Remarks in a Discussion With Civic Leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia
Ambassador, thank you for setting up this meeting. I've just had a really interesting meeting. I've been meeting with young, vibrant Russian activists who, first, love their country; secondly, care deeply about the form of government of the country; and third, care deeply about the human condition in their country.
These folks come from a variety of different NGOs and civic groups, representing a variety of issues, all bound together to be involved in their governments, in their countries, so that it's the best it can possibly be.
I spent a lot of time listening to their concerns. I assured them that the United States of America cares about the form of government in Russia, that we believe in the universal values embedded in democracy. We believe in rule of law; we believe in human rights; we believe everybody has a right to be treated equally.
I explained to them that our own Government and our country took a while to evolve, but nevertheless, it's important to be aiming toward a better tomorrow.
I hope my visit here was encouraging to them; it certainly was instructional for me. I explained to them my strategy of dealing with Vladimir Putin, who is my friend. Some asked me to deliver messages, which I'd be more than happy to do. I explained to them that it's in the U.S. interests to remain engaged with Russia—Russia is a great country with a fantastic future— and that the foreign policy of my administration will be to work with Russia to solve common problems and, at the same time, be in a position where we can have a frank exchange of ideas and philosophies and views.
I told the young leaders here that this has been a very enriching experience for me. I shared the thought—shared the idea that I'm the father of 24-year-old twin daughters. I'm looking at some folks here at the table who are their age; I'm impressed by their courage and their idealism and their desire to make their societies a better place.
So I want to thank you all for your visit. Thank you for your frank exchanges. I will you all the very best, and I ask for God's blessings on the people of Russia.
NOTE: The President spoke at 4:06 p.m. at the Counsel General's residence. In his remarks, he referred to U.S. Ambassador to Russia William J. Burns; and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
George W. Bush, Remarks in a Discussion With Civic Leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/267087