Remarks at Mike Ferguson for Congress Luncheon
Sheraton Newark Hotel
Newark, New Jersey
June 24, 2002
12:28 P.M. EDT

Thank you very much. So here's what I believe. I believe if you find an honest person who works hard on behalf of every citizen in the district in which he represents, a person who does in office what he said he would do -- you need to send him back to Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

I'm here as strong an advocate as I can be for the re-election of Mike Ferguson to the United States Congress. (Applause.) After all, we share some things in common. We both have got impressive mothers. (Laughter and applause.) We both got degrees from Notre Dame. (Laughter and applause.) Okay, it took me a 30-minute speech to get mine. (Laughter.) We both married great women. (Applause.)

I appreciate so very much Maureen. I love her demeanor. It was an honor to meet their children today. And I want you to know, Maureen and Mike, that Laura sends her best. She is not town -- not in Washington, that is. She's out in Texas with her mother, and she is -- but, boy, she's made me proud. (Applause.) People now know why I asked her to marry me. (Laughter.) A lot of people wonder why she said yes, but -- (laughter).

But we're doing great. Listen, many of you said you pray for Laura and me and the family. It is the kindest gift you can give the President, is your prayers, and I want to thank you for that. (Applause.)

We had a big event at the Port Authority today, and one of the -- one of my treasured Cabinet secretaries and friends came with me, and that is your former Governor, Christie Todd Whitman. (Applause.) Barney -- Barney's the little Scottish Terrier -- wouldn't have happened with Christie Todd. (Laughter.) And so I thank her for her service, but as importantly, thank her for Barney. (Laughter.)

I want to thank some candidates who are here. Doug Forerster, running for the United States Senate, is with us. (Applause.) Scott Garrett, running in the 5th District of New Jersey; thank you, Scott. (Applause.) My friend Buster Soaries; thank you, Buster, for coming, I'm glad you're here. (Applause.)

I want to thank Rodney Frelinghuysen for being here. He's a fine member of the United States Congress. And Rodney, thank you for your leadership. (Applause.) Frank LoBiondo is here as well. Frank, where are you? (Applause.) He heard I was going to give a speech. (Laughter.)

I want to thank Lew Eisenberg, my friend here from New Jersey, for being such a great Republican National Committee Finance Chairman. I want to thank Lew for taking time out of a busy life to serve our party and our country. And I want to thank your Chairman, the new father. Joe, I wish you all the very best with your new baby. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

So, the enemy hits us, and a lot of people were wondering how people would respond. And Mike and Maureen spend time comforting people. They didn't hold press conferences. They didn't hire some camera crew to follow them around. They did the best they could possibly do about extending love and compassion and decency to people who hurt deeply. That's the kind of Congressman I would like to have. (Applause.)

This was not a time for politics in our country. This was a time to be as good an American as you could possibly be. It's a time of great testing. These two folks passed it, passed their test with flying colors.

And he's passed his test in the United States Congress, too. A couple of examples: he understands, like I understand, the role of government is not to create wealth. The role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which the small business can grow to be a big business, in which people are willing to take risk. He understands that when you cut the people's taxes, it's part of creating an environment that encourages job growth.

You know, when I was running, I said -- they asked me, would you ever deficit spend? I said, well, only if we had a recession, or a national emergency, or a war. (Laughter.) And our economy was floundering, and thank goodness I had allies like Mike, who agreed with me that we needed to let people keep more of their own money. See, we -- here's the textbook we read from. If somebody has more money in their pocket, they're likely to spend it, and when they spend it, they demand a good and -- or service. And when somebody demands a good or service, somebody is going to produce a good and service. And when somebody is producing a good or a service, somebody is working.

In Washington, they talk about statistics all the time. Here's my attitude: so long as somebody wants to work and can't find a job, we need to worry about that person. We need to worry less about statistics, and more about the people -- more about people who are trying to find a job. Tax cuts came at the right time in America, and I'm glad Mike was by my side. And now we need to make them permanent. (Applause.)

And I appreciate his commitment to making sure Social Security is strong; not only strong today, and that we fulfill the promise to our seniors today, but strong tomorrow. And as well, you need to know that as an impressive -- as a sign of the Congress' recognition of Mike's leadership, he's going to be one of the leaders on the floor of the Congress, to make sure that our seniors get prescription drugs in Medicare. (Applause.)

That doesn't happen all the time, when you've got a freshman Congressman. You know, as they say down home, it means you've got a good one. (Laughter.) And you need to work hard to put him back in office. (Applause.) And that means more than showing up in ballrooms. That means manning the phones and turning out the vote. Many of you never get enough credit for that kind of work, here in New Jersey or anywhere around the country. I'm here to tell you, I thank you from the bottom of Mike's heart and my heart for your willingness to be grassroots activists for something you believe in. And I believe in this guy, and I know you do as well.

And what I love about Mike's background is he was a teacher. For those of you who have been teachers, and or are teachers today, thank you from the bottom of our heart. It's an incredibly important profession. (Applause.) Because while homeland security is now the top priority of the country, economic security depends upon making sure every single child -- I don't mean a few, or some -- every child gets a good education.

We passed a great education reform bill. Mike was by my side. He understands it's important to set high standards. It's simple -- kind of a simple logic, but if you set low standards, guess what you're going to get? You're going to get bad results. We believe every child can learn. Therefore, we've set the highest of high standards. And we believe you ought to measure.

You see, if you don't measure, how do you know if somebody is not getting shuffling through -- get shuffled through the system? And guess who is easy to shuffle through? Children whose parents don't speak English as a first language, for example. (Applause.) It's so much easier to quit on a child. Inner city African Americans, it's easy to quit on them. But when you measure, we get to determine whether or not the goal of every child getting educated is being met.

And if that's the case, I promise you, I'm going to praise the teachers all over the country. However, where I find children trapped in schools that won't teach and won't change, I demand something different, because not one single child needs to be left behind in America. (Applause.) And Mike understands that, and I appreciated his support on the education matters. I appreciate his support on matters of economic security. That is a top priority of mine, to make sure we continue to work to expand our job base, so people can find work.

It's a top priority of mine to make sure that we protect the homeland, too. Today I went to the Port Authority to thank the first-responders, brave police and fire and Port Authority officials that work so hard on behalf of the American people. You just need to know, if you don't know, that there are a lot of people working a lot of hours to do everything we can to prevent the enemy from attacking America again. And I'm proud of their efforts, and I'm proud of their response.

I went today to thank those on the front line. We can't thank them enough for the diligence. I like to tell people that any time we get a hint or a lead, or a piece of evidence, we're going to run it down. We're going to make sure that the enemy -- if they think they can hit us, they're going to have to cross some mighty big hurdles to do so.

And we're getting better at what we're doing, we really are. Today I saw some fairly sophisticated equipment -- or very sophisticated equipment about how to detect hazardous equipment. If somebody is trying to ship it here, we've got a better job of risk assessment, so that not only we can facilitate trade, but we can also make sure that the cargo coming in is inspected.

We need to know who is coming in our country, if they're going out when they're supposed to be going out. We need to know what is coming in our country, if it is supposed to be the stuff that's supposed to be coming in our country. And so therefore we're being wiser about how we use technology with our Customs and Border and INS people.

And we need to share information better. There is no question about it, prior to September the 11th, the FBI and CIA weren't talking enough, and now they are on a regular basis. There's no question that the culture of the FBI wasn't focused for homeland defense. After all, they're charged with hauling people in that had busted the law. And they still need to be doing that. But the world's changed, and now the focus is on protecting the homeland.

And every morning, I talk to the Director of the FBI and the head of the CIA, and we talk about information and how we're doing, and what's happening with this lead. It's all part of making sure we do everything we can to -- so I can travel the country to say we're doing, we are doing everything we can, every possible thing, to protect the homeland.

I think we need to do some more in Washington, D.C. I believe strongly we need to reorganize the agencies involved with the homeland, the defense of our homeland, into one single Cabinet agency.

Listen, I didn't run on "Vote for me, I'm going to try to make government bigger." I understand that. And this is going to be a big agency. But I do want to make sure that we've got authority and responsibility aligned. There's over 100 different agencies involved with the defense of our homeland. In order to make sure we've got the right focus and the right culture, it seems wise to me to have them aligned under one agency.

And so I'm asking Congress to make a tough decision: to give up a little turf, and to do what's right on behalf of the American people, so that I can continue to say the government is doing good. (Applause.) And I must tell you, the response has been gratifying, the response from both Republicans and Democrats. And I want to thank them for that, and I just urge them to continue to work to get this done.

There's a lot to do to secure the homeland, and we will. But the surest way to secure the homeland is to hunt the killers down one by one and bring them to justice, which is what we're going to do. (Applause.)

And it's going to take a while. It's going to take a while.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You're doing a good job

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Every crowd needs a yeller. (Laughter.) Thank you.

I'm not doing as good a job as the U.S. military is doing, though. I'll tell you, they're doing a great job. (Applause.) The -- I can't imagine what was going through the minds of the enemy when they attacked us. They must have said, this country was so materialistic, so self-absorbed, so selfish, that after September the 11th, we might file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.)

They found out we think differently. They did. They found out that we love freedom, and we love our country. (Applause.)

And we're making progress, we're making progress. The other night, when I announced the Department of Homeland Security, I told the country that we have arrested -- we, our friends and allies, have arrested over 2,400 people. And that's good. Some of them you never heard about.

This is a different kind of war. This isn't a war with fronts and tanks and industrial complexes. This is a war of this great country fighting down shadowy killers. Nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers who do not value innocent life.

And 2,400 of them is a good -- you know, we're making pretty good progress. But you've just got to know there's more to go. And so long as they're out there threatening us, we're going to run them down. The think they can hide -- (applause).

I've submitted to Congress the largest defense spending increase since Ronald Reagan was President, and I did so for two reasons. One, any time we send our troops into harm's way, they deserve the best equipment, the best training, and the best pay. (Applause.) And secondly, I did so because this is going to take a while.

You know, I just, I don't have a calendar on my desk -- it's a magnificent desk, I might add, in the -- (laughter) -- beautiful Oval Office -- that says on such and such a date we quit. That's not how you think when it comes to defending freedom. There is no date of departure from this noble effort. Until we feel secure, that's the date.

And so I work hard on a daily basis to keep our coalition intact. And this weekend, I had the honor of calling Gloria Arroyo, the President of the Philippines. I don't know if you remember, but they had this little al Qaeda-type terrorist organization that captured two Americans as well as other people. The wife lives free today in America; the husband unfortunately died. They're called Abu Sayyaf. Early on in the war I said, they're there in your country. We'd like to help you. However you want the United States to help, we want to help.

See, we're after -- any time these terrorists light, we're after them. And I called her and congratulated her on what looks like the demise of the head of the organization, totally disrupting it. Either you're with us or you're against us, and she proved she was with us. And I want to thank her for her leadership. (Applause.)

And so we're making steady, steady progress. Just one day at a time. One day at a time. And, as you know, I'm deeply concerned not only about shadowy terrorist networks; I'm deeply concerned about shadowy terrorist networks teaming up with nations which have got some of the world's worst leaders, and at the same times want to develop and maintain the world's worst weapons.

And I'm a patient man. I'll take my time. We've got a lot of tools at our disposal -- we've got diplomatic tools, financial tools, military tools. But for the sake of our children, and for the sake of freedom, we can't let the world's worst leaders threaten us or blackmail us with the world's worst weapons. (Applause.)

I want to thank Mike for his steadfast support on this war we all fight. This isn't that partisan battle up in the Congress. There are no partisan battles when it comes to defending the homeland. This isn't a Republican initiative, it's not a Democrat initiative. This is an American initiative. And I think Congress understands that. (Applause.)

Not only do I feel determined, I also feel that out of the evil done to America is going to come some good. I truly believe that. I believe that if we remain strong and steadfast, we can achieve peace.

I see a lot of youngsters here. I want them to know that my dream is peace. I want our children -- and matter of fact, children all around the world -- to grow up in peace. Your country doesn't seek revenge; we seek justice. And when we went into the first battle of this new war, we liberated a country. We didn't conquer a country, we liberated a country. And thanks to your government and your country, young girls go to school for the first time in Afghanistan. (Applause.)

And I also believe here at home, out of the evil done to America can come some incredible good as well. I do. I see -- if you want to fight evil, love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. If you want to fight evil, do some good. Do some good. Help a neighbor in need. Mentor a child. Teach a child to read.

Listen, there are pockets of despair and loneliness and hopelessness in America that we need to worry about. There are people who hurt in this country, people who wonder, is America meant for them? And I believe that because this nation is so compassionate and decent, that out of the evil done to America on September the 11th will come the good by reaching into neighborhoods with love and compassion and decency.

I'm a strong backer of the faith-based initiative, because I believe -- (applause) -- because I believe in providing help and hope to those in need. Government can write a check, but what government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That will be done by our fellow citizens. We will change America one soul, one conscience, one person at a time. (Applause.)

And it's happening here in this country. Joanna Glick came out to the airport today and then was at the Port Authority with me; she's a 17-year-old child, a high school student, who, the day after September the 11th, started what's called Teen Freedom Corps Club in her high school to help people in need.

You know, what made her story most interesting is her brother, Jeremy, was on Flight 93. And so here's a child who asked the question, what can I do to fight evil? And of course, obviously, misses her brother and loves her brother, but immediately went out to rally compassion and decency to help people in need.

Her brother serves as a great example of what I think is happening in America, and why I say that out of evil will come some good. Here's a guy, along with others, on an airplane they knew was a weapon. Told their loved ones goodbye, told them they loved them. Said a prayer. Said, "Let's roll." Drove the plane in the ground.

They served something greater than themselves in life. They were willing to say, I will die to save somebody else. Joanna was willing to say, I will work, I will set aside myself, to serve somebody else.

And that's my call to my fellow Americans. If you want to do some good, you can fight evil by loving a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. (Applause.)

Now, out of the evil will come some good, because this is America. We are the greatest country, the greatest country, on the face of the earth. It is my privilege to campaign for a congressman of that great country, as the President of the greatest country.

God bless you all, and God bless America. (Applause.)

END 12:52 P.M. EDT