George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Bush-Cheney Luncheon in Little Rock, Arkansas

November 10, 2003

Thank you all. Thank you all very much. Thanks for coming. Thank you. Please be seated, thanks. Thanks for coming. Thanks for the warm welcome. I appreciate your fine words, Skinny. [Laughter] I got off the airplane, I wasn't sure who I was looking at. [Laughter]

So we get in the limousine, and we're driving here from the airport, and the Governor says, "Do you still follow college football?" [Laughter] I wasn't exactly sure what he was driving at. I said, "Yeah, I pay attention to it." He said, "Were you paying attention to it a couple of weeks ago?" I said, "Yes, I sure was, Governor. Congratulations to the Hawgs."

Thank you all for coming today. What we're doing today is we're laying the foundation for what is going to be a victory in Arkansas in '04 and a nationwide victory in '04.

I want to thank you for your hard work and for your strong support. I want to thank you for what you did in 2000. I re-member—[applause]—yes. I remember coming as the last stop we made prior to getting back to Texas after a long, long campaign. And we went to northwest Arkansas, and the crowds were huge. I remember flying over and seeing the line of red lights, all trying to get into the event. It was really a—put the wind at my back coming off of a tough campaign, the people of Arkansas did. I want thank you for support then. I want to thank you for the support that you've shown today. I want to thank you for what you're fixing to do, which is to man the grassroots and to get on the phones and get the signs out and to turn out the vote. When you're out working the vote right now, you tell them the President is focused on keeping America strong and secure and prosperous and free.

The political season will come in its own time. I'm loosening up—[laughter]—and I'm getting ready. But I got a job to do, and I'll keep working on the people's business, doing what's right for America. I've got a job to do for everybody who lives in this country.

My regret today is that the First Lady isn't traveling with me. You drew the short straw. [Laughter] But I'm proud of Laura. She's a great wife, a great mother, and is a fantastic First Lady for America. She sends her very best to all her friends here in Arkansas.

Speaking about our friends, I'm proud to call your Governor friend and Janet Huckabee friend. Mike is doing a great job for the people of Arkansans. He's a strong leader. I appreciate his friendship, and I appreciate his leadership. I also want to thank your Lieutenant Governor, Win Rockefeller, and Lisenne for being here today. It's good to see you again, Governor. I appreciate your friendship.

You got a fine Congressman named Boozman representing you in Washington, DC. John, you're doing a great job. I'm proud to call you ally and friend. I want thank all the State and local officials who are here. I see former—some former Congressmen. Jay Dickey and John Paul, it's good to see you.

I appreciate the grassroots folks who are here, the people who are making this party work. I want to thank Warren Stephens and French Hill, who are the State finance cochairmen, for taking on the task of seeing to it that my campaign and the campaign of Vice President Cheney's is well-organized and well-funded. I appreciate all the folks who have made this event such a great success. Most of all, I thank you all for coming.

In the last 2 1/2 years, our Nation has acted decisively to confront great challenges. I came to this office to solve problems instead of passing them on to future Presidents and future generations. I came to seize opportunities instead of letting them slip away. My administration is meeting the tests of our time.

Terrorists declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got. We've captured or killed many of the key leaders of the Al Qaida network, and the rest of them know we're on their trail. In Afghanistan and in Iraq, we gave ultimatums to terror regimes. Those regimes chose defiance, and those regimes are no more. Fifty million people in those two countries once lived under tyranny, and today, they live in freedom.

Two-and-a-half years ago, our military was not receiving the resources it needed, and morale was beginning to suffer. So we increased the defense budgets to prepare for the threats of a new era. And today, no one in the world can question the skill and the strength and the spirit of the United States military.

Two-and-a-half years ago, we inherited an economy in recession. And then our Nation was attacked, and we had some scandals in corporate America, and we went to war to make America more secure, all of which affected the people's confidence. But we acted. We passed tough new laws to hold corporate criminals to account. And to get the economy going again, I have twice led the United States Congress to pass historic tax relief for the American people.

I know that when Americans have more take-home pay to spend, to save, or invest, the whole economy grows and people are more likely to find a job. So we're returning more money to the people to help them raise their families. We're reducing taxes on dividends and capital gains to encourage investment. We're giving small businesses incentives so they can hire new people. With all these actions, we have laid the foundation for greater prosperity and more jobs across America so every single person in this country can realize the great American Dream.

Two-and-a-half years ago, there was a lot of talk about education reform, but there wasn't much action. So I acted. I called for and the Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act. With a solid bipartisan majority, we delivered the most dramatic education reforms in a generation.

I appreciate your Governor leading on this issue. I appreciate the fine reading initiative you got here in this State. You see, we believe that every child in every public school can learn to read and write and add and subtract. We are challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations.

We've increased the Federal budget to help Title I students, to help make sure every child can read. But we expect results. The days of excuse-making are over. We want results in every single classroom so that not one single child is left behind.

We reorganized our Government and created the Department of Homeland Security to better safeguard our borders and ports and to protect the American people. We passed trade promotion authority to open up new markets for Arkansas' farmers and ranchers and entrepreneurs. We passed budget agreements that are helping to maintain spending discipline in Washington, DC. On issue after issue, this administration has acted on principle, has kept its word, and has made progress for the American people.

And the United States Congress has shared in these substantial achievements. I want to thank John. I also want to thank Speaker Hastert and Leader Frist. They're good friends. We're working hard to change the tone in Washington, DC. There's a lot of needless politics in the Nation's Capital. We're focused on the people's business. You sent us to Washington to work on behalf of the people, not special interests, not lobbyists, but the people. And that's what we're doing.

I've surrounded myself with people in my administration who are focused on results. I have put together a fine team of public servants to represent America. There is no finer Vice President in our Nation's history than Dick Cheney. Mother may have a second opinion. [Laughter]

In 2 1/2 years, we have come far, but our work is only beginning. I've set great goals worthy of a great nation. First, America is committed to expanding the realm of freedom and peace for our own security and for the benefit of the world. And second, in our own country, we must work for a society of prosperity and compassion so that every single citizen has a chance to work and to succeed and to realize the promise of America. It should become clear—it should be clear—that the future of freedom and peace depend on the actions of America. This Nation is freedom's home and freedom's defender. We welcome this charge of history, and we are keeping it.

The war on terror continues. The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. This country will not rest; we will not tire; we will not stop until this danger to civilization is removed.

We are confronting that danger in Iraq, where Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists are desperately trying to throw Iraq into chaos by attacking coalition forces and aid workers and innocent Iraqis. They know that the advance of freedom in Iraq would be a major defeat for the cause of terror. This collection of killers is trying to shake the will of America and the civilized world. America will not be intimidated.

We're aggressively striking the terrorists in Iraq, defeating them there so we will not have to face them in our own country. We're calling on other nations to help Iraq to become a free country, which will make the world more secure. We're standing with the Iraqi people as they assume more of their own defense and move toward self-government. These are not easy tasks, but they are essential tasks. We will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror.

Our greatest security comes from the advance of human liberty, because free nations do not support terror. Free nations do not attack their neighbors. Free nations do not threaten the world with weapons of mass terror. Americans believe that freedom is the deepest hope and need of every human heart. And I believe that freedom is the right of every person, and I believe that freedom is the future of every nation.

America also understands that unprecedented influence brings tremendous responsibilities. We have duties in this world, and when we see disease and starvation and hopeless poverty, we will not turn away. On the continent of Africa, America is now committed to bringing the healing power of medicine to millions of men and women and children now suffering with AIDS. This great, powerful Nation is a compassionate nation, and we are leading the world in this incredibly important work of human rescue.

We face challenges here at home, and our actions will prove worthy of the challenges. So long as any of our citizens who want to work can't find a job, we must work to make sure the entrepreneurial spirit, the environment for job growth is strong. The numbers look good. I'm encouraged by what I see, but too many of our fellow citizens aren't working.

I've laid out a six-point plan to the United States Congress to make sure job creation remains strong and vibrant. I will stay focused on our economy until the American people are able to put food on the table and take care of their family responsibilities by finding a job.

We have a duty to keep our commitment to America's seniors by strengthening and modernizing Medicare. Congress has taken historic action to improve the lives of older Americans. For the first time since the creation of Medicare, the House and the Senate have passed reforms to increase choices for seniors and provide coverage for prescription drugs. It is time for the House and the Senate to reconcile their differences and to get a bill to my desk. We owe it to our seniors to have a modern health care system available for them, and we owe it to those of us who are going to be seniors to make sure the Medicare system is modern.

And for the sake of our health care system, we need to cut down on the frivolous lawsuits which increase the cost of medicine. People who have been harmed by a bad doctor deserve their day in court. Yet the system should not reward lawyers who are simply fishing for a rich settlement. Because frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of health care, they affect the Federal budget. Therefore, medical liability reform is a national issue that requires a national solution. I submitted a good bill to reform the medical liability system of our country to the House—to the Congress. The House of Representatives has acted. It is stuck in the United States Senate. It is time for some Senators to understand that no one in this country has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. We need medical liability reform.

I have a responsibility as the President to make sure the judicial system runs well, and I have met that duty. I've nominated superb men and women to the Federal courts, people who will interpret the law, not legislate from the bench. Yet some Members of the United States Senate—you might even know some—[laughter]—are trying to keep my nominees off the bench by filibusters, by blocking up-or-down votes. Every judicial nominee deserves a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Is it time for Members of the Senate to stop playing politics with American justice.

Congress needs to complete work on a comprehensive energy plan. We must promote energy efficiency and conservation. We must use technologies to be able to use the resources at hand. But for the sake of economic security and for the sake of national security, this Nation must become less reliant on foreign sources of energy.

A strong and prosperous nation must also be a compassionate nation. I will continue to advance our agenda of compassionate conservatism, which means we will apply the best and most effective and most innovative ideas to the task of helping our fellow citizens in need. Still, millions of men and women who want to end their dependence on Government and become independent through hard work must build on the success of welfare reform to bring work and dignity into the lives of more of our fellow citizens. Congress should complete the "Citizen Service Act" so more Americans can serve their communities and their country. And both Houses should reach agreement on my Faith-Based Initiative to support the armies of compassion that are mentoring our children, caring for the homeless, and offering hope to the addicted. Our Government should not fear faith. We should welcome faith and the healing power of faith into the lives of more of our citizens.

A compassionate society must promote opportunity for all, including the independence and dignity that come from ownership. This administration will constantly strive to promote an ownership society in America. We want more people owning their own home. Today in America, we have a minority homeownership gap. I've submitted plans to the United States Congress to close that gap. We want more people owning and managing their own retirement accounts, owning and managing their own health care plans. And we want more people owning their own small business. We understand that when a person owns something, he or she has a vital stake in the future of America.

In a compassionate society, people respect one another and take responsibility for the decisions they make. The culture of America is changing from one that has said, "If it feels good, do it. If you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a new culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make.

If you're fortunate enough to be a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your child with all your heart. If you're worried about the quality of the education in Little Rock, Arkansas, or anywhere in Arkansas, you're responsible for doing something about it. If you're a CEO in corporate America, you're responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your employees.

And in the new responsibility society, each of us is responsible for loving a neighbor just like we'd like to be loved ourselves. The culture of service, the culture of responsibility is growing here in America. You know, I started what's called the USA Freedom Corps to encourage Americans to extend a compassionate hand to neighbors in need, and the response has been great. People want to serve. People want to help their communities. Policemen and firefighters and people who wear our Nation's uniform are reminding us what it means to sacrifice for something greater than yourself. Once again, the children of America believe in heroes, because they see them every day.

In these challenging times, the world has seen the resolve and the courage of America. And I've been privileged to see the compassion and the character of the American people. All the tests of the last 2 1/2 years have come to the right nation. We're a strong country, and we use that strength to defend the peace. We're an optimistic country, confident in ourselves and in ideals bigger than ourselves. Abroad, we seek to lift up whole nations by spreading freedom. At home, we seek to lift up lives by spreading opportunity to every corner of America. This is the work that history has set before us. We welcome it. And we know that for our country, the best days lie ahead.

May God bless you all. Thank you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:55 a.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and his wife, Janet; Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller of Arkansas and his wife, Lisenne; Representative John Boozman and former Representatives Jay Dickey and John Paul Hammerschmidt of Arkansas; and former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Bush-Cheney Luncheon in Little Rock, Arkansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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