you; this country belongs to you, get educated and go after it
with all your heart and all your soul.
So there's a lot that can be done in society. You know, government -- government
must not fear these programs that exist in neighborhoods all around the country,
based upon faith. We must not fear. We must fear government embracing religion.
We fear state religion -- that's not what we're for. We don't want for one government
or religion. Government will never say, this is the religion. We're a free society
for religion. But government can embrace programs started because of faith and
religion, and encourage those programs to foster in neighborhoods all across
America. I'm passionate on the subject because I understand the power of faith
in people's lives and I understand what it can mean. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Mr. President, early in your administration there was a lot of discussion
of drilling for oil in Alaska and the Gulf. Now that prices are low at the pump,
what are you doing to ensure that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes -- well, I'm trying to get an energy plan out of Congress.
(Laughter.) The House of Representatives -- the House of Representatives passed
a good energy bill. It is stuck in the Senate. And I believe it is in our national
interests to have an energy plan, to have a strategy to get us less dependent
on foreign sources of crude oil. (Applause.)
Part of that energy plan means that we've got to enhance conservation. We've
got to encourage technologies that will enable us to conserve better. And we
can do that with the proper incentives. And this plan of ours that passed the
House has got incentives to encourage conservation. And we're making great strides
in our society, by the way, of conserving. We're doing a much better job, and
we can do an even better job.
Part of it also recognizes that we need more supply. And there are several places
we can find supply. One is, I believe that the nuclear industry is safe enough
now to encourage more nuclear power in America. I believe that is necessary.
(Applause.) I also strongly believe that we can explore for natural gas in Alaska
without damaging the environment. And I believe that's necessary to do that.
You know, when the vote came up in the House, a lot of people came forward to
work on behalf of the vote because they understood not only did it mean energy
security, it also meant jobs. I was pleased to report that the Teamsters, for
example, led by Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., was out campaigning for -- or lobbying, or
working for this bill, because it meant jobs.
But I've got great faith in the technology and the ability of our country, if
given proper incentive, to become less dependent and more wise about how we
develop our energy sources; I truly do. But we need a bill, and we need to get
it out of the Senate. Energy prices are low, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't
worry about our future. Because if the economies of the world come back, we
might be in a tight again, in which case we're going to be wondering where was
the energy policy that the President was arguing for back in the year 2001.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not nervous as you are. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I wrote it out, because I thought I would be nervous, and I'm here
with my sister, Maggie and my family, and --
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Hi, Maggie. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And I'm Caitlin. Our family wants to help out our country, and we
think that making families strong will make our country strong. My parents believe
that eating meals together will do that. Is it something that you did when you
were a kid, and that you and Mrs. Bush believe in?
THE PRESIDENT: I did eat with my family, so long as my mother wasn't cooking.
(Laughter.) Wait a minute. Just kidding, Mom. (Laughter and applause.) She was
one of the great fast food cooks of all time. (Laughter and applause.) Just
kidding, Mom. We ate a lot together. We did. And I think it's important to do
that. That's a very interesting question.
You know, we live in a society that's a busy society. We live in a society where
it's so easy to forget the fundamentals. But one of the really positive things
that has come out of the evil of 9/11 was that people are beginning to ask,
what's important. What's important.
I think you've touched on something really important, and that's family. And
the idea of a mom and dad prioritizing family is all about not only enhancing
the quality of life of their children, but collectively, making America so much
stronger and so much better after the evils.
There has been -- this is an unbelievably great country we live in. The values
of America are so strong, the people are so real, and so good. And 9/11 has
brought out, in many instances, the best in America. Part of that is the individual
-- the decisions individual families make about setting new priorities in their
lives. A lot of it has to do with helping people in need.
I'll never forget the story of people in a Midwestern city, when they heard
me on TV talk about how distressed I was that women of cover would not leave
their homes, for fear of some other American treating them harshly, and then
Jewish citizens and Christians alike, getting on the phone, and saying, we want
to help you. We want to take you to the neighborhood store. This isn't the America
No, the country -- this country is a fabulous country. They thought they hurt
us, the evil ones. They have made us stronger, more real, and a better land.
QUESTION: Mr. President, we thank you for coming, on behalf of the clergy of
Orlando. We're going to be having a summit this next week, 12/12 summit, and
I'm a pastor. And we want to know what we can do -- we're praying for strategies
of how we can assist you in our government, and assist our communities.
THE PRESIDENT: First thing you can do is make sure people of all faiths are
represented at your prayer session. It sends such a strong signal -- (applause)
-- it reminds people of the greatness of America. The evil people we fight,
they don't believe in religious freedom. They want it their way or no way. And
if you're not their way, they'll treat you harshly. That's why, by the way,
when we liberated cities throughout Afghanistan, people lined the roads and
cheered out of joy and happiness.
Secondly, you need to pray for the good Lord to protect America, provide a shield
over our country, to prevent us from harm. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. President. I want to say, they haven't won. I got in my car
today, and I'm in the same building with you, speaking to you. They have not
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: And would you say hello to my son Jordan, and my daughter Patricia.
THE PRESIDENT: Jordan and who?
THE PRESIDENT: Hi, Patricia; how are you? How old is Patricia?
QUESTION: Five, and Jordan is in 3rd grade. And Jordan has a question, if I
could give him the microphone.
THE PRESIDENT: You bet. Your mother is relaying the Mike to you, Jordan.
QUESTION: One thing, Mr. President, is that you have no idea how much you've
done for this country. And another thing is that, how did you feel when you
heard about the terrorist attack? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jordan. Well, Jordan, you're not going to believe
what state I was in when I heard about the terrorist attack. I was in Florida.
And my Chief of Staff, Andy Card -- actually, I was in a classroom talking about
a reading program that works. I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to
go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I
used to fly, myself, and I said, well, there's one terrible pilot. I said, it
must have been a horrible accident.
But I was whisked off there, I didn't have much time to think about it. And
I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my Chief of Staff, who is sitting
over here, walked in and said, "A second plane has hit the tower, America
is under attack."
And, Jordan, I wasn't sure what to think at first. You know, I grew up in a
period of time where the idea of America being under attack never entered my
mind -- just like your Daddy's and Mother's mind probably. And I started thinking
hard in that very brief period of time about what it meant to be under attack.
I knew that when I got all of the facts that we were under attack, there would
be hell to pay for attacking America. (Applause.)
I tried to get as many facts as I could, Jordan, to make sure I knew as I was
making decisions that I knew exactly what I was basing my decisions on. I've
got a fabulous team. A President can't possibly be President without a good
team. It starts with having a great wife, by the way. (Applause.)
And so, I got on the phone from Air Force One, asking to find out the facts.
You've got to understand, Jordan, during this period of time, there were all
kinds of rumors floating around. Some of them were erroneous. Obviously -- for
example, there was a news report saying that the State Department had been attacked.
I needed to know what the facts were. But I knew I needed to act. I knew that
if the nation's under attack, the role of the Commander-In-Chief is to respond
forcefully to prevent other attacks from happening. And so, I've talked to the
Secretary of Defense; one of the first acts I did was to put our military on
An interesting thing happened shortly thereafter. Condoleezza Rice -- who was
not with me but was with the Vice President because they were in the White House
compound -- called me on Air Force One after that, and said that she had gotten
a call from Russia, from Vladimir Putin, who understood why we were putting
our troops on alert, and, therefore, wasn't going to respond. That was an important
phone call. Because when I was coming up, and a lot of other older-looking people
here who were coming up with me -- (laughter) -- that would never have happened
in the past. An alert by the United States would have caused Russia to go on
alert, which would have created a complicated situation. But that wasn't the
By the way, we're heading into a new era. One of the positive things that comes
out of the evil was, we're reassessing relationships in order to make the world
more peaceful. I believe it's important for us to have positive relations with
our former enemy and to rethink the defenses of the United States of America.
At any rate, I knew I had a job to do. And I was quoted in the press the other
day as saying I haven't regretted one thing I've decided. And that's the truth.
Every decision I made, I stand by. And I'm proud of the decisions I've made.
QUESTION: Mr. President, peace and blessings be unto you. I'm representing the
Muslim community of Orlando. And I would really like to thank you for being
such a great role model, practicing what this country believes in, the higher
ideals that this country believes in, your support to the Muslim community in
combatting racism. I am an educator, I'm a mother, and I have a strong faith.
Thank you so much for holding these values high, and trying to wipe the stereotypes
that the Taliban has been represented of Muslim women. I am an educator educating
Muslim children in this Orlando city. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: God bless, thank you. (Applause.)
Listen, I've got a job to do. (Laughter.) I've got to get back to my temporary
home. By the way, my address is in Washington; my home is going to be back in
Texas one of these days. But I am -- I have got to go back. I wish I could stay
and answer questions all night, but I've got -- I'll be right there, ma'am.
He's fine. I've got to get back and go to work.
I can't tell you what an honor it is to have been here. I want to thank you
all for your great questions, and for your incredibly warm reception. It's a
huge honor to be the greatest -- to be the President of the greatest country
in the world.