George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Luncheon With Spouses of African-American Clergy

January 19, 2004

Thank you all. Please be seated. I have dropped by—[laughter]—because Laura told me to. [Laughter]

First of all, I want to welcome you all to the people's house, and I am so glad you've come to celebrate this important national holiday with Laura. My job is to introduce her so she can give some remarks. But before I do so, first of all, I want to say thanks from the bottom of my heart for what you and your husbands and your communities do to help, really, America realize the dream of Martin Luther King, which is to elevate the dignity of each person, the worth of each person, the freedom of each person to realize his or her dreams.

In my judgment, many times the most effective programs to realize that national ambition is through our faith community, because people of faith have heard a universal call. I remember when my friend Tony Evans from Dallas one time talked about broken foundations, cracks on the wall. And the painter kept trying to repaint the wall of the house, and they could never get it right until, finally, somebody stepped up to them and said, "First you need to fix the foundation." It's that spirit of fixing foundations and helping people realize their true worth, through love and compassion and a—the truth of the matter is—reliance on a being far greater than Government, the Almighty, that enables you all to do the works of mercy and kindness and neighborhood healing that goes on. The true strength of America truly is found in the hearts and souls of our citizens. And in my judgment, a way to honor the great Martin Luther King is to call upon Americans to unleash that compassion.

And so I want to welcome you here. You're generals in the armies of compassion who are changing America one heart and one soul and one conscience at a time, and for that, our Nation is grateful.

And I am grateful that Laura said yes when I asked her to marry me. [Laughter] Our First Lady.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:22 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Anthony T. Evans, senior pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, TX. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of the First Lady. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Luncheon With Spouses of African-American Clergy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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