George W. Bush photo

Remarks at a Reception for Governor Rick Perry of Texas in Houston

June 14, 2002

The President. Thank you for that warm welcome. It's another reason I'm glad to be home—[laughter]—that, plus getting a little culture. [Laughter] I can't tell you how great it is to see so many friends. I want to thank you for your prayers, for your friendship. I want to thank you for helping Laura and me serve our country.

I'm here today to talk about a man who—there's no doubt in my mind—is not only going to win in November but do a fine, fine job on behalf of the Texas people. We've shared a lot. We have both been Governors. And we both married above ourselves. [Laughter] I appreciate Anita Perry, the first lady of the State of Texas, and she's bringing a lot of class to the office.

I'm sorry Laura isn't here with me. She's in Crawford.

Audience member. We are, too.

The President. Well, I'm sure you are. I can understand that. [Laughter] You probably wish she was speaking. [Laughter]

It's hard to believe that a public school librarian who didn't particularly care about politics or politicians—[laughter]—is now the First Lady of this great country, and she's doing a magnificent job. I'm really proud of her. Of course she, like my mother, is still telling me what to do. [Laughter] Marjorie, I'm of course listening. [Laughter] But we're doing great. We really are. Our family's strong. Our spirit is strong. Our love for our country has never been greater.

I want to thank all the elected officials who are here. I particularly want to say something about the next attorney general, Greg Abbott. Greg, I want to thank you for your—[applause]. I want to thank Henry Bonilla for being here and for his work on behalf of our party and the Victory Committee. I want to thank Justices Jefferson and Rodriguez, who are here with us tonight.

I know there's all kinds of candidates— Judge Carter, who's running in the 31st Congressional District this year. I know my friend—thank you, Judge. I know my friend Tommy Craddick is here. And members of the statehouse, both Republicans and Democrats, are here tonight, and I want to thank you all for coming.

I want to thank you all for supporting Rick. I want to thank you for contributing your money and, as importantly, thank you for contributing your time. I see a lot of what they call grassroots activists here. I tell you, I know I could never have won the Governor's race and/or the Presidency without those of you who man the phones and sign the envelopes and lick them and mail them and do all the hard work. And so on behalf of grateful candidates, thanks for what you have done and thanks for what you're going to do come November.

I appreciate Rick's record. I want to talk a little bit about education. It is a passion of mine, and it's a passion of Rick's. It is absolutely essential that at all levels of government we have people who are willing to raise standards for every child. It is absolutely essential for the good of the State of Texas that we have a Governor who believes every child can learn, somebody who doesn't lower the bar. See, if you lower the standards, if you expect mediocrity, you'll get mediocrity, and that's not good enough for the State of Texas.

As Rick mentioned, we reformed the education code out of the Federal Government. It mirrors what Rick is doing here in Texas. Let me explain it to you right quick. It says that if you receive money from the taxpayers, you've got to measure. If you get help from the Federal Government or the State Government, you've got to show the taxpayers but more importantly the parents whether or not the children all across the State of Texas are learning. And if they're learning, we'll praise the teachers. If they're meeting standards, if they're meeting expectations, there will be all kinds of praise for the hard-working teachers all across the country and in the State of Texas.

But when we find children who aren't learning, children who can't read, we've got to address the problems early, before it's too late. You see, every child is important in the State of Texas. Every child matters. And you can't tell whether or not children are learning to read and write and add and subtract unless you have the courage to hold people accountable.

Texas must not go backwards. Texas must continue to have strong accountability systems, so that this business about just shuffling children through the system stops. You see, it's easy to quit on a young black child. It's easy to say, "That person can't learn. Let's just move them through." It's easy to quit on somebody whose parents may not speak English as a first language. It's easy to quit. But by having accountability and local control of schools, we measure each child, because each child counts. You cannot possibly fix the problem unless you know the problem exists.

Education is the number one priority for this Governor. And it's the number one priority for the State of Texas, and that's as it should be. And we're making progress. We are. One of the things I love about Rick is, his vision of Texas includes everybody, not just a few. His vision of Texas says every child counts, and no child will be left behind in the great State of Texas.

One of the big initiatives in Washington, DC, is the reauthorization of welfare. One of the great successes in our country has been the 1996 welfare reform bill. And it basically said that we can do better than dependency upon Government, that we can free people by insisting upon work and by helping those learn how to work. It gives me great confidence to know that Rick is going to be the Governor of Texas as we talk about reauthorization. The cornerstone of helping people is to help them find the dignity of a job. And with Rick Perry as Governor, I'm confident that that dignity will spread throughout all parts of the great State of Texas.

I appreciate a man who understands there needs to be fiscal sanity when it comes to spending money, spending your money. And Rick saved the State $500 million as a result of some bold actions he took. And as you know, the economy kind of slowed down a little bit, and thankfully, you had a Governor who is willing to make the tough fiscal choices that's going to stand Texas in good stead in the years to come. I appreciate your courage, Rick, and I appreciate your leadership.

But the thing I appreciate most is your integrity and your values, the fact that you make your family your top priority. I love the fact that you love your wife, and you love your kids. You know, we were going down the Gulf Freeway today. [Laughter] Traffic wasn't all that bad, by the way. [Laughter] If you got stuck in one of the exits, I apologize. [Laughter] We spent more time talking about our family. I appreciate a Governor who wanted to share with me the hopes and aspirations of his children. It's important for the State of Texas to have somebody in the Governor's office who's got his priorities absolutely straight, faith and family and the great State of Texas.

You know, when I was one time campaigning in Chicago, a reporter said, "Would you ever have a deficit?" And I said, "I can't imagine it, but there would be one if we had a war or a national emergency or a recession." [Laughter] Never did I dream we'd get the trifecta. [Laughter] But I want you to know we're making progress on all three fronts. I'm concerned about the economic security of the American people. I know there's a lot of focus on statistics—this number comes out or that number comes out. Here's my attitude: So long as somebody wants to work and can't find a job, we have a problem. And my focus is going to be to continue to expand the job base of this country so people can find work.

We made a pretty good start when we cut the taxes on the working people. And it came at exactly the right time. There's a school of thought in Washington that says, if you take more of the people's money, the economy will benefit. I don't read the same textbook. [Laughter] My attitude is, when times are slow, you let people have their own money. And when they keep their own money, they spend it. And when they spend their own money, they demand a good and service. And when you demand a good and service, somebody's going to provide the good and service, which means somebody's going to be able to work. This tax cut happened at the right time, and we need to make the tax cuts permanent.

In order to make sure people can find jobs and can work in America, we need an energy policy. We need an energy policy that, on the one hand, encourages conservation and makes sure that we promote renewable sources of energy, an energy policy that promotes the new technologies that are coming on line. But we need an energy policy as well that encourages exploration for oil and gas in the United States of America.

The nay-sayers and the skeptics, you know, challenge that policy. They don't understand the technologies now available that allow us to provide domestic energy and at the same time protect our environment. But let me put it to you this way: For the sake of economic security, we need a sound energy policy. And for the sake of national security, we must become less reliant on foreign sources of energy. Some of those sources don't particularly care about America, I might add.

This Congress needs to give me a trade bill so I can open up markets for Texas agricultural products, for high-tech products. Listen, if you're good at something— and we're good at a lot of things when it comes to our economy—we ought to be selling them to people around the world. This country ought to be feeding the people of the world. I need trade promotion authority from the United States Congress for the good of the job creation.

We're making progress on economic security. And we've got a long way to go. But I just want you to know, so long as somebody can't find work that wants to work, I'm working.

And we've got a lot to do on homeland security as well. I want you to know what I think about the people that we're fighting. They are nothing but coldblooded killers. There was a bombing in Karachi. Innocent people lost their lives. Most of the innocent people were Muslims. These people, these terrorists, these killers have hijacked a noble religion, but the world is seeing what they're made out of, what they're like. They do not value individual life. And for the good of freedom and for the good of America and our allies and friends, we're going to hunt them down, one by one, and bring them to justice.

We've made some progress. The other night when I announced this Department of Homeland Security, I laid out a statistic that said we've rounded up about 2,400 of them so far—make it 2,401.

Audience member. That's right.

The President. And that's good. And that's good, except there's still a lot of them out there. And so it is—it is my most important job to do everything in my power to prevent the enemy from taking innocent life again.

We've got over 100 agencies in Washington, DC, involved with homeland security. They're scattered all throughout the bureaucracy. As you can imagine, it makes it kind of tough to get an efficient plan in place. And so I've asked the Congress to make the most impressive and far-reaching reorganization since Harry Truman reorganized the Defense Department.

I want it all under one—one authority. I want to align authority and responsibility. I want it to be said that, as a result of reorganizing Government, our country is better prepared to enforce our border, to respond to emergency; our country is better prepared to respond to bioterrorism. We need the capacity to analyze the information we're getting to predict what might happen so that we can react.

Now, this isn't going to be as easy as it seems, reorganizing Government. After all, there's a lot of turf in Washington, DC, and people are guarding their turf. There's an appropriation chairman here, a ranking member there that likes the idea of deciding how much money goes to this agency or another. For the good of the American people, I call upon Congress to think about not turf but security.

I'll never forget my first hard discussion with the Director of the FBI. I don't know if you are aware of this fact, but he came on to work one week before September the 11th, so he got right in the middle of the action pretty quickly. And he was talking to me about, you know, they're doing a pretty good job of going after this white-collar criminal and arresting this person. And I said, "That's all fine and good, and you need to keep doing it. But your most important priority now is to prevent attack. I want you running down every lead. If you've got a hint that somebody might be coming in here to do something to America, I want to know about it, and I want you on them. I want you doing everything in your power. Your agency is vital, but your mission has—the priority of the agency—your new mission is to use the resources of the United States of America to protect the homeland."

And we're making progress. We really are. The CIA and the FBI communicate in a lot closer way these days. There's a lot better sharing of information. You've just go to know that there's a lot of hard-working people doing everything they can to protect you. But the best way to secure the homeland, the best way, is to chase these killers down, one by one, and bring them to justice.

We will use every tool at our disposal. We've assembled a vast coalition of freedom-loving countries, and we're—and they're working. We're communicating with these folks. Every time I meet with a foreign leader, I remind him or her that our most important collective job is to win this war on terror. History has called us into action. History will look back and determine the mettle and drive and desire of all of us who have been given awesome responsibilities.

We're cutting off their money, and that's vital. It's kind of hard for them to operate unless they have cash. And although the enemy doesn't require much money, if they don't have any, it's going to be hard for them to move. So we're working with financial institutions all round the world on a regular basis to cut off their money.

Probably the most effective force we've used, of course, thus far is the United States military. For those of you who've got relatives in the military or are in the military yourselves, thanks from the bottom of my heart and our Nation's heart.

I was at West Point the other day, and I was honored to give a graduation speech where I laid out a new doctrine called preemption, which I'll describe here in a second. But I shook every hand of the graduates. Let me tell you, the military's in good shape. These are fine, fine young Americans.

I sent up to Congress the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan was the President, and I did it for two reasons, and I want to explain it to you right quickly. One, anytime we commit our men and women into harm's way, they deserve the best equipment, the best training, the best possible pay. And secondly, I submitted a significant increase, because we're in for a long war. I know some would hope the enemy would go away. They're not going away until we get them. That's a fact. The good news is, the American people are united and strong and resolved. They understand what I know, that we must defend our freedoms at all costs.

You know, I can't imagine what went through the mind of the enemy. They probably looked at America and thought we were so self-absorbed and materialistic and selfish that after they killed thousands of our citizens, all we would do is file a lawsuit or two. [Laughter] They and the world have seen the true character of America.

We love our freedom. We care about our children. We love our values. We love the fact that people can worship freely in America. We love the fact that you can have honest political discourse. That's what we love. We love our lifestyle, and we will use all our might to protect it.

The threats we face go beyond just one terrorist network. The threats we face are bigger than a group of these shadowy figures who try to hide in caves and then send youngsters to their death. We face threats of weapons of mass destruction. In the past, we used to have a doctrine called containment and deterrence. You can't contain a shadowy terrorist network. You can't deter somebody who doesn't have a country. And you're not going to be able—future Presidents won't be able to deter or contain one of these nations which harbors weapons of mass destruction, nations who hate America. For the good of the American people, I will use all the resources at my disposal to make sure the world's worst regimes do not threaten, blackmail America and our friends with the world's worst weapons.

I believe that out of the evil done to America is going to come incredible good. I've got a great painting by Tom Lea. Many of you know Tom Lea from El Paso. He passed away, unfortunately, earlier this year. And on my wall is his fantastic picture—painting, I guess you'd call it—of West Texas. And it reminds me of a quote Tom Lea said; it's something I said at our convention. He said, "Sarah and I live on the east side of the mountain. It is the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that is gone."

The day I see coming for this great country is one of peace. I want you to tell your children that behind all the war rhetoric is a strong desire for peace, that I long for peace not only in America, but I think if the United States of America remains tough and vigilant and strong and steady, that we will be able to achieve peace in parts of the world where there is no hope for peace right now. I believe that. I believe that the enemy, much to their chagrin—much to their chagrin—out of the evil will come a more peaceful world. And at home, I know out of the evil will come a better America.

Today I had the honor of speaking at the Ohio State University graduation ceremonies. I told those kids, I said that patriotism is more than saluting the flag. Patriotism is service to your country. Patriotism is loving your neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. If you want to fight evil, if you want to join the war on terror, love somebody. Do some good. It's the gathering momentum of thousands of acts of kindness and generosity which will show the world the compassionate face of America and, at the same time, show the world that this country is not going to be cowed by evil people.

One person can't do everything in this society. I know that. But one person can do something to save a soul. Listen, in this great land of ours, a land of plenty, there are pockets of hopelessness and despair. There are too many children who wonder whether America is meant for them, and we're going to do something about that here in America. There are too many people addicted and sad and lonely, and we'll do something about that too. The Government can hand out checks. But what Government cannot do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in their lives or love people. That's going to happen because this great country is full of loving and decent and caring souls.

I call upon you all to continue what you're doing when it comes to helping a neighbor in need. The acts don't have to be huge acts. Listen, if you just walk across the street and tell somebody shut in that you love them, it's a part of making our society whole and complete. Mentor a child. Grab a child around the shoulders and tell them you love them and teach them how to read. It's these acts of compassion and decency which will help lay the foundation for a more hopeful America in the future.

You know, when I was campaigning for Governor and still as President, I've talked about a cultural change. I said, it's so important for us to change the culture away from that of my generation, which has said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else." That's happening in America. People understand that they are responsible for the decisions they make in life.

I believe a culture of personal responsibility is beginning to take hold, and perhaps the most important catalyst for that cultural shift is what took place on Flight 93. People were driving—flying across the country, trying to get home, and all of a sudden they realized their airplane was a weapon. And they said a prayer, and they told their loved ones goodbye, and they served a cause greater than self by driving that airplane into the ground.

It's that sense of sacrifice and courage that will serve as an example for young and old alike. It's that concept of serving something greater than you which will allow this great Nation to show the world that we will overcome evil with good.

I want to thank you all for your friendship. I repeat, I want to thank you for the greatest gift you can give a President and his wife, and that's your prayers. I want to thank you for supporting my friend, the current and next Governor of the State of Texas. I want to thank you all for coming.

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

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:09 p.m. in the Imperial Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Marjorie Arsht, Republican Party activist; Greg Abbott, candidate for Texas attorney general; Justices Wallace Jefferson and Xavier Rodriguez of the Texas Supreme Court; Texas State Representative Tom Craddick; and John R. Carter, candidate for Texas' 31st Congressional District.

George W. Bush, Remarks at a Reception for Governor Rick Perry of Texas in Houston Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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