George W. Bush photo

Remarks to Employees of Sears Manufacturing Company in Davenport, Iowa

September 16, 2002

Thank you all very much. It's an honor to be here. In 1992, the Sears Company got the A team. [Laughter] I'll leave it at that. [Laughter]

I'm honored to be introduced by Jim Leach. He is a distinguished, honorable, honest man. We need those kind of people in Washington. I'm proud of him. I'm proud to call him friend, and I'm real proud he introduced me. I want to thank other members of the Iowa delegation who are here today, starting with Senator Chuck Grassley. I appreciate his friendship. I appreciate his leadership. I'm also proud to be with Jim Nussle and Greg Ganske, two Members of the United States Congress from the State of Iowa. We're flying back to Washington—I hope the reason they're here is to hear my speech, not to get a free ride. [Laughter] Well, we'll find out after I give the speech. [Laughter] But these are good folks. They care deeply about our country, and so do I.

I'm here to talk to you about how to make our country safer and stronger and better. That's what we've got to be thinking about during these troubling times. Before I begin, I'm grateful to Steve Lovejoy, who is the director of operation here at Sears Manufacturing Company, for giving me the tour—Big Steve. [Laughter] I appreciate the employees who greeted me on the assembly line. I want to thank all the hardworking people here at Sears for doing such a fine job, for working hard, for caring deeply about your families, for upholding your responsibilities as a mom or a dad.

I appreciate the Sears family, Jim and Steve and Lisa Ware, for upholding a fine family tradition of not only making a quality product but remembering they have a responsibility to the employees who work here and treat the employees with dignity and respect, like you do. I appreciate your leadership.

I appreciate Bob Lane, the chairman and CEO of John Deere, coming over here today to say hello. It's very interesting, his comment was. He said, "I'm fortunate to be a customer of this fine company." That's a good sign.

Finally, at Air Force One, I had the honor of meeting a fellow named Dean Claussen. You probably don't know Dean. [Applause] Dean brought all his cousins with him. [Laughter] The reason I wanted Dean to come here with me is because I had the honor of thanking him for being a soldier in the army of compassion. He's a high school junior. He was obviously raised right by Dale and Kathy, his mom and dad, who are with us. But Dean is the kind of person who understands that we can change America for the better, one person at a time.

And so he, as a member of the Scott County 4-H Council—and he volunteers his time. He volunteers his time to help those in need. He is—told me they're raising books for some kids in Fiji, that he has recently fed the hungry, that he understands to be a citizen of this country is to serve something greater than yourself. See, the great strength of the country lies in the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens. And when a neighbor loves a neighbor, indeed, America as a whole benefits. And Dean, I want to thank you for your leadership and your compassion.

People oftentimes ask me, "What can I do to help our country in the face of some difficult times?" And one of them is to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. If you want to fight evil, do some good. If you want to make a impact in the community in which you live, find somebody who hurts, and love them.

I mentioned we've got some big issues here in America, and we do, but there's nothing we can't overcome. After all, this is the finest country on the face of the Earth, full of the greatest people.

I think a lot about the security of our homeland. Matter of fact, I think about it every single day. And at the same time, it's important for Congress and my administration also never to forget the security of the American people. You see, my attitude is, somebody who wants to work can't find a job, we've got a problem, and we need to deal with it. And so, while the security of the homeland is an important priority, so is the security of the American worker.

I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that the environment for job creation is strong. I want people working. I want people to be able to put bread on the table for their families. I want moms and dads who want to work to be able to do so, for the sake of their families and for the good of the country.

One of the ways we've got to make sure that we keep our economy strong is to be wise about how we spend our money. If you overspend, it creates a fundamental weakness in the foundation of economic growth. And so I'm working with Congress to make sure they hear the message—the message of fiscal responsibility.

See, it starts with understanding whose money we spend in Washington. It's not the Government's money we spend. The money we spend is your money, and that's the most important premise when it comes to budget.

It also means that we've got to set priorities. You know, every idea sounds like a brilliant idea in Washington. Everybody's idea is a great idea—just up there they come with billions as the price tag. The bill is a little high. So I said, "Why don't we work together to create some priorities, starting with the most important priority which is, defend America against killers." That's the most important priority.

I can't put it any other way about them, either. They're nothing but a bunch of coldblooded killers. You've just got to understand that about the nature of the enemy. They hate us because we love. They hate. We love freedom, is why they hate us, and we're not going to quit loving freedom. And so our most important priority, when it comes to budgeting and time and effort, is to protect innocent life here in America. And make no mistake about it, we will—we'll do just that.

But in order to make sure there is a— priorities are funded, there needs to be a budget. And thanks to Jim Nussle, who is the budget man in the House of Representatives, we have a budget that focuses on setting priorities and focuses on getting us back to a balanced budget. But there's been no budget out of the United States Senate. They haven't passed a budget. They have no plan to balance the budget.

And that's of concern. It's of concern because if you have no budget, it means there's no discipline. And if there's no discipline, it's likely that the Senate will overspend. And when they overspend, they not only overspend for this year, this coming year, they'll overspend for every year afterwards too. For the sake of fiscal sanity, the United States Senate must remember whose money we're spending and get us a budget and get us to head toward a balanced budget.

And while they're worrying about the budget and money, they need to give me a defense bill. They need to get—stop talking, and get a defense bill to my desk. If the number one priority is to defend the American people, the best thing they need to do is pass the defense bill, so we can get after defending the American people next year.

So we've got to worry about how much we spend. And by the way, there's plenty of money up there. We've got to worry about how much we spend, in order to make sure that our economy continues to grow. I'm worried about the economic security for every American. I'm also optimistic about the future, because inflation is down, interest rates are down, the productivity of the American worker is the best in the world, we've got the best farmers and ranchers in the world.

I've read that textbook, that economic textbook that says, when there's a recession—and by the way, when we first came in, there was a recession. We had three quarters of negative growth. That's the definition of recession. One way to encourage economic growth is to let the people keep more of their own money. You see, if you have more money in your pocket, you're going to demand a good or a service. And when you demand a good or a service, somebody is likely to produce or to make that good or produce that service. And when somebody produces the good and service, it means somebody is more likely to find work. The tax relief plan we passed, which says we trust the American people with their own money, came at the right time in American economic history, and we need to make the tax cuts permanent.

I had the honor of saying hello to the head of the construction union, the local man who runs the construction union here, at the airport. He came out because we're working closely together with the head of the national union to get passed what we call terrorism insurance. If you're worried about jobs in America, like I am, then you've got to make sure that your construction industry is working. You want your hardhats out there working. And yet when the terrorists attacked us, it created a dilemma for people who want to build big building projects. They can't get the insurance necessary to go forward.

Congress needs to help on this. Congress needs to pass a bill that is good for the hardhats of America, not good for the trial lawyers, and get a terrorism insurance bill to my desk, so over 300,000 workers can find work and get back to work. I say 300,000—those are the number of jobs which have been delayed or scuttled as a result of Congress not coming together to act on this important matter.

And we need an energy bill too. If you're worried about economic security in America, we ought to have an energy bill, one which encourages conservation, one which encourages renewable sources of energy such as ethanol, and one at the same time that makes us less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. It's in our economic interests that we have an energy plan. It's in our national security interests that we have an energy plan. Congress has been talking about energy. They need to get a bill to my desk before they go home to run for reelection.

And so my message to the Congress is, "Don't forget there are some people who are still trying to find work." And we need to work together. We need to put aside all this Republican stuff and Democrat stuff and work together to make sure the economy is strong and vibrant and the great American worker can find work.

And at the same time, we've got to remember that there's still an enemy out there trying to hit us. There's an enemy that I mentioned earlier, hates what we stand for. It's a different kind of enemy than we have fought in the past. These are the kind, they don't have tanks and formation of aircraft or flotilla of ship. These are the kind that hide in caves and then send somebody to their suicidal death. These are the kind that hijack a great religion—a religion, by the way, which preaches love and compassion and tolerance—they hijack it and then murder in the name of that religion. These are the kind that have hate in their heart. And these are the kind that we need to do everything in our power to stop. We owe it to the sake of our freedom, and we owe it to our children.

The first thing we've got to do is to make sure our country responds here at home to this threat, to this ever—to this threat that just keeps going on. And that means that we've got to get our Government working in coordination. I proposed a Department of Homeland Security to make sure that the agencies involved with securing the homeland have as their number one priority your protection. That means that there needs to be a single agency where these agencies are housed, so that we create a culture of coordination and cooperation, a culture that allows for there to be fast movement when it comes to moving people to the right place at the right time, in order to respond to an enemy which still exists.

And I'll give you one area where we need to do a better job, and that's on our borders. We need to know who's coming into America. We need to know what they're bringing into America. We need to know if they're leaving when they say they're going to leave America. For the sake of the security of the country, we need to have a border which is secure, a border which facilitates trade and honest traffic but a border which recognizes there—a border—a strategy which recognizes there's risks here in the 21st century. We've got to deal with it.

Now, right now, when you go down to the border, there's three different departments dealing with the border, the INS, the Customs, and the Border Patrol, all full of fine people. But sometimes the strategy differs between the agencies. The uniforms look different, which may be all right, but in order to do what's right for the American people, I need the capacity to be able to have these agencies work closely together. We'll protect workers' rights. We'll protect the collective bargaining rights for those who want to join a union at the Federal level. But I need flexibility.

The House passed a good bill. The Senate better not pass a bad bill. Otherwise, I will veto it. They need to worry more about the security of the American people and less about special interests in Washington, DC.

So we're working hard to secure the homeland. There's a lot of fine folks that are spending a lot of time on America's behalf. Listen, we're sharing information. Anytime we get a hint—and you've seen these alerts—sometime these alerts come up because we're getting people talking, and we're hearing what they're saying, and we're sharing information better. We assess every threat. We take everything seriously. And America is responding.

But the best way to respond to the threats that we face is to find these killers, one person at a time, hunt them down, and bring them to justice, which is exactly what America is going to do.

It takes time. It takes a lot of effort. But we're a determined nation. You know, I had the feeling that after September the 11th that some around the world would grow weary and tired of this effort. Some would say, "Well, the threat really doesn't exist anymore." That's not how America feels. That's not how that fellow we just picked up in Pakistan feels too. He's the one that thought he was going to be the 20th bomber. He thought he could hide. He thought he could still threaten America. But he forgot the greatest nation on the face of the Earth is after him, one person at a time.

We put together a great alliance. There are other people in this world who love freedom just like we do. There are other countries with some strong leaders who understand the stakes, that understand that history has now put the spotlight on us to find out what we're made out of. And so our alliance is strong, and we're hunting them down one at a time. We've captured over 2,500 or so of these; about that many weren't as lucky.

Thanks to the United States military— and by the way, those who serve our military are some of the finest citizens we have here in America. Troops have made a huge sacrifice—they're sacrificing for freedom. They fight at mountain—on mountaintops in thin air—they—looking down caves. They're slowly but surely doing what I've asked them to do, to be on pursuit for the sake of freedom, for the sake of our liberty, so your child can grow up in a safe environment.

And that's why, when I went to the Congress, I asked for a substantial increase in defense spending, because I want our troops who are placed in harm's way to have the best training, the best pay, the best possible commitment. We owe it to them, and we owe it to their loved ones. And that defense appropriations bill, which I mentioned Congress hasn't passed yet, needs to get to my desk soon—and also sends a signal to friend and foe alike, we're in this deal for the long haul. When it comes to the defense of our freedom, there is no artificial date when we say, we quit. When it comes to securing a future for our children and our children's children, we will stay the course.

And that not only means hunting down Al Qaida and Al Qaida-type terrorists which hate America, it also means dealing with true and real threats that we can foresee. One of the most dangerous threats America faces is a terrorist network teaming up with some of the world's worst leaders who develop the world's worst weapons.

I gave a speech to the United Nations, talking about Iraq and making it crystal clear to the United Nations that Saddam poses an international problem. This is a man who poisoned his own people, poisoned his neighbors. He's invaded two countries. He signed agreements that said he would develop no weapons of mass destruction, wouldn't hold any weapons of mass destruction. Yet, for 11 years, he's totally ignored what he said he would do. He basically told the United Nations, "Your deals don't mean anything to me."

I told the United Nations, it can show us whether or not it's going to serve its purpose to help keep the peace, or whether it's going to be irrelevant. We, of course, want the United Nations to be relevant. We want them to be a part of a framework of peace as we head into the 21st century. But I also made it clear, this, that unless there's action from the nations at the United Nations, that that's not satisfactory as far as the United States is concerned. And if Iraq regimes continues to defy us and the world, we will move deliberately yet decisively to hold Iraq to account.

We owe this to our children. We must anticipate. Somebody said, "Well, you know, they don't have a nuclear weapon." I said, "Well, the most dangerous thing"— and we know they're trying to get one— "the most dangerous thing would be to find out they had a nuclear weapon after they developed one."

It's a new world we're in. We used to think two oceans could separate us from an enemy. On that tragic day, September the 11th, 2001, we found out that's not the case. We found out this great land of liberty and of freedom and of justice is vulnerable. And therefore we must do everything we can—everything we can—to secure the homeland, to make us safe. We need a safe America, a strong America, and a better America.

One way to make sure we have a better America is to make sure every single child gets educated in this country. I don't mean a few. I don't mean only those in suburban districts. I mean every single child. I'm proud to have worked with Members of Congress to pass a bill which says, here in America, we believe in high standards when it comes to educating children, that we will challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations, that we believe the people of Iowa should chart the path to excellence for the children of Iowa, and that we expect there to be accountability in return for Federal money.

See, we want to know—if you believe every child can learn, then you want to know if every child is learning. And if they're not, we'll correct the problems early, before it's too late. There are no second-rate children in Iowa or in America.

To make sure there's a better America, we've got to have a place where every senior has access to high quality health care. We need a Medicare system which works, a Medicare system which recognizes medicine has changed and needs to be reformed, a Medicare system which will provide better coverage for Iowa's seniors, including prescription drug coverage. I look forward to working with Congressman Nussle, Congressman Leach, Senator Grassley on the Senate side, to come up with a bipartisan effort to make sure this important program, Medicare, works for the senior citizens of the State of Iowa.

And as we think about helping people, we've got to make sure our welfare system remembers that work is an integral part of dignity, that we want to help people. We want to help them find jobs.

No, we can make—do a better job of passing legislation that will help America be a better place. But the truth of the matter is, like I mentioned earlier, America will become a better place when people follow their hearts, when people help people in need.

One of my most important initiatives in Washington is what I call the Faith-Based Initiative, because I recognize that Government can hand out money, but what it cannot do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. What I want to do is unleash the great compassion of America, by changing America one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. You see, when you love a neighbor, you fight evil, but you also leave behind a legacy of compassion and decency. It's what I call the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and decency, which take place in spite of Government. It takes place because our fellow citizens have heard the call, the call to personal responsibility.

One of the things that the enemy did when they hit us is they awoke a new spirit in America. It used to be, you know, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," as part of our culture; "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else." America now understands that ushering in a period of personal responsibility, responsible for something other than yourself, is important for our country.

If you're a mom or a dad, you're responsible for loving your children. You're the one who is responsible for loving your children with all your heart. If you're living right here in the great State of Iowa, you're responsible for the quality of life in your community. It's you who is responsible for making sure your public schools are the best. If you find a neighbor in need, you're responsible for serving that neighbor in need; you're responsible for loving a neighbor just like you'd like to love yourself.

No, there's a new patriotism here in America. It's more than just working on homeland defense. It's more than putting your hand over your heart. It is serving something larger than self. And when we all do that, we will make it clear to the enemy that not only did they hit a great nation, they hit a nation which is compassionate and decent and loving.

No, evil done to America was mighty and tough, and still many grieve. But out of that evil can come incredible good. Out of the evil done to America can come peace, peace for our children, peace for our children's children. And out of evil done to America can come a more compassionate and decent and hopeful country. There's no question in my mind—no question in my mind—that we will succeed, because this is the greatest nation, full of the finest people on the face of the Earth.

Thank you for coming.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:34 a.m. on the manufacturing floor at Sears Manufacturing Co. In his remarks, he referred to Jim Sears, president and chief executive officer, Steve Sears, president, truck division, and Lisa Ware, director, financial services, Sears Manufacturing Co.; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an Al Qaida operative suspected of helping to plan the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, who was captured in Karachi, Pakistan; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

George W. Bush, Remarks to Employees of Sears Manufacturing Company in Davenport, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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