George W. Bush photo

Remarks at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota

August 15, 2002

Well, thank you all so very much. John, I appreciate your kind introduction. I appreciate your leadership and your friendship. I want to thank you all for coming today. Gosh, what a warm welcome. It's such a beautiful spot. I told Laura she ought to come; she didn't. You drew the short straw; you got me. [Laughter]

But what a magnificent place on such a beautiful day to talk about America and the challenges we face. I mean, after all, standing here at Mount Rushmore reminds us that a lot of folks came before us to make sure that we were free. A lot of pioneers came to this part of the world to make sure that enterprise could flourish. A lot of our predecessors faced hardship and overcame those hardships, because we're Americans.

And that's what's going to happen in this era too. We've got problems. We've got challenges. This generation has got challenges to meet, and we're going to meet those challenges head on. We've got the challenge of fighting and winning a war against terrorists, and we're going to win that war against terrorists. We've got the challenges of protecting the homeland, and we will do everything in our power to protect the homeland. And we've got the challenge of economic security. Economic security in this part of the world is a big challenge, and I understand that. But we'll do everything in our power to overcome that challenge as well. No, this is America— American land based upon strong values, inhabited by great people. There's no doubt in my mind that the challenges we face will be challenges we overcome.

I'm glad to come to share that optimism with you in this historic spot. I appreciate those who work for our Park Service. I particularly want to thank my Secretary of Interior, Secretary Gale Norton. I want to thank the park managers, the fine, hardworking folks who work for the Park Service, for providing such a magnificent site for our fellow Americans to come and witness history and be a part of nature at its best.

I want to thank so very much Governor Tom Ridge, who is my Homeland Security Advisor, for traveling with me today. He was the Governor of Pennsylvania. I said, "Listen, you need to leave being Governor of Pennsylvania; we've got a problem." [Laughter] "We need to secure the homeland." And thankfully, he sacrificed and moved to Washington, to serve side by side with me doing everything we can to make our homeland secure.

I appreciate so very much your Governor, Bill Janklow, for being here. Bill has been a friend of mine for a long period of time. He might have invented the word "piece of work." [Laughter] But he's a good piece of work.

I want to thank—I want to thank Majority Leader Tom Daschle for coming today. Tom, I appreciate your time. I'm honored you're here. And I want to thank Senator Tim Johnson, as well, for taking time out of his day to come to be here at Mount Rushmore.

I had the honor of, when I landed in Air Force One at Ellsworth, I had the honor of meeting a fellow named Jerome Harvey. He's a professional firefighter who volunteers his time to help people in need. He grew up in a volunteer fire department, in the sense of taking on this important job as—for his lifetime. I bring him up because he's helping others learn how to fight fire. He's a part of what I call a soldier in the army of compassion. I'm confident there are soldiers in the armies of compassion right here, people who have decided to use their talent and time to help people in need. That's the spirit of America that I love, the fact that we've got neighbors willing to help neighbors, people who are willing to take time to ask that fundamental question, "What can I do to make my community a better place?" So I appreciate Jerome coming out to say hello. And for those of you who are serving your communities in any kind of way, I want to thank you from the bottom of a grateful nation's heart.

Everybody knows this economy of ours faces challenges. After all, for the first three quarters of my administration, we were at negative growth. That's called a recession. [Laughter] And then the enemy hit us, and that hurt us economically. And then after some scandals had been in the making for a while, they bubbled to the surface, and we learned that some of our corporate citizens were trying to fudge the numbers, weren't being honest with the American people.

We've had to deal with recession, emergency, and corporate scandal. And there's no question it's raised a high hurdle for us to cross. But let me tell you something, that high hurdle is going to be crossed, because our people are hard workers. The productivity of the American farmer and rancher and the American worker is the best in the world. The fundamentals for economic growth are sound. Inflation is down. Interest rates are low. Productivity is high. The consumer is spending money. We've got the foundation laid. Now we've just got to build on it.

One way to make sure we have economic security for Americans around our country is to make sure our agriculture economy is strong. See, I think the cornerstone for economic security is good agricultural policy. This is something I know something about. As a matter of fact, after I leave here, I'm heading back to Crawford. We've got a few cows around—[laughter]—got some hay. We fortunately have had rain. That wasn't the case always in Texas. I understand what drought means to people who make a living off the land. I know how people suffer when there is no rain.

I've seen my fellow Texans and I heard some of my fellow Americans today talk about the anxieties that come when you're in a business that relies upon good weather and good prices. I've talked to ranchers who have been on their family ranch for years, wondering whether they can stay on. I talked to community leaders who wonder whether or not there's a place for young farmers and young ranchers in this society. No, people hurt here, and I know that. We want to help deal with this drought. We want to help the hurting people, because it is not only good for the neighborhood; helping people in the agricultural sector is good for the American economy. A good agricultural sector is good for all Americans.

On Monday, the Department of Agriculture made $150 million available for immediate emergency feed for livestock producers here in South Dakota and three other States. Sixty-four of your sixty-six counties have been allowed emergency assistance. We're working hard. I want you to know I signed the farm bill, and I'm proud to have signed the farm bill. Some of us in this audience who supported a farm bill took a little heat over it. I know the Senator supported it. John supported it. We took heat over it because, I guess, some people didn't understand how important the farm economy is. But I said, when I signed that bill, there's $180 billion in that bill of taxpayers' money to help our farm and ranch community. And as we move forward to help our ranchers with drought relief, I expect that help to come from the $180 billion, so we don't run up additional deficits in the Federal budget.

It's important to watch our spending in Washington. It's important to set priorities and watch our spending. I appreciate the fact that the Congress sent me a supplemental the other day that helped fund our priorities of the military and homeland security and helping the good folks of New York. We fulfilled a promise to the good folks of New York who are trying to recover from the September the 11th attack. But in that particular bill they added $5 billion I didn't ask for. And they put some fine print in the bill that said, "Either you spend all the $5 billion, or you spend none of the $5 billion. In other words, you spend every dime in there beyond the request, or you spend none of it." For the sake of fiscal responsibility, I made the decision to spend none of the extra $5 billion.

Now, there are some issues in that $5 billion that we need to deal with, and I look forward to working with the Congress. I mean, there's money in there for the Middle East, which I want to spend. There's money in there for AIDS policy, which we need to spend. But we can amend the '03 budget. So the message is clear: In order to make sure we don't put a drag on our economic security measures or economic growth, we've got to be fiscally sound in Washington, DC, fiscally responsible with the people's money.

I'm looking forward, when we get back, to signing an energy bill, one that promotes renewable sources of energy like ethanol. Ethanol is good for our economy; it's good for our air; it makes common sense. I'd rather have the capacity to say to the world, we're less dependent upon foreign sources of crude oil because we're growing energy right here in South Dakota in the United States.

For the good of our economy, we need commonsense forest policy. We can and we must manage our forests. We must keep them disease-free. We must have reasonable forest policies so as to prevent fires, not encourage them.

In order to help our economic recovery, we need to make the tax relief package we passed out of the Congress permanent. Those tax reliefs came right at the right time. See, when you're in the middle of a recession, it's important to let people keep their own money. It's also important to remember, when we're spending money, it's not the Government's money we're spending; it's the people's money. It's your money. I mean, we did a good job of cutting the marriage penalty. After all, we want our Tax Code to encourage marriage, not discourage marriage.

We want the Tax Code to encourage small-business growth, not discourage small-business growth. And that's what cutting the personal income tax rates do. Most small businesses are sole proprietorships or limited partnerships. They pay income taxes at the personal rate. So reducing taxes is good for capital formation and job creation.

But we also did something else that I think is important for South Dakota farmers and ranchers. We sent the death tax on its way to extinction. That death tax is a— if you're interested in keeping people on the farm, you've got to get rid of the death tax. If you want to help the ranchers, you've got to get rid of the death tax. But unfortunately, it didn't work that way. We sent it on its way to extinction, but the problem is, it bounces back after 10 years. For the sake of economic vitality, to allow our producers and entrepreneurs to plan, for the sake of keeping people on the farms and ranches, we need to make the tax relief permanent.

I just signed a trade bill. I understand some in the agriculture sector are worried about trade. I hear the same thing from some of my Texas friends. And I can understand why people in the agriculture sector worry about trade. After all, our trade negotiators in the past talked a good game about agriculture but seemed to forget agriculture when they got to the table. My attitude is, is that if you're going to have trade policy and if you want to boost the economic security of the American people, you start with your strength. And one of our great strengths in this country is the productivity of our farmer and rancher. One of the great strengths of America is that we produce more food than we need. And if you produce more food than you need, it seems like to me that you ought to work to sell that food overseas to people. We ought to be feeding the world, here in America.

You just need to know that when I talk to the Chinese, I'm talking about soybeans. I want South Dakota soybeans to be sold into China. When we talk to Vladimir Putin, we're talking about chickens. Every time I have a conversation with world leaders, when it comes to trade, I remind them that we expect there to be a level playing field for American agricultural products. I believe firmly—I believe firmly that good trade policy will yield good jobs in America.

And finally, to make sure that we have economic security, we've got to regain the confidence of the American people. After all, the confidence had been shattered. There's too many stories in the business pages and now on the front pages of people who were fudging the numbers, people who had a position of responsibility but forgot to behave responsibly, people who didn't treat their shareholders and their employees with respect, people who are now, when we find them and prosecute them, are going to be serving hard time, not finding easy money.

I want to appreciate so very much the Congress for working together. Both Republicans and Democrats came together to fashion a corporate responsibility bill. It's the most significant piece of reform—corporate reform since Franklin Roosevelt was the President. And it's a good piece of legislation. Let me summarize it by this way: It says, we expect the best from people in positions of responsibility. We want people to be held to account if they break the law.

I remember giving a speech in New York on this subject. And in my speech I said business schools, schools that train future business leaders, must be willing to teach right from wrong. Evidently, that's not the case these days. Evidently, there's some nervousness in some of the college campuses about teaching right from wrong. And after I gave the speech, I was working the ropeline. A professor who is at a business school said, "Thank you for saying that. We need to do that around America." A big fellow standing next to him said, "Well, if you really want to send an ethics lesson in America, if you really want to teach right from wrong, put some of them in handcuffs on national TV as you lead them off." And that's what's going to happen when we find people who cheat the American people.

By far the vast majority of our corporate citizens are good and honorable people. You've got some fine corporations here in South Dakota, people who care deeply about their employees, people who understand that they've got to tell the truth. No, by far the vast majority of our leadership around this country understand what it means to be a responsible citizen.

And we're cleaning up the mess. Slowly but surely, the American people are understanding that this future is a bright future for us, that economic security will spread its wings throughout all our society. And you just need to know, I'm not going to rest, neither will my administration rest until we're sure anybody who wants a job and can't find one is able to find work.

We've got another big challenge facing America, and that is to protect our homeland. I want to appreciate the moms and dads who brought your kids here today. It's probably hard for you to understand why anybody would want to hurt America. Why would we have to protect the homeland in the first place? Let me tell you why. It's because your country loves freedom. We love the freedom—[applause]. We love the idea of people being able to worship an Almighty freely. We love the idea. We love the idea of honest political discourse. We like a free press. We love freedom. The enemy hates freedom. So long as we embrace freedom—which we will do—there's going to be people who try to hurt us. There's another distinction between us and the enemy: We value every life; we value every human life. And these folks are out there; they're haters. They're out there, and our job is to make sure that the homeland is as secure as possible.

As you know, I proposed a significant reform of the agencies involved with homeland defense. We've got over 100 agencies scattered all around Washington that have got some part of defending the homeland, and that doesn't make much sense. If the number one priority of the Government is to protect the homeland, it seems like to me that those agencies involved with protecting the homeland need to be under one boss; they need to have one chain of command. If you want to change a culture, if you want to set a clear priority, we ought to organize our Government so that priority is the most important thing these agencies do.

And so I called upon Congress to join me in the creation of a Department of Homeland Security. And we're making some progress on the Department of Homeland Security. But I'm a little worried about some of the noise I hear. I don't want our hands tied so we cannot do the number one job you expect, which is to protect the homeland. I need to be able to ship resources without a time-consuming approval process. If you're trying to defend the homeland, if you need to act quickly in response to a threat, we need to be able to move resources. We're not trying to do away with congressional authority. We're trying to have the capacity to respond to the needs of the American people. Unfortunately, the bill in the Senate right now won't let me do that.

Let me give you an example. If intelligence were to show that the terrorists were planning to use a new type of biological weapon, it makes sense for the Department of Homeland Security to take money from one project to buy medicines, to stockpile drugs, to respond if the attack were to occur. We don't have that flexibility right now. I'm not allowed to reorganize old agencies to meet new threats, and I'll give you an example.

On our border—listen, we need to know who's coming in the country. We need to know what they're bringing in the country, and we need to know if they're leaving the country. But we've got different agencies with different strategies in different uniforms. They need to be working in concert. I need the authority to have Customs and the INS and the Border Patrol work in concert so that there's no gaps in the defense of our borders. I don't have that authority under the Senate bill.

The way the bill is structured now, it takes too long to hire good people. There's too many bureaucratic rules. The bill micromanages the capacity of the executive branch to do the business on behalf of the American people. I need the capacity, this Department needs the—it's not just me, it's future Presidents need the capacity to be able to pay people according to their contributions and hold people to account for their performance, both good and bad. If somebody does a good job, we want to be able to provide bonuses. I am deeply concerned about this provision of the Senate bill. It strips me of authority. Unlike previous—if this bill were to go through, this bill would take away the authority that every President since Jimmy Carter has had, which is to exempt agencies from collective bargaining requirements if I were to determine that our national security demands it. It's important during times of war that we be flexible to meet our needs.

Now, having said that, I'm absolutely confident and know that this Department will protect Federal workers' rights, will safeguard against unwillful discrimination. There will be whistle-blower protection. They will be able to be in a union if that's what they choose to do. But I need flexibility to be able to run this Department. I need the flexibility to be able to look at the American people and say, we're doing everything we can to protect the homeland against an enemy that hates us.

The best way to protect the homeland— and, by the way, there are a lot of good people working hard to protect you. Anytime we get a hint or a lead, we're moving. We're disrupting. We're following every possible opportunity to disrupt potential enemy plans. And I hope you're proud of the fact that there's a lot of good folks who care deeply about your future. I sure am. I'm proud of the way our people are responding.

But the best way to protect the homeland, the best way to make sure our children can grow up free is to hunt the killers down one by one and bring them to justice. This is a different kind of war than we're used to. This isn't a war where these infantries go marching across the plains or hide in hedgerows, or formations of aircraft go streaming across our skies. This is a war where leaders hide in caves and send youngsters to their suicidal death. That's the kind of war we're fighting. It requires a new way of thinking, a new attitude. It requires our military to be trained in a way that can go into—to move quickly and be agile, be lethal when they strike. It doesn't matter how long it takes, as far as I'm concerned. There's no cave deep enough; we're going to hunt them down. You see, history has called us. History has put the spotlight in America. We're the beacon of freedom. We're the bastion of freedom, and we're the protectors of freedom, as far as I'm concerned.

I submitted a significant increase in our defense spending—it's the biggest increase since Ronald Reagan was the President— for two reasons. Anytime we put our troops in harm's way, they've got to have the best training, the best pay, the best equipment possible. We owe that to our troops, who are performing brilliantly, by the way. We also owe it to their moms and dads and their husbands and wives and their loved ones.

But the other reason I submitted a significant increase in defense spending is because I want the message to be loud and clear to our friends and foe alike that we're not quitting, that the United States of America understands the challenge, that no matter how long it takes, we're going to defend our freedoms. And we're making pretty good progress. We're making pretty darned good progress. I laid out a doctrine that said, "If you harbor a terrorist or you feed one of them, you're just as guilty as the terrorists." And the Taliban found out exactly what we meant.

But I want—I want the youngsters here to understand that when we went into that country, we went in as liberators, not as conquerors. We freed people from the clutches of a barbaric regime and, thanks to the United States and our friends and allies, many young girls now go to school for the first time in their lives. History will note that we didn't hit and run, that we stayed there. We stayed there to not only make sure that Al Qaida doesn't bunch up again, but we stayed there to help this country, Afghanistan, flourish. We believe in democracies. We believe every child should have a chance to realize his or her dreams. We believe in peace.

I think we've hauled in over 2,000 of the enemy—"we" being all kinds of people, the Philippines and Spain, of course, the United States. We're making pretty good progress. We're getting them, one by one. Sometimes you'll read about it; sometimes you won't. This isn't a very dramatic war, as far as TV goes. But we're making dramatic progress, is the best way to put it. And by the way, about equal a number of the people weren't quite as lucky as those who were captured.

And we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of work to do. And that's why this budget I submitted is a significant budget. The House passed its version. The Senate passed its version. They've now got to get together as quickly as possible, as soon as possible, and get the defense appropriations bill to my desk nearly upon arrival. In other words, as soon as they get back from the recess, I need to sign the bill so we can plan for the war.

I hope you can tell that I'm an optimistic person. I'm an optimistic person because I understand America. I understand the strengths of America. I know we're going to prevail in this war on terror. And as we do so, I believe, as sure as I'm standing here, we're going to bring peace to parts of the world that haven't dreamt about peace in a long time. By being firm and strong and diligent, we'll bring peace not only to our own children and their children, but we can bring peace to the Middle East and peace to South Asia. No, we have a fantastic chance to take the evil done to our country and turn it into good for worldly peace.

And here at home, we can make a huge difference in people's lives. Listen, we live in a land of plenty, but there are people who hurt, people whose lives have been shattered by addiction, young kids who haven't gotten a good enough education and may not have love at home and wonder whether or not America is meant for them. So long as any of us hurt, all of us hurt in America.

I understand there is a limitation to the capacity of Government. Government can hand out checks; we do a pretty good job of that sometimes. [Laughter] But what Government cannot do is put love in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. In order to change lives for the better, in order to make sure we eliminate those pockets of despair and hopelessness, it will require loving Americans to act, loving Americans to put their arms around people who wonder whether or not there's hope and say, "I love you, brother. I love you, sister." People ask me what they can do in the war against terror. My answer is, love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. People say, "Well, I can't do everything." I know you can't do everything, but you can do something to help change America, one soul, one conscience at a time. And that's what's taking place in this country. It really is.

Many people stepped back after September the 11th and said, "What is—what's our life worth? I mean, how do we fulfill a full life as an American?" More and more people understand that being a patriot is more than just putting your hand over your heart and saying the Pledge of Allegiance to a nation under God. They're saying— more and more people understand that serving something greater than yourself in life is a part of being a complete American. And as more and more people do that, as more and more people choose to mentor a child, as more and more people help feed the hungry, as more and more people go to their churches and synagogues and mosques and hear that universal call to love a neighbor, America's culture is changing. And America, itself, is changing.

America's culture is changing from a period in which we all have said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else." We're ushering in a period of personal responsibility in this country, where moms and dads understand, if you're fortunate enough to be a mom or a dad, you must love your children with all your heart and all your soul. People in America are understanding that if you live in a community, you've got to help that community to realize its full potential. They're understanding there is such a thing as personal responsibility and sacrifice.

And perhaps the most vivid example of that came on 9/11 itself. People were flying across the airplane on what's now known as—then and now known as Flight 93. They heard their plane was going to be used as a weapon. They got on the phone, and they told their loved ones they loved them. They said a prayer. One guy said, "Let's roll." They served something greater than themselves by saving life. It's an example for all of us to remember that America is a country based upon our willingness to serve something greater than ourselves, our willingness to be something other than a materialistic society, a willingness for all of us to help define the American spirit and love our neighbor so that our country can have its full potential available for everybody who is fortunate enough to be an American.

Listen, out of the evil done to this great land is going to come incredible good, because we're the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, full of the most fine and compassioned and decent citizens.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:07 a.m. from a temporary stage in front of the monument. In his remarks, he referred to Representative John R. Thune of South Dakota, who introduced the President; and President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

George W. Bush, Remarks at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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