George W. Bush photo

Remarks to Caregivers at the National Naval Medical Center

December 21, 2005

Thanks for such a warm welcome. Laura and I are thrilled to be back at this unbelievable facility—unbelievable because of the buildings and the technology that's used here and the equipment but, more importantly, because of the decency and compassion and skill of our healers that work for our country.

So first we want to thank you all for helping do a really important job. And that is to be able to say to our country, at any time anybody gets hurt anywhere, they're going to get the best medical care possible. And that's done right here at Bethesda, as well as Walter Reed. And so we're here to thank the nurses and the docs and the healers and the volunteers who help put the smile on the faces of those who have been hurt as well as their families.

One of the great blessings of our country is the fact that there are millions of compassionate souls who are willing to try to make somebody's life better.

I want to thank Admiral Robinson and Dr. Winkenwerder, Admiral Arthur. I want to thank General Kiley and Lieutenant General Peach Taylor, as well as Major General Farmer. And thank Tom Travis, as well—happens to be his birthday, by the way. [Laughter] His wife said, "You're birthday gift is to say hello to the President," not a really good gift. [Laughter] Anyway. [Laughter]

We're serving in an amazing time. I say, "We're serving," because we're serving together. It is a time when this Nation of ours is facing unbelievable challenges. There is an enemy that still lurks, that wants to bring harm to the American people. And we've got to do everything in our power to protect the American people; that is our solemn duty. There is a fantastic opportunity, as we defeat this enemy, to lay the foundation for peace for generations to come.

We have a great opportunity as a generation called to act, called to protect America, to seize the moment and defeat this ideology with freedom. You know, I like to tell people about how—"amazed" isn't the right word—but how stark this story I'm about to tell you is to me, what an amazing contrast it is about Japan.

You know, my dad, as an 18-year-older signed up—in the United States Navy, by the way. [Applause] There you go. And there were a lot of 18-year-old and 19-year-old and 20-year-old kids, and some older people, too—[laughter]—to fight against a sworn enemy which had attacked us.

Laura and I just got back from the Far East, and I sat down at the table with the Prime Minister of Japan, talking about how to keep the peace, talking about how to deal with North Korea, talking about how— and thanking him, by the way, for sending troops to Iraq to help this young democracy develop. And it was that contrast between what 41 did and what 43 is doing—that would be my dad and me. [Laughter] To sit down with a dad—which we're going to do here over Christmas—who fought the Japanese, and his son is helping to keep the peace with the Japanese, something had to have happened.

And one of my predecessors, Harry Truman, recognized the power of freedom to transform an enemy into an ally; that's what happened. And so Japan adopted a Japanese-style democracy. And in that democracies don't fight each other, in that democracy is the best way to encourage a peaceful world, it's working.

And what we're seeing today is brave troops and committed citizens who are not only determined to chase down the killers and bring them to justice before they hurt us again, but understand that by spreading freedom and democracy, we're battling an ideology of darkness with an ideology of hope. And we're laying that foundation for peace for generations to come. The task at hand is one that requires determination and discipline and great faith in the ideals of human freedom and human liberty.

And so coming here today is a chance to not only thank you for being a part of this incredible team of healers but also, being a part of this historic moment. Someday, an American President will be sitting down with a duly elected leader of Iraq, working hard to keep the peace, and future generations of Americans will be saying, "Thank God this generation of America stood strong for what we believe."

And so on behalf of a grateful nation, thanks for doing your duty. Thanks for serving. Thanks for being an important part of this march for freedom, and thanks, most of all, for bringing comfort and aid and solace to those who have been hurt on the battlefield and their families.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2006. May God bless your work, and may God continue to bless the United States.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:34 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to Adm. Adam M. Robinson, USN, commander, National Naval Medical Center; Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer, Jr., USA, commanding general, North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center; Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Travis, USAF, commander, 89th Medical Group, and his wife, Sally; and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan.

George W. Bush, Remarks to Caregivers at the National Naval Medical Center Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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