at Republican Governors Association Fall Reception
National Building Museum
September 19, 2002
6:53 P.M. EDT
Well, thank you all very much. John, thank you very much. I appreciate the invitation
to get out of the house. (Laughter.) I'm honored to come to thank you all for
supporting our governors.
I love our governors. I know them well. I was one. (Laughter.) And these are
fine, fine public servants who bring a lot of class and dignity to the office
they hold. They put results ahead of process. These are people who put success
ahead of excessive verbiage. They're on the front lines of reform. They care
deeply about our country. I'm honored to be in their presence. And I want to
thank you for supporting their reelections. (Applause.)
Governors get things done. And governors can make a tremendous difference in
people's lives. I knew that when I started forming my Cabinet. I knew that I
needed to surround myself with people who not only would bring honor to the
office to which I appointed them, but also would work hard to get something
done for the country. And that's why I named John Ashcroft, former governor;
Christie Todd Whitman, former governor; Tommy Thompson, former governor; and
Tom Ridge, former governor, to serve our country. (Applause.)
I want to thank Johnny Rowland for his leadership of the Republican Governors
Association, and for his fine leadership for the state of Connecticut. (Applause.)
He got one peep. (Laughter.) Bill Owens is the Vice Chairman, from the great
state of Colorado, and I appreciate his leadership, as well. (Applause.)
I want to thank all the First Ladies who are here. First Ladies really define
the governor -- or First Gentlemen -- define the governor. (Laughter.) Just
like our great First Lady has helped me a lot and defined me as a person. You
know, people get to know a lot -- (applause) -- you can judge the nature of
a man, in my case, by the person he marries. And I married above myself. (Laughter.)
People have gotten to know Laura. They now understand why I asked her to marry
me. Lot of folks are still wondering why she said yes. (Laughter.) She sends
her love to our governors and their wives. She sends her appreciation to you.
And I can't tell you how proud I am of the job she's doing for America. (Applause.)
I appreciate these governors being on the front line of making America a stronger
place, a safer place, and a better place for all citizens -- regardless of their
party affiliation, regardless of where they live. That's the spirit of these
And that's a job we all have in America, to make America a safer, stronger,
and better place. And to make sure America is a strong place, we need to continue
to work to make sure our fellow citizens can find work. A strong America is
an America in which people who want to work and can't find a job are able to
do so. A strong America is an America that recognizes the vibrancy of the entrepreneur
in America. A strong America understands the role of government is not to create
wealth, but an environment in which the small business owner can grow his or
A strong America is one that recognizes that in times of recession -- and I
want you all to remember that when Dick Cheney and I got sworn in, the country
was in a recession -- and a strong economy, a strong America, is one that recognizes
that the engine to growth is the American people. And so when we let American
people keep more of their own money, we sent a clear, strong signal to economic
Some up here don't get it, see. They forget whose money we're talking about.
They think we're talking about the government's money. One thing we all understand
is when it comes to tax money, it's your money. And the tax cuts we passed in
Washington came at the right time. (Applause.) And that's just one of the first
things we have done here to make sure our economies grow, to make sure people
can find work.
I was the first President in a long time to get what they call trade promotion
authority. My attitude is, if you're good at something, you ought to promote
it. (Laughter.) We're good at growing crops, we're good at raising cattle, we're
good at the entrepreneurial spirit, we're good at high-tech. We ought not to
fear trade; we ought to welcome trade. And for the sake of jobs, I got the Congress
to pass the trade promotion authority, so our people would be more likely to
find work. (Applause.)
For the sake of economic vitality, we sent a chilling signal to our fellow Americans
who feel like they can fudge the books, who feel like they can get ahead by
not telling the truth. Every one of these governors understands the need for
corporate responsibility in their states and all across America. I proudly signed
the most comprehensive corporate reform since Franklin D. Roosevelt was the
President of the United States. And for the sake of a stronger America, we sent
this signal: No more easy money, just hard time, if you betray the trust of
your employees and your shareholders in America. (Applause.)
Now, we've got a foundation for economic vitality and growth that is strong.
Interest rates are low, inflation is low. The productivity of the American worker
is the best in the world. But we're not going to rest until people find work.
A stronger America requires a strong economy. And there are some things that
Congress can do to help us in our desire to make America a stronger place.
And I'll give you one example. There are over 300,000 jobs that don't exist
because many developers and project managers cannot find terrorism insurance.
The Congress ought to pass a law that provides a backstop for terrorism insurance,
to get our hard-hats working again. And by the way, it needs to be a law that
does not reward trial lawyers, but rewards the hard-hats of America. (Applause.)
We need an energy bill in America -- an energy bill that fosters more conservation,
an energy bill that enhances renewables like ethanol, but an energy bill that
makes us less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. An energy bill is needed.
There's too much talk in Washington, and not enough action. (Applause.)
And finally, to make this economy strong, to make sure people can find work,
we've got to make sure Congress holds the line on spending. There's an enormous
appetite for spending your money up here. Every project sounds wonderful in
Washington, D.C. Problem is, is that the price tags run in the billions. It
is important for Congress to set priorities.
It's hard to set priorities, however, when the Senate can't even pass a budget.
The House passed a budget. The Senate can't pass a budget. My message to Congress,
and I hope you help send the message, is we expect the appropriators to be wise
with the people's money. We expect them to stay focused on national priorities.
We expect them not to overspend. We expect them to be reasonable and sound.
Because if we overspend, it will make it harder for people to find work.
No, the grounds for economic growth are strong. After all, this is America.
There's a lot of problems that we can overcome. But I just want to assure you,
and I want to assure my friends who are the governors, this administration will
not rest, we will stay focused on economic vitality, because we understand a
strong America is an America in which people can find work. (Applause.)
And we're working hard here in Washington, and we're working hard with our governors
to make sure we have a safer America. We need to work hard because there's still
an enemy out there which hates our country. They hate America. They hate us
because we love. We love freedom. We love the idea of our fellow citizens being
able to worship and almighty Gad any way he or she sees fit. We love the idea
of welcoming people to our country and letting them rise to their own level
that talents will take them. We love the idea of being able to speak our minds,
to have political discourse. We love a free press. We love freedom.
But the enemy hates freedom. We also value each life in America. Everybody counts.
Everybody has got worth. Everybody matters. But that's not the way our enemy
thinks. They don't value life. They don't care about innocent life. And so long
as we hold these values dear, which we will do, there will be an enemy trying
to hurt America.
And so, therefore, my most important job is to protect the American people from
further harm, is to guard our homeland. You need to know a lot of good folks
are working hard to just that. I can testify for those here in the federal government
that are spending hours upon hours chasing down every lead, running down every
hint. We get a whiff of anything that might be happening or going to happen
to America, we're moving on it -- and at the same time, I can proudly report,
safeguarding the United States Constitution. (Applause.)
And so are these governors. They're working hard to protect their fellow citizens.
They're working hard at the state level, and working in coordination at the
local level, to prepare, to be ready, to be on alert. And I want to thank them
for their service to our country.
I asked Congress to work with me to make a -- to make the government work better.
I readily concede my slogan wasn't, don't -- vote for me, I'm going to make
government bigger. But I do want to make it work better. And that's why I called
upon our Congress to set up a department of homeland defense, so we can better
coordinate amongst agencies; so we can have the protection of our homeland as
our number one priority; so, if need be, we can change cultures so that this
President and administration, and future Presidents and administrations, can
say to the American people, we're doing everything in our power to protect you.
And we're making some progress. Republicans and Democrats came together in the
House of Representatives to pass a good homeland security bill. We're kind of
bogged down in the Senate, however. You see, the Senate wants to take away some
of the powers of the administrative branch. The Senate wants to micromanage
the process. And I'm not going to let them do it.
For the sake of homeland security, the Senate -- (applause.) For the sake of
the security of our homeland, the Senate needs to be more worried about the
American people, and less worried about special interest here in Washington,
But the best way to secure our homeland is to chase the killers down, one person
at a time, and bring them to justice, which is exactly what the United States
is going to do. (Applause.) It's a different kind of war. It's a war that is
not measured by the destruction of tanks, or ships, or aircraft, because we're
fighting a different kind of enemy. This is a war that is measured in terms
of killers caught.
We're making progress, thanks to a coalition we have put together. And we're
making progress thanks to one of the finest militaries our nation has ever seen.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thanks to our Commander-in-Chief! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: This is an enemy which hides in caves, or in the dark corners
of cities, and then sends youngsters to their suicidal death. It's a different
kind of enemy and a different kind of war. But our resolve is just as fierce
today as it has been in the past. And we're making progress, we're making progress.
I don't have an exact count, but the number of those who the United States and
our coalition partners have arrested, detained, whatever you want to call it,
is over a couple thousand. And about a like number weren't as lucky; they're
just not around anymore.
We got a guy the other day, just as an example, thought he could hide in Pakistan.
I don't know if you remember that doctrine I laid out; said, either you're with
us or you're with the enemy. President Musharraf in Pakistan is with us when
it comes to hunting these killers down. (Applause.) The person who thought he'd
be the 20th hijacker, Binalshibh, is no longer a threat to the United States
of America and our friends and allies. (Applause.)
Oh, I know for some who are trying to fill the airways with speculation and
noise and news and all that stuff, it's not a very glamorous war. But you've
just got to know, this nation is steady in our pursuit. We're strong in our
resolve. No matter how long it takes, we're going to hunt them down, one person
at a time. We're going to get them on the run, and we're going to keep them
on the run, until we bring them to justice. (Applause.)
I have submitted the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan
was the President. I sent that up to the Congress for two reasons. One, any
time this nation sends our troops into harm's way, any time we ask our youngsters
to go into the thin air of the mountains of Afghanistan or anywhere else in
harm's way, they deserve the best pay, the best training, and the best possible
equipment. We not only owe it to their -- to the soldiers, we owe it to their
loved ones, as well. (Applause.)
And a defense bill sends another message. It sends a clear message to our friends
and to our foe that the United States is in this for the long pull. There's
not an artificial quitting date. There's not a moment that says, you know, well,
we've been at it for a period of time, we're getting kind of worn out, and freedom
isn't that important. The message is that no matter how long it takes, and no
matter what the cost, we will defend the freedoms of the United States of America.
The House passed a defense bill. The Senate passed the defense bill. The way
the process works is they're supposed to get together, reconcile their differences,
and get me a defense bill. It languishes. It languishes. This Congress must
do its duty and get me a defense bill before it goes home. For the sake of our
country, for the sake of this war, for the sake of the military, I need a defense
appropriations bill. (Applause.)
Now, we've got a big task ahead. See, history has put the spotlight on us. History
will determine whether or not this nation was strong and resolved in our defense
of freedom. History will determine whether or not we uphold our values, the
values that say we not only care for individuals here at home, but everybody
matters. So far I think history is going to judge us well.
I want you to remember that when it came time to uphold the doctrine that said,
if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you house a terrorist,
you're just as guilty as the terrorist, we upheld that doctrine. And in so doing
-- (applause.) And in so doing, we freed a group of people from the clutches
of one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind. I want you to
tell your children when they ask about this war that our country went into Afghanistan
not to conquer anybody, but to liberate people. And as a result of the United
States and our friends and allies, many young girls now go to school for the
No, this might nation -- (applause) -- this mighty nation believes that everybody
matters. Each person has worth. Everybody counts, regardless of where they are
from. And we're going to have tough times ahead of us, no question about it,
as we pursue our goals. There's going to be some rocky paths that we're going
to have to climb up. There's going to be some high hurdles we have to cross.
One of the highest hurdles is to recognize that as a nation we're no longer
protected by two vast oceans. No longer are we safe. We used to think, well,
there's a little conflict going over there, or perhaps a leader over here who
is a despicable person couldn't hurt us. We learned a new lesson after September
the 11th, that we're vulnerable. For the sake of our security, we must not allow
-- for the sake of the future of our country and for the future of other regions
in the world, we must never allow the world's worst leaders to develop, to deploy,
to blackmail the free world, with the world's worst weapons. (Applause.)
I believe it is important that there be an international organization that is
strong and vibrant, and capable of helping freedom-loving countries keep the
peace. You see, if the enemy hides in caves, and a different kind of enemy,
different kind of war, we need a collection of friends sharing intelligence,
cutting off money, routing these people out. So I went to the United Nations.
And I made it clear to the United Nations that our nation hopes that the United
Nations succeeds. We want there to be a strong United Nations. We want the United
Nations to be more than a debating society. We don't want the United Nations
to become the League of Nations. We want the United Nations to have backbone
and to enforce -- enforce the resolutions and doctrines and mandates. (Applause.)
I also made it clear, for the sake of peace, for the sake of freedom for our
country, if the United Nations will not act, the United States and our friends
will. We owe it to our children, we owe it to our grandchildren to make sure
that the dictator in Iraq never threatens our country, or our children, or our
children's children with the world's worst weapons. (Applause.)
As we work to make our country stronger and safer, we also must never forget
to work to make it better. That's why I'm so strong for these governors -- they
understand that. I signed one of the most comprehensive education reform bills
in our nation's history. It says, we expect there to be high standards in American
schools. We want to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. I believe
-- and these fine governors believe -- that every child in America can learn.
Everybody can learn. And therefore, we expect everybody to learn. (Applause.)
If you believe everybody can learn, then you should expect everybody to learn.
Inherent in that bill is my great trust for the governors of the United States
and for local folks. I strongly believe in local control of schools. But I also
believe in this -- that if you take federal money, if you receive a dime of
federal money, you owe it to the taxpayers to show us whether or not the children
are learning to read and write and add and subtract. And if they are, there
will be plenty of praise for our nation's teachers. But if not, we must not
allow our children to be trapped in schools which will not teach and will not
A better tomorrow recognizes that when it comes to reforming welfare we must
insist upon work. People find dignity in a job. I look forward to working with
our governors to make sure we continue the great progress of welfare reform
by helping people help themselves, by helping people find job training so that
instead of being dependent upon government, they can find a job and be dependent
upon their skills and their talents to provide for their families.
A better tomorrow recognizes the great power of our faith-based institutions
in America. A better tomorrow recognizes that in our churches, in synagogues
and mosques, we find great compassion and love. We understand that government
can hand out money, but what government cannot do -- and by the way, we do a
pretty good job of it up here -- but what government cannot do is put hope in
people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That's found in --
all across America. It's found particularly in places that exist because of
the universal dictum that people should love their neighbors just like they
should be loved themselves. (Applause.)
You know, the enemy hit us, the enemy hit us, and they didn't know who they
were hitting. Oh, they probably thought that after September the 11th, 2001,
we'd kind of regroup and file a lawsuit or two. (Laughter.) They didn't realize
that this bold country is a great country, full of decent and compassionate
people. I want you to know that out of the evil done to America is going to
come great good. Around the world, if we remain tough and strong, we can achieve
peace. If we're willing to speak clearly about good and evil, if we continue
to denounce terror, if we understand the plight of the human condition, which
we do in America -- that people must have hope, that everybody matters, that
freedom counts -- we can achieve peace in this world.
Oh, you'll hear a lot of war rhetoric. But I want you to know, my goal is peace.
I long for peace. And I believe out of the evil done to America can come peace
in places around the world that have quit on peace, including the Middle East
and South Asia. (Applause.) I also want you to know -- I want you to know that
we will be a better America, too. Because the strength of the country lies in
the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens.
People say, how can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil?
You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say
I love you; by running a Boy Scout troop or a Girl Scout troop; by being involved
in your Boys and Girls Clubs; by joining the USA Freedom Corps. If you're interested
in helping America fight evil, love your neighbor just like you'd like to be
An educated America, a working America, an America that understands the power
of our faith-based and charitable organizations is an America that is going
to be a better America. There is no question in my mind that out of the evil
done to this country, that we will be able to help eradicate those pockets of
despair and hopelessness which exist. In our land of plenty, there are people
who hurt, people who cry, people who wonder whether or not the American Dream
is meant for them. And this society of ours, this society of ours is going to
change, one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time, because thousands of
our fellow citizens are loving a neighbor just like they'd like to be loved
People understand in America now that a patriot is somebody who not only puts
his hand over his heart and says, "I pledge allegiance" to one nation
under God, but somebody who serves something greater than themselves.
See, that was the example of Flight 93, an example which is vivid in my mind,
and I'm sure vivid in yours. It's an historic moment in many ways, a sad, tragic
moment. On the other hand, it's a moment that I hope people remember for a long
time. After all, it was a flight full of our fellow citizens. They learned that
the plane they were on was going to be used as a weapon. They told their loved
ones good-bye, or, I love you. They said a prayer. One guy said, "Let's
roll." They drove the plane into the ground to serve something greater
than themselves in life.
No, the spirit of America was alive on that airplane. The spirit of America
is alive today. No, out of the evil done to this great country is going to come
a more compassionate, a more decent, a more hopeful country. There's no doubt
in my mind that we can achieve the big goals before us, because this is the
finest country on the face of the Earth, full of the finest people.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.) Thank you all.