at Alabama Welcome
Plainsman Park Baseball Stadium
October 24, 2002
5:33 P.M CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Thanks for coming. I have the honor
of being the second United States President to ever visit Auburn University.
(Applause.) The first was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
I don't know how he started his speech, but here's how I'm going to start mine:
War Eagle! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: War Eagle, Hey! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank all you War Eagles for being here. I particularly
want to thank your President, President Walker. You did a fine thing when you
picked a native Texan to run Auburn. (Laughter and applause.) And he's doing
a fine job.
And I also want to thank so very much Stephen Renfroe, who's running the baseball
program here. (Applause.) We'll leave behind some of my entourage to make sure
the infield is smooth after we leave. (Laughter.)
I particularly thank you all for coming. It's a huge honor to be here. It's
a great pleasure to be able to come and talk about some of the challenges which
face our nation, talk about why I'm so optimistic that we can face any challenge
before us, to talk about your duty as citizens. You see, we're almost upon an
election, and you have a responsibility as American citizens to exercise your
right, to exercise your freedom, to go to the polls.
I think you have a duty to go to your coffee shops and your community centers
and your houses of worship and ask others to go to the polls. It doesn't matter
whether they're Republican or Democrat or don't give a hoot about politics.
And I suggest when you go, if you're interested in your state and you're interested
in your country that you remind them to vote for Bob Riley as your next governor.
(Applause.) And as you're rounding up those votes, as you show your interest
and concern for our country and our country's future, make sure you send to
the United States Congress a man I can work with, and that man is Mr. Mike Rogers.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Cheering.)
THE PRESIDENT: There's a lot of reasons you ought to be for these two, but a
real good reason is they both married well. (Laughter.) Like me, they married
above themselves. I'm honored to be with Beth Rogers and the next first lady
of Alabama, Patsy Riley. (Applause.)
Speaking about first ladies, Laura sends her very best. (Applause.) She campaigned
for Riley the other day in Mobile. I told him he drew the short straw here.
I just spoke to her. We're -- it's raining in Crawford, Texas, and that's where
she is. She's on our place in Crawford. And tomorrow we are hosting the President
of China, so she's sweeping the porch. (Laughter and applause.) But she sends
her best. You know, when I asked Laura to marry me, she was a public school
librarian. (Applause.) There's always one in every crowd. (Laughter.) And that
one in every crowd, like Laura, has got to have a good heart, cares deeply about
the school children. And, by the way, for those of you who are going to Auburn
and thinking about becoming school children -- a school teacher -- (laughter)
-- or a public school librarian, I want to thank you for that. It's a really
important profession, it's a noble cause. (Applause.)
You know, when I asked her to marry me, she wasn't interested in politics --
and didn't like politicians. (Laughter.) Now she's the First Lady of the United
States and she is doing a fabulous job on behalf -- (applause.) I'm really proud
of her. People now know why I asked her to marry me. A lot of them are wondering
why she said "yes." (Laughter.) But she sends her best.
I'm also honored to be here with a fabulous United States Senator named Jeff
Sessions. (Applause.) I like working with Jeff. We work well together. We need
more senators like him. One of my most important responsibilities is to name
good judges, is to find good people to serve on the federal bench. I can count
on his support. The problem is, I can't count on a lot of senators' support.
They've been playing politics with my judges. I put good, honorable, honest
people on there whose job isn't to try to rewrite law, but to strictly interpret
the United States Constitution. They've got a lousy record in the United States
No, they don't like those kind of judges up there, so they play politics with
them, petty politics. For the sake of a sound judiciary, we need to change the
leadership in the United States Senate. (Applause.) I appreciate Congressman
Terry Everett, I appreciate Spence Bachus and Sonny Callahan, three fine members
of the United States Congress. And I'm glad they are here today. And I'm also
glad to be up here with Jo Bonner, who's going to take Sonny Callahan's place,
and he'll do just as good a job in the United States Congress as Sonny did.
(Applause.) But you've got some good ones. You've got some good ones from Alabama
up in Washington, and I'm proud to work with them, and I'm proud to call them
You've also got a fine slate of people running for office here, good, honest,
honorable Americans. I hope you get out and support them. It's important.
You know when it comes to talking about the governor, I know something about
being a governor. I was one. And it seems like to me that, particularly when
you look around the State Houses, you want you a governor who's going to elevate
the discourse, who won't play the same old, tired politics of name calling and
slashing and burning. You've got to have a governor who's willing to commit
himself to change the tone in the State House, to bring people together to get
something done on behalf of the citizens. You've got to have you a governor
who will be honorable and honest and full of integrity, and that next governor
is Mr. Bob Riley. (Applause.)
He's got his priorities straight. Education is to a state what national defense
is to the federal government. Therefore, you better elect yourself a governor
who makes education the number one priority. (Applause.) And that governor has
got to have the right attitude about public education.
See, you've got to have a governor like Bob Riley, who is willing to challenge
the soft bigotry of low expectations, somebody who believes every child can
learn, somebody who's willing to set high standards, somebody who refuses to
leave any child behind. No, you've got to have you a governor who sets high
standards but also understands that local control of schools is how you achieve
excellence for every child in the state of Alabama. (Applause.)
The federal government is going to send $700 million of your tax money out of
Washington, D.C., to help the schools here. And, in return for that money, we're
beginning to ask the fundamental question as to whether or not our children
are learning, whether or not they're learning to read and write, add and subtract.
See, that's a fundamental question that Riley is going to ask as governor. You've
got to ask that question.
If you believe every child can learn, then it makes sense to want to know whether
every child is learning. And when they are, we'll praise the teachers. But when
we find children trapped in schools that will not teach and will not change,
you better have you a governor who's willing to challenge the status quo. No
child should be left behind in the state of Alabama. (Applause.)
I appreciate I appreciate the fact that Bob Riley is an entrepreneur. He started
his own business. If you're worried about jobs in the state of Alabama, it seems
like you better have somebody who knows what it's like to create a job. Somebody
who's actually met a payroll, somebody who can empathize with the small business
owners of the state of Alabama. And that person is Mr. Bob Riley, your next
And finally, I look forward to working with Bob when he's your governor on one
of the most important initiatives I'm trying to push in Washington, D.C., and
it's a faith-based initiative. It's an initiative that understands that government
can hand out money. Government can't solve a lot of the harms and hurts in our
If you're really interested in saving people's lives, if you're interested in
a society which is compassionate, decent, we must empower the houses of worship,
the places of faith, to step in where government has failed and to provide love
and compassion. (Applause.)
I'm not talking about one religion; I'm talking about all religions. All religions
have heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be
loved yourself. Bob Riley and I look forward to unleashing the great strength
of the country, and that's the compassionate hearts of our fellow citizens to
solve some of the needs and hurts in our society.
I'm also here to make it clear to you, as clear as I can for the people of this
district: you need to send Mike Rogers to the United States Congress. (Applause.)
And there are a lot of reasons why. We've got some big hurdles in the country
and I need a man up there with whom I can work representing this great district.
One of the hurdles I face is that our economy isn't as good as it should be.
It's bumping along. Any time somebody is trying to find work and can't find
a job in America, I think we've got a problem. Any time somebody wants to put
food on the table and they can't find a job, we need to do something about it.
Except our philosophy is different from some of them in Washington. The role
of government is not to create wealth -- the role of government is to create
an environment in which the small business owner can grow to be a big business;
in which people with the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes; in which job creation
is strong and evident. And the best way to do that is to let people keep more
of their own money. (Applause.)
Here's the textbook we read from: it says that if you let a person have more
of their own money, then they're more likely to demand a good or a service.
And when somebody demands a good or a service in the marketplace, somebody is
likely to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces the good
or a service, somebody is more likely to be able to find a job. The tax cuts
came at exactly the right time in U.S. economic history. (Applause.)
And these tax cuts -- and that tax relief plan is good for small business owners,
it's good for your ranchers, it's good for your farmers, it's good for working
people, it's good for everybody. The tax relief plan did something on the marriage
penalty. See, we believe the tax code ought to encourage marriage, not discourage
marriage. (Applause.) The tax code is putting the death tax on its way to extinction,
but there's a problem. See, the way the Senate voted it out, that after ten
years from the time of enactment, the tax relief goes away. And that's not right.
It creates uncertainty in the tax code. It creates uncertainty for people wanting
to plan their business, to create jobs.
In order to make sure that our economy grows, in order to make sure the job
base is strong, you need to have a congressman who will join me in making sure
that tax relief plan we passed is permanent and doesn't go away. (Applause.)
I look forward to working with Mike to make sure the country is a stronger country.
By the way, one way we need to make the country a stronger country is to make
sure our health care system works, particularly for our elderly. Medicine has
changed -- Medicare hasn't. Medicine is modern -- Medicare is stuck in the past.
For the sake of a stronger America, for the sake of our seniors, we must reform
Medicare and provide prescription drugs for the elderly. (Applause.)
No, there are a lot of issues that we can work on together and I look forward
to working with him. I'm not going to have to worry about his vote, and that's
important. I know he stands solid and square with the people of this district,
and that's important. But the biggest issue we're going to have to work on is
protecting America. The biggest issue we face, the biggest issue my administration
faces and future Congresses are going to face is the protection of you.
You see, there's an enemy out there which hates us. They hate us because of
what we love. And we love freedom. (Applause.) We love freedom and we're not
going to change. (Applause.) We love freedom with every fiber in our body. We
love the fact that people can worship an Almighty God freely in this society.
(Applause.) We appreciate people's right to express themselves. We love the
freedom of a political process where people can vote. We love a free press.
We love every single thing about freedom and we're not changing.
And as a result, the enemy hates us. I want you to know that not only does our
love for freedom differentiate us from an enemy, our value for life differentiates
us from the enemy. You see, in our view, everybody is precious, every life matters,
everybody counts. But the enemy we face is nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded
killers who one the one hand hijack a great religion and, on the other hand,
kill with impunity. (Applause.)
And so we've got a big chore ahead of us. It used to be that oceans could protect
America. I remember conflicts across the sea and it didn't seem to bother us
because oceans were there to guard us. After September the 11th, 2001, we've
learned a new lesson: that if there's an enemy out there that hates us, the
battlefield can come home.
And it's a lesson we've got to remember. It's a lesson I'll certainly remember.
Which means that we not only have to be alert for the known enemy, the obvious
enemy, the killers that bombed Bali -- Bali -- or continue to try to take innocent
life. But we've got to worry about people who've been a problem for a while
and are going to be a problem over time. And I'm talking about Saddam Hussein.
He's a man who -- he's a man who told the world he wouldn't have weapons of
mass destruction. He lied and deceived the world. He's a person who not only
has weapons of mass destruction, he has used weapons of mass destruction. He's
used them in the neighborhood and he's used them on his own people. This dictator
has defied the world over and over and over again. He also can't stand America,
can't stand our friends, can't stand our allies. He hates freedom.
I decided to go to the United Nations and make the case that it's time to deal
with this man, it's time to hold him to his word, it's time to disarm him. It's
also time for the United Nations to show us whether or not they're going to
be a body which can keep the peace; whether or not they're going to be the United
Nations or whether or not they're going to be the League of Nations, an ineffective
body. (Applause.) It's their choice to make.
I hope they act. I hope they show the world that this body is capable of keeping
the peace. I hope they show the world that after 16 resolutions which were defied
by Mr. Saddam Hussein, that the United Nations finally acts in the name of a
peaceful world. I hope that Saddam Hussein hears the call for freedom-loving
nations and does what he said he would do, which is disarm. But if he doesn't,
for the sake of peace, for the sake of our children, for our children's children,
if he doesn't act, the United Nations will not act, the United States will lead
a coalition to disarm Mr. Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I say that because I believe in peace. I say that because we
must be clear-eyed about the real world. I say that because, I understand, after
September the 11th, the world has changed for America. I say that because our
most important obligation is to protect you. Which is why I went to the United
States Congress and asked them to join me in the creation of the Department
of Homeland Security.
See, there's over 100 agencies scattered about in Washington, involved with
protecting you. They're all over the place up there, and it felt like to me
that they ought to be under one organization. So that if the number one priority
is to protect the homeland, it becomes the number one priority of scattered
agencies. If protecting the homeland is important, it seems like to me that
under one umbrella, a new department, that it will be easier to change cultures.
And we're making progress.
By the way, you need to know a lot of good people are working on your behalf,
at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level. If we get any
kind of hint, any evidence whatsoever that somebody might be thinking about
doing something to America, we're moving. We're disrupting. We're denying. We're
doing everything we can to protect the homeland. (Applause.)
But we can do a better job. And that's why the House of Representatives acted
and I appreciate Bob Riley's vote and the other congressmen here's vote to get
that out of the House. But it's stuck in the United States Senate. The Senate
actually wants me to give up some power in order to accept their version of
the bill. They want me to give up a power that every President since John F.
Kennedy has had, which is the capacity to suspend collective bargaining rules
for the sake of national security. And I'm not going to accept that. (Applause.)
I need to be able to move people to the right place at the right time to protect
you. We've got a border issue. We need to know who's coming into America, what
they're bringing into America and are they leaving America. (Applause.) We've
got three agencies on the border: INS and Customs and Border Patrol. They're
full of fine people, really good, hard-working Americans. But in some sectors
they've got different strategies, they wear different uniforms. We need a seamless
capacity to protect America. The Senate needs to give me the flexibility and
the authority to put the right people at the right place at the right time to
protect America. (Applause.)
But the best way to protect America, the best way to secure the homeland, the
best way to protect our families is to hunt the killers down one by one and
bring them to justice. (Applause.) And that is exactly what we are going to
It's a different kind of war. In the old days, you could count the number of
tanks destroyed or ships that were sunk or airplanes shot out of the air and
you say you're making progress. This is a war where the leaders hide in a cave,
or they kind of hide in a dark corner of one of these cities around the world
and then they send youngsters to there suicidal deaths. They don't care about
innocent life. They're cold-blooded killers. And, therefore, the best thing
for us to do is to get them on the run, to hunt them down and to bring them
to justice, which is exactly what is happening. (Applause.)
I want you to know that therapy isn't going to work. (Laughter and applause.)
The doctrine that says either you're with us or you're with the enemy, it still
stands. And there's a lot of good folks hunting these people down. (Applause.)
Sometimes you'll see us making progress and sometimes you won't. We've probably
hauled in a couple thousand of them so far. And like number weren't so lucky.
The other day, a guy named Bin al-Shibh, he popped his head up -- (laughter)
-- he is no longer a problem to the United States of America. (Applause.)
No, we've got a lot of work to do. There's still a lot of heavy lifting. There's
still a lot of killers on the loose. But I've unleashed one of the finest militaries
in the history of mankind. (Applause.) Yesterday, I signed the defense appropriations
bill, it's the largest increase in defense spending since President Ronald Reagan
was in office. (Applause.)
I did so because I wanted to send two messages: one, any time we put our troops,
our youngsters into harm's way, they deserve the best training, the best equipment,
the best possible pay; we owe it to our soldiers and we owe it to their loved
And I wanted to send a message to friend and foe alike: that when it comes to
the defense of our freedom, when it comes to answering history's call, we're
in this deal for the long haul. There's not a calendar on my desk in the Oval
Office that one day the date is going to pop up and say, it's time to -- it's
time to pull them in. It's not the way I think, it's not the way America thinks.
We've been called to action. Our generation has been given a charge to keep.
We are responsible for this country's safety. We're responsible for our freedoms.
And the message I sent by signing that defense bill, to the enemy: you've got
a big problem with America, is what you've got.
I can't imagine what was going through their mind when they hit us. (Laughter.)
You know, they thought we were so materialistic, so selfish, so self-absorbed,
that after September the 11th, 2001 we might have filed a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.)
That's all we were going to do.
No, they don't understand this country. They don't understand the courage of
our people. They don't understand the depth of love we have for freedom. They
don't understand that we're a nation full of responsible citizens who understand
we have a duty to future generations of Americans. That's what they don't understand.
And they're going to pay a serious price for misunderstanding America. (Applause.)
I believe out of the evil done to America is going to come some incredible good.
I believe that we can achieve peace if we are strong and focused and diligent,
if we remember that freedom is not an American blessing, it's a God-given blessing
for people all around the world. If we remain true to our beliefs, we can achieve
peace. We can achieve peace for people here at home. We can achieve peace in
parts of the world which have quit on peace. We can achieve peace in the Middle
East, can achieve peace in South Asia.
No, amidst this talk about going to get them and hauling them in, you've just
got to know that I believe in peace. And I believe peace is going to come. I
believe peace is going to come.
And here at home, I know that out of the evil done to America can come a more
compassionate country. See, amidst our plenty, there are pockets of despair
and hopelessness. There are people when they hear the word "American Dream,"
they don't know what you're talking about. They don't have a dream; they're
lost souls. Government can hand out money, but it can't put hope in people's
hearts. That happens when a fellow American puts their arms around somebody
in need and says, "I love you, what can I do to help you, brother? How
can I help you?" No, the best way to fight evil here in America is to love
a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. See, it's the gathering
momentum of millions of acts of kindness and compassion which change our country.
I met Shirley Rose Glisson today at Air Force One in Montgomery. She came out
because she is a she's one of the soldiers in the armies of compassion right
here in Auburn. She goes to Auburn United Methodist. (Applause.) She decided
she was going to start a food pantry with members of her church. They now feed
30 hungry families. It's this act and thousands of acts like it which define
the true character of our country.
You know, it's interesting about what happened on September the 11th. A lot
of our citizens have taken a step back. They wonder what life is all about.
The most vivid example of the new American spirit took place on Flight 93. People
flying across the country. They heard the plane was being used as a weapon.
They were on their cell phones to their loved ones. They said "goodbye."
They said, "I love you." They said a prayer. A guy said, "let's
roll." And they drove the plane in the ground to serve something greater
than themselves. (Applause.)
You've got to understand that patriotism patriotism or the American spirit can
be served all kinds of ways. It is more than just putting your hand over your
heart. It is serving a great nation. And you can do so by helping somebody who
hurts, somebody in need.
No, the enemy hit us. They had no idea who they were hitting. There's no doubt
in my mind that this great nation can lead the world to peace. There's no doubt
in my mind that we can have a more compassionate tomorrow for everybody who
lives in this country because, my fellow Americans, we're citizens of the greatest
country, full of the finest people on the face of the earth. Thank you for coming.
May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)