George W. Bush photo

Remarks Following Discussions With Former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa

November 12, 2001

President Bush. It's been my honor to welcome a man whose name symbolizes freedom and courage, to the Oval Office. President Mandela is going to say a few words, and I will say some after he finishes.


President Mandela. Well, firstly, I would like to express my deepest sympathies for the crash that took place today. And it's unfortunate that that would happen at this time, when the United States lost so many people on the 11th of September. But I know that you have quite a strong leader, and the people of the United States of America can face disaster, and I'm sure that they will overcome this unfortunate incident.

I also want to say that one of the reasons for coming here is to be able to express my support for the President for his action in Afghanistan. The United States of America lost 5,000 people—innocent people— and it is quite correct for the President to ensure that the terrorists, those masterminds as well as those who have executed the action and survived, are to be punished heavily.

And it would be disastrous if the President gave in to the call that the Army must now withdraw, before he has actually flushed out the terrorists. That would be disaster. They will claim that they have defeated the United States of America, and they will continue doing the same thing. So I support him to continue until those terrorists have been tracked down.

President Bush. Mr. President, you don't have to worry about me. We are going to bring them to justice. And I want to thank you for your support. I also want to thank you for your wisdom and your leadership in Burundi. You made a huge difference.

The President said, why would I welcome a pensioner to the Oval Office? And the reason why is because he is such a strong man. And it's been my honor to greet you and welcome you. And thank you for your words of condolences.

American Airlines Flight 587 Crash

I, too, want to express my heartfelt sympathies for the citizens of New York, those on the airplane, those whose houses were damaged, those who were hurt on the ground, for the recent incident that took place. It is heartbreaking to have picked up the phone and called my friend Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki and once again expressed our condolences and, at the same time, assured the people of New York our Federal Government will respond as quickly as possible. We sent our FEMA teams over; the FBI is over there. And this investigation is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board to make sure that the facts are fully known to the American people.

The New York people have suffered mightily; they suffer again. But there's no doubt in my mind that the New Yorkers are resilient and strong and courageous people and will help their neighbors overcome this recent incident that took place.

May God bless the victims and their families.

Mr. President, welcome to Washington, and thank you for coming.

President Mandela. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:10 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York City and Gov. George E. Pataki of New York. He also referred to American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed into a neighborhood in Belle Harbor, NY, at approximately 9:17 a.m., shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With Former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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