George W. Bush photo

Remarks in Stratham, New Hampshire

August 06, 2004

The President. Thanks for coming. Listen, there's no better way to spend a Friday afternoon than at a picnic in New Hampshire. Thanks for coming. Gosh, what a fine gathering. Thanks for coming. I'm thrilled to be here.

I'm here to ask for your vote. I'm back in your important State one more time, saying I've got something to do on behalf of your country. I'd like your vote, and I'd like your help. We won New Hampshire last time; we're going to win it this time. We're on our way to a great victory in November.

I'm sorry Laura is not here.

Audience members. Aw-w-w!

The President. That's generally the reaction: Why didn't you send her instead of yourself? [Laughter] But what a great First Lady she is. She is a wonderful mother, a wonderful wife. She's doing a wonderful job for the American people. I'm going to give you some reasons to put me back in office, but perhaps the most important one of all is so that Laura has 4 more years as the First Lady.

We're working our way up the coast here. Brother Jeb's son, George P., who spent a lot of time here in New Hampshire, is getting married tomorrow.

Audience member. Oh.

The President. Yes, so we're having a little family wedding. My brother Marvin is with me today. I can't wait to say—see old number 41. You might remember him. He's got a lot of friends in New Hampshire. And Mother, of course, will be there. She can't wait for me to arrive so she can tell me what to do. [Laughter] I'm still listening too.

I want to thank Doug Scamman and Stella Scamman for their beautiful hospitality. Thanks for opening up your farm. What a beautiful place. You know, the amazing thing about the Scammans is they're both candidates for the statehouse. They're not running against each other; that's the good news. Otherwise Stella would win. [Laughter] But I appreciate Doug, a onetime speaker of the house, going back into office. It's such a good example for somebody willing to serve. And I appreciate Stella serving as well. I wish them all the best in their race. If they want my help, they can have it. If it helps me—not to be for them, I'll try there too. I just want them to win.

But I do appreciate their hospitality. I love families, and this is a great farm family. I say every day is Earth Day when you own a piece of the land. These people are taking care of their property, and you can see it when you look around at what a beautiful spot.

I appreciate my friend Judd Gregg. You know, he is an amazing Senator. He gets the work done. He is a serious-minded guy who I find a lot of fun to be around. He is a——

Audience member. Six more years!

The President. That's right, 6 more years; you need to put him back up there. [Laughter] You're lucky to have had him representing you; you really are. He's a good, sound man, as is Sununu, Jr. John Sununu is doing a great job as well. I enjoy working with the two United States Senators from New Hampshire.

I appreciate your Governor, Craig Ben-son, being here. I'm honored that he has agreed to serve. He's a good fellow, as is Congressman Jeb Bradley, running for the United States Congress. We've got to make sure you put him back in. And I know his mother, Helen, is here. That's good, Jeb, you listen to your mother too. [Laughter]

And then my friend Charlie Bass is with us today. He's a congressman—the other congressman from New Hampshire who's doing a great job for the people of this State. I'm proud they're here.

It's good to see my friend Ruth Griffin and "Wiz" Wieczorek. These are people I've known for—you might remember, I was knocking on doors here a while ago— like, 4 years ago. [Laughter] And I met a lot of good folks in New Hampshire, people that I've never forgotten. The Scammans, for example, hosted a deal for Laura and me here. It's kind of like old home week, and it's very nostalgic for us to come back and—for me to come back and look around and see many of the folks that worked so hard in 2000. I appreciate you staying with it.

We've got work to do. There's a reason I'm running for office. I want this country to be safer, stronger, and better for the American people.

I want to thank all the State folks who are here, the elected officials. I want to thank Cheryl McGuinness, the widow of American Flight 11 pilot. Cheryl is a woman of deep faith who has taken on, you know, an incredible burden on that day of September the 11th, and has dealt with it in such a strong fashion that she shines in her courage and strength. We love you, Cheryl. Thank you for being here.

I want to thank Jayne Millerick and Nancy Merrill and my old buddy Tom Rath for being in charge of the grassroots organization. These are the people who put up the signs, people who do all the heavy lifting in a political campaign. I want to thank you for what you're doing. I want to thank you for what you're going to do. It's really important we turn the vote out. And I'm counting on you. I'm counting on your help.

Every incumbent who comes to ask for the vote has got to answer one sensible question of why—why should the people put me back in office for 4 more years? In the past few years, we've been through a lot together and we have accomplished a lot. But the only reason to look backward is to best tell who to lead us forward.

And that's what I'm here to tell you. We've got more to do for our country. I'm running for a reason. I want to make our country the best country it can be by improving jobs and improving our schools. I will continue to fight the war against terror. But you've got to know I'm going to continue to push for the peace. I'm going to continue to make this world a more peaceful place.

We have done a lot. I'm here to ask for your help, because there's more to do. I'm running with a good Vice President, a really good Vice President. I admit, he's not the prettiest face on the ticket. [Laughter] I'm sure Lynne got a little upset with me when she hears me say that. I didn't pick him for his looks. [Laughter] I picked him because he's a man of sound judgment and great experience and a man who can do the job.

Dick Cheney and I understand we have more to do for our country to achieve big goals and big objectives. We've got more to do to make our public schools the centers of excellence we all know they can be, so that no child is left behind in America. When we came to office 3 1/2 years ago—remember back—too many kids were getting shuffled from grade to grade, year after year, without learning the basics. So we challenged what I've called the soft bigotry of low expectations. We're raising the bar. We believe every child can learn to read and write and add and subtract, and we expect every child to learn the basics.

So we believe in accountability. We believe in empowering parents. We believe in local control of schools. And today, children across America are showing real progress in reading and math. When it comes to improving our public schools, we're turning the corner, and we're not turning back.

We've got more to do. See, the jobs of the future will require greater knowledge and higher level skills. And so we've got to reform our high schools to make sure a high school diploma means something. We want to make sure math and science education are spread throughout our schools to give our kids the skills necessary to compete. We'll use the Internet to bring high-level training into classrooms. What I'm telling you is, is that after 4 more years, a rising generation will have more skills and more confidence so they can realize the great promise of our country.

We've got more to do to make quality health care available and affordable. Remember, when we came to office, too many older Americans had trouble with prescription drugs and Medicare didn't pay for them. You might remember previous campaigns where you heard, time in and time out, "Oh, don't worry, I'll do something about Medicare," and nothing happened. We got the job done.

More than 4 million seniors have signed up for drug discount cards that provide real savings. You need to sign up if you're eligible. It will make a difference for you. Beginning in 2006, all seniors on Medicare will be able to choose a plan that suits their needs and will give—and that gives them prescription drug coverage. To help people have access to quality care, we've expanded community health centers for low-income Americans. We want those citizens getting health care in these centers, not in emergency rooms. We've created health savings accounts so families can save tax free for their own health care needs.

Let me—hear this: When it comes to giving Americans more choices about health care and making health care more affordable, we're moving forward, and we're not going backwards.

Most people get their health care coverage through their businesses. Most new jobs are created by small businesses today. And many small businesses too often cannot afford to provide health coverage. So to help our families get health coverage, we must allow small employers to join together to be able to purchase insurance at the discounts available to big companies.

Let me tell you what else we need to do to make sure you've got affordable health care and available health care. We need to get rid of these frivolous and junk lawsuits. You can't be pro-patient and pro-doctor and pro-trial-lawyer at the same time. You have to choose. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. [Laughter] I made my choice: I'm standing with the docs and the patients. I strongly support medical liability reform.

Listen, we're going to harness technology to reduce costs and prevent mistakes. We'll expand research to seek new cures for terrible disease. In all we do to improve health care in America, we will make sure the health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, DC.

There's more work to do to make this economy stronger. Remember what we've been through. We've been through a lot. We've been through a recession. We've been through corporate scandals. We've been through a terrorist attack. But we've overcome these obstacles because our workers are great, because our farmers are really good at what they do. We've overcome these obstacles because the entrepreneurial spirit is strong. And we've overcome these obstacles because of well-timed tax cuts.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Listen, we didn't pick winners or losers when it came to tax relief. We felt that if you're paying Federal income taxes, you ought to get relief. It's the only fair way to do it. And so families with children got relief. We provided relief for married couples. You know, we've got a Tax Code that says there is a marriage penalty.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. No, that's not—we ought to be encouraging marriage, not penalizing marriage.

We helped our small-business owners. That tax relief helped small-business owners. And this time, the check was really in the mail. [Laughter]

Our economy has been through a lot. Today's employment report shows our economy is continuing to move forward. And it reminds us that we're in a changing economy, and we've got more to do. I'm not going to be satisfied until everybody who wants to work can find a job. I'm running because I understand how to take a strong economy and make it stronger. I say we have a strong economy, and it's getting stronger. Our economy since last summer has grown at a rate as fast as any in nearly 20 years.

In the last year, we've added about 1.5 million new jobs. The unemployment rate is down to 5.5 percent. Here in New Hampshire, your unemployment rate is 3.9 percent. Listen, when it comes to creating jobs for American workers, in places like New Hampshire you've proved that we're moving Americans forward, and we're not turning back.

Let me tell you what else we need to do. We need to make sure our regulations are reasonable on our employers. I know some of you file out—file a lot of paperwork. I can't promise anybody in Government has ever read it. [Laughter] We need tort reform if we want to keep our jobs in America. We need a fair and balanced legal system. If we want to keep our jobs in America, we need an energy policy that is wise, that encourages conservation, that encourages renewable sources of energy, that encourages exploration in environmentally friendly ways. To keep jobs here, we need to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

To keep jobs here in America, we need reasonable trade policy. See, here's what I believe. I believe America's workers, farmers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere, so long as the playing field is level. We're going to be opening up markets for the good people of New Hampshire. We want you selling New Hampshire goods not only in the United States of America but all around the world. And my administration will give you a chance to compete in a fair way.

In order to make sure we keep jobs here, we've got to be wise about how we spend your money. We've got to set priorities and not overspend it. You know how to start? The best way to start with understanding fiscal responsibility in Washington is to understand we're not spending the Government's money. You listen closely to the rhetoric of these campaigns, you hear, "Well, we're going to spend the Government's money." That's not what I think. I know whose money we spend. We spend the people's money.

In order to make sure jobs stay here, we're going to keep your taxes low. This campaign is just getting started, and the other fellow has already promised over $2 trillion of new programs. Imagine what's going to be coming down the stretch. [Laughter] And the problem is, he hasn't told us how he's going to pay for it. But given his record, I bet we can figure out how he's going to pay for it. He's going to raise your taxes. But we're not going to let him.

Audience members. No-o-o!

The President. I'll tell you what else we've got to do to make sure jobs stay here, is to make sure our workers have the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. We're going to offer American workers a lifetime of learning. We're going to make sure our community colleges are accessible and affordable so people who need to can be retrained for the jobs which will exist. Listen, education is crucial to making sure the jobs stay here at home.

I'll tell you what else we're going to do. We're going to make sure American families keep more of something they do not have enough of, and that's time—time to coach your kids. I want to thank the football coaches, the youth football coaches who are here today. I told the coaches, I said, "Thanks for passing on values to our children." I want to thank those of you who work with the kids in the community here. Thanks for being good moms and dads. I want to thank the 4-H Clubs that were here, doing good work to help others.

See, I'm going to work with Senator Gregg. He's proposed legislation to allow workers to have flex-time. That means they can adjust their schedules to meet their needs so they can do their duty as a mom or a dad or as a community activist. Senator Gregg makes good sense in his legislation; I strongly embrace it. Government needs to stand side by side with the families of America.

I'm running for 4 more years because I want this economy to be stronger. I want our farm economy stronger. I want the entrepreneurial spirit stronger. I want there to be higher and better paying jobs. I'm running for 4 more years to continue to work for a pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur, pro-small-business economic agenda that is good for America.

We have more to do to wage and win the war on terror. America's future depends on our willingness to lead in this world. If America shows uncertainty and weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch.

The world changed on a terrible September morning. And since that day, we have changed the world. Before September the 11th, Afghanistan served as the home base of Al Qaida, which trained and deployed thousands of killers to set up terror cells around the world, including our country. Today, Afghanistan is a rising democracy. Afghanistan is an ally in the war against these thugs. Many young girls now go to school in Afghanistan for the first time. Afghanistan is becoming free, and America and the world are safer for it.

Before September the 11th, Pakistan was a safe transit point for terrorists. Today, Pakistan is an ally in the war against terror. Pakistani forces are aggressively to—helping round up Al Qaida and their friends and associates, and America and the world are safer.

In Saudi Arabia, before September the 11th, terrorists were raising money and they were recruiting and they were operating with little opposition. Today, the Saudi Government is taking the fight to Al Qaida, and America and the world are safer.

Before September the 11th, Libya was spending millions to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Today, because America and our allies have sent a strong and clear message, the leader of Libya has abandoned his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and America and the world are safer.

Before September the 11th, the ruler of Iraq was a sworn enemy of America. He was defying the world. He was firing weapons at American pilots which were enforcing the world's sanctions. He had pursued and he had used weapons of mass destruction. He harbored terrorists. He invaded his neighbors. He subsidized families of suicide bombers. He had murdered tens of thousands of his own citizens. He was a source of great instability in the world's most volatile region. He was a threat.

After September the 11th, we looked at all the threats of the world in a new light. I want you to remember, a lesson of September the 11th was that we must take threats seriously, before they fully materialize. The September the 11th Commission concluded our institutions of Government had failed to imagine the horror of that day. After September the 11th, we could not fail to imagine that a brutal tyrant who hated America, who had ties to terror, who had used weapons of mass destruction might use those weapons or share his capabilities with enemies.

See, we saw a threat. We looked at the intelligence of the day and saw a threat. The United States Congress—members of both political parties, including my opponent—looked at the same intelligence and came to the same conclusion. The United Nations looked at the intelligence and recognized Saddam was a threat. They unanimously passed a resolution—unanimously passed a resolution—which said, "Disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences." After defying the free world for 12 years, he did so again. He deceived the weapons inspectors. And so I had a choice to make: Do I forget the lessons of September the 11th?

Audience members. No-o-o!

The President. Do I trust a madman? Or do I take action necessary to defend our country? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. And because Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell, America and the world are safer.

Even though we did not find the stockpiles that we thought we would find, we did the right thing. He had the capability, and he could have passed that capability on to our enemies.

Now, there are some questions that a Commander in Chief needs to answer with a clear yes or no. My opponent hasn't answered the question of whether, knowing what we know now, he would have supported going into Iraq. That's an important question, and the American people deserve a clear yes or no answer. I have given my answer. We did the right thing, and the world is better off for it.

Over the next 4 years, we'll continue to work with friends and allies around the world to aggressively pursue the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. See, you can't talk sense to these people. You can't negotiate with them. You can't hope for the best with people who take airplanes and killed thousands of our citizens. We must engage these enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.

America will continue to lead the world with confidence and moral clarity. We put together a strong coalition. We're working together—there's over 60 nations involved with the Proliferation Security Initiative, 40 nations involved in Afghanistan, nearly 30 nations involved in Iraq. These are good people leading these countries. Our friends and allies will continue to work together for the cause of security and peace, but I will never turn America's national security decisions over to the leaders of other countries.

We will keep our commitments to help Afghanistan and Iraq become peaceful and democratic societies. This is important work; it's hard work, to go from being brutalized by a tyrant to having confidence enough to live in a free world. These two countries are now governed by strong leaders. Prime Minister Allawi in Iraq and President Karzai in Afghanistan are strong leaders who believe in the hopes and aspirations of their people. They want freedom, and so do the people of their countries. More and more of their folks are stepping up and taking responsibility. More people are becoming trained to defend their country against those who hate freedom. And the people of those countries can count on the United States and our coalition. See, when we acted to protect our own security, we promised to help deliver them from tyranny, to restore their sovereignty, and to set them on the path of liberty. And when America gives its word, America keeps its word.

In these crucial times, our commitments are kept by the men and women of our military. I want to thank the 94th Military Police Army Reserve Unit of New Hampshire for their service. I've had the privilege of meeting with those who defend our country. I've seen their unselfish courage and their great decency. The cause of freedom is in really good hands.

And I have an obligation and our Government has an obligation to make sure those who defend us have the very best pay, training, and equipment. Last September, while our troops were in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, I proposed supplemental funding to support them in their mission. This important legislation provided funding for body armor and vital equipment, for hazard pay and health benefits, for ammunition, fuel, and spare parts. Only a handful of United States Senators voted against the help to our military.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. Two of those twelve Senators are my opponent and his runningmate.

Audience members. Boo-o-o!

The President. Here's how he tried to explain his vote—[laughter]—"I actually did vote for the 87 billion, before I voted against it." [Laughter] Listen, I've spent a lot of quality time in New Hampshire. That's not how the people of New Hampshire talk. Now he's offering a different explanation. He said he's proud of his vote, and he said the whole thing is a complicated matter. [Laughter] There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in harm's way.

No, as Commander in Chief of these folks, I'm proud to stand with them. I'm proud of the veterans who have served so well and set such a great example to those who serve.

In the long run, our security is not guaranteed by force alone. We must work to change the conditions that give rise to terror: poverty and hopelessness and resentment. See, a free and peaceful Iraq and a free and peaceful Afghanistan will be powerful examples to their neighbors. They live in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom. We believe in America—we know in America that free societies are peaceful societies. Free societies do not export terror. See, by serving the ideal of liberty, we're serving our own national interests. As freedom spreads, America becomes more secure, and the world will be more peaceful. By serving the ideal of liberty, we're serving the deepest beliefs of our country. Freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world.

I'm running for 4 more years to make our country more secure and to help spread peace throughout the world. And we've got to do more to protect our country. You've read recently the threats. They're real, because there's an enemy that still wants to harm us. My opponent said something the other day I strongly disagree with. He said that going to war with the terrorists is actually improving their recruiting efforts. No, it's upside-down logic. It shows a misunderstanding of the enemy. During the nineties, these people were recruiting and training and preparing long before—long before— we went to war with them. They don't need an excuse for their hatred, and it is wrong to blame America for the anger and the evil of the killers. We don't create terrorists by fighting back. We defeat the terrorists by fighting back.

I agree with the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission that said the homeland is safer because of the actions we've taken, but not yet safe. And so we've got work to do to make this country more secure. We'll stay on the offense, but we've got work here at home. And we've started the process of reform. We've transformed our defenses. We've created a new Department of Homeland Security. We passed the PATRIOT Act. It's a very important piece of legislation to give law enforcement the tools necessary to disrupt and find terrorist cells.

The mission of the FBI is now focused on preventing terror. We're integrating intelligence and law enforcement better than ever before. We're taking action on a lot of this important Commission's recommendations. We've got more to do to better secure our ports and borders, to train first-responders. I want to thank the first-responders who are here, by the way— those are your police and firefighters and emergency teams.

I called on Congress to create a position of National Intelligence Director to dramatically improve our coordination and gathering efforts. Listen, these reforms aren't going to be easy. It's never easy in Washington. [Laughter] There's a lot of entrenched interests, a lot of people defending the status quo. It's not enough to advocate reform; you've got to be able to get the job done. And that's what we've done in this administration.

When it comes to reforming schools to provide excellent education, we got the job done, and results matter. When it comes to health care reforms to give families more access and more choices, results matter. When it comes to improving our economy and creating quality jobs, results matter. When it comes to better securing our homeland and spreading the peace, results matter. When it comes to electing a President, results matter. This world we're in is a——

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. This is an exciting time to be an American, in many ways. It's a changing world, and Government has got to understand that. You know, you've got workers—when most of our dads were coming up, they worked for the same company, didn't change jobs, and so the pension plans or the health care plans were adjusted for that. Now it's a different world. People are changing jobs; people are working out of their homes. Oftentimes, moms and dads are both working. And policy has got to reflect these changing times, which means, it seems like to me, the best way to do so is to encourage an ownership society. For example, we want people owning and managing their own health care accounts that they can take with them job to job or go from job to home.

In terms of pensions, you know, older guys like me are set for Social Security, but younger workers needed a different approach for Social Security. We ought to allow younger workers to manage their own personal retirement accounts that they can pass from one generation to the next.

When people tell me the number of small-businesses owners in America are increasing, that's really good news. I want people to own something in our country. I'm going to continue to work for an ownership society. Homeownership is at an all-time high now in America. That's fantastic news. Isn't it wonderful to have somebody for the first time be able to say, "Welcome to my home. I'm glad you're here at my piece of property."

This administration understands that when you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of our country. Now, in times of change, some things will never change: our belief in liberty, our belief in opportunity for every citizen, our nonnegotiable demands of human dignity. We believe in the individual values that we try to live by, courage and compassion, reverence and integrity. We believe in the institutions that give us direction and purpose, our families, our schools, and our religious congregations. These are fundamental to our lives, and they deserve the respect of Government.

We stand for institutions like marriage and family, which are the foundation of society. We stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every being counts. We stand for judges who faithfully interpret the law instead of legislating from the bench.

And we stand for a culture of responsibility in our country. The culture of this country is changing from one that has said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it," and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else," to a culture in which each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life. If you are fortunate enough to be a mother or a father, you're responsible for loving your child with all your heart and all your soul. If you're worried about the quality of the education in the community in which you live, you're responsible for doing something about it. If you're a CEO in corporate America, you're responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your employees. And in a responsibility era, each of us is responsible for loving our neighbor just like we'd like to be loved ourselves.

I'm running for 4 more years to continue to rally the armies of compassion. See, I understand Government can hand out money. We do a pretty good job of it in Washington. [Laughter] But what Government cannot do is put hope in a person's heart or a sense of purpose in a person's life. That's done when a loving soul puts his arm around somebody in need and says, "Brother," or "Sister, I love you. How can I help you?"

Listen, we can rally the armies of compassion. The great strength of America is the heart and soul of our people, and we can change this blessed country one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time.

For all Americans, these years in history will always stand apart. There are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of its leaders. This isn't one of those times. It's a time that requires firm resolve, clear vision, dedication to freedom and peace.

None of us will ever forget that week when one era ended and another began. As Judd said, I stood in the Twin Towers on September the 14th, 2001. It's a day I'll never forget. There were workers in hardhats yelling at me, "Whatever it takes." I remember a guy grabbing me by the arm—I don't know if he was a firefighter or a policeman; I do know that he had been searching in the rubble for a loved one. He looked at me with bloodshot eyes and said, "Do not let me down."

These are vivid impressions I will never forget. Obviously, he took it personally. The people searching through the rubble took that day personally. You took it personally. I took it personally. I have a duty that goes on. It is a solemn duty to defend our country, which I will do, whatever it takes.

We have come through much together. We have done a lot of hard work. But there's more to do. There's more to do to spread opportunity and freedom and peace. During the next 4 years, I will work to make sure the American Dream shines brightly for everybody and that we encourage an ownership society. We will pass enduring values of our country to the next generation. We will lead the cause of freedom and peace. And we will prevail.

Four years ago, I traveled your great State. I said if you gave me the honor of serving, I would uphold the dignity and the honor of the office to which I had been elected. And with your help—and with your help, I will do so for 4 more years.

May God bless you all. Thanks for coming. Thank you very much. Thank you all.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:07 p.m. at Bittersweet Farm. In his remarks, he referred to Jayne Millerick, chairman, Nancy Merrill, national committeewoman, and Tom Rath, national committeeman, New Hampshire Republican State Committee; Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi, leader of Libya; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission).

George W. Bush, Remarks in Stratham, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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