George Bush photo

Remarks to the Bee County Community, Beeville, Texas

December 27, 1991

Thank you for that warm welcome. And let me start off by thanking the A.C. Jones High School Band, well-represented back there with their families; the Taylor Brothers Band; and the Knight-Rider Band who are here with us. And also, I want to pay my special thanks to Holly Dunn, who is with us, came all the way over from Nashville, one of the great country stars. And I don't know; has she been on yet? She's fixin' to be on, and you're in for a real treat, believe me.

And it's also -- let me just single out a couple of other people with us from Washington, your Congressman, my friend of many, many years, Kika de la Garza, sitting right here in the front row. We refer to him as Mr. Chairman. And, of course, a special guest that my friend, Will Farish, is entertaining for the weekend and who is entertaining us, my dear friend, the Senator from Wyoming, Al Simpson, sitting right down here.

And I understand that Judge Hayden Head is with us, one of the great Federal judges. I'm going to be in trouble if I mention friends, but I've got a friend from Hebbronville, Tony Salinas, who's up here. Been at my side in politics for a long, long time. And, of course, there's no way that I can begin to thank Dan and Jay, Dan Ouellette and Jay Kimbrough, for putting on this magnificent event. I am very, very grateful to them. I am grateful to the leaders of Beeville. And I'm grateful to each and every one of you who are here tonight to, in a sense, welcome me back to South Texas. Thank you very, very much.

And I will have a little presentation to make to your outstanding mayor of one year, Mayor Carlos Salazar, who's with us up here. But we'll have a little to do later on in this sense.

Of course, I'm grateful to my old friend, Will Farish up at Berclair, who brings us down here from time to time.

Barbara is not with me. She's looking after Millie for the weekend and getting ready for a long trip that we're about to go on. But if I might say this about Barbara Bush, because I know I'm amongst friends here -- if you will excuse this familial pride -- with all she does in helping families with reading, reading to kids, hugging those kids that are not well, if you might permit this, I think she's an outstanding First Lady of this country, and I -- -- [applause].

I was asked out at the airport today to say something about Chase, because I know it's the integral part of the lifeblood -- has been here in Bee County. And I remember when I learned to fly, got my wings at Corpus. Of course, Chase Field then was active and one of the satellites, it was in those days, to Corpus Naval Air Station. So, let me just say a few words about it. And I want to put it in a global context, the context that those lovely words of our reverend touched on here this evening.

In the past 3 years, the entire world has changed. The cold war ended, and because we stood firm over the years, we won the cold war. Communism collapsed. The ideals that we defended so long conquered the empty promises and the grinding dogmas of socialism. And so, let there be no question about it anywhere: Freedom works and tyranny does not work, and the whole world understands that today.

And to the kids here -- I know there are many from the schools around here -- let me just say, keep in mind this particular week. Write it down. Put it in your diary. What a week it's been. On Wednesday, Christmas Day, Soviet communism and the Soviet State died. President Gorbachev, who deserves great credit for reform, perestroika and openness, glasnost, stepped aside. And Russians pulled down the hammer and sickle, that flag that has flown over the Kremlin for so many years, more than 70 years, and ran up the tricolor flag of a free Russia.

Thursday, and some of you may have seen the speech, I went down from Camp David to the White House and gave a speech in which I recognized 12 new States on behalf of the United States, recognized 12 new States and took steps to establish diplomatic relations with Russia and five other new democracies: Entire new, independent, sovereign countries recognized now by the United States of America.

And this was a dramatic week. I talked at length to President Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, to President Yeltsin of Russia. And I can tell you that the mood for cooperation now between the Russian Republic, and I also believe between these other sovereign Republics, is good. It's strong. And I think we can then ensure the peace that has escaped us for so long.

And here I am at the end of this marvelous week in world history, back in a place I love very much, back in Beeville, Texas, right here in South Texas. And I'm thrilled to be back with you.

So, let's just think for a minute about where we've been in the last year. And again, our reverend spoke to this a little bit in his beautiful prayer. Last Christmas, if you'll think back -- season -- to this very day, I was weighing sending American troops into battle against Saddam Hussein, that brutal dictator, that outrageous aggressor.

And many people wanted us to stay here, stay home, play it safe, ignore our duties as the undisputed leader of the free world, ignore the aggression. But I decided, and you the American people, certainly the people of this part of Texas, agreed that Saddam Hussein's aggression should not, must not stand. And we tried everything in our power to free Kuwait peacefully: diplomacy, no avail; economic embargoes, no avail.

And finally, a little less than a year ago, I had to make the tough choice of sending Americans into battle. And they, those magnificent kids, did better than anyone could have possibly imagined. I was proud of them, and I know every American was proud of the job they did, the way they did it, the time it took, and what they stood for around the world.

And we said we'd liberate Kuwait. And with the help of this multinational coalition, we did it. And in the process, the spirits of this country were lifted.

And that set the tone in international affairs for 1991 all around the world. All year long dramatic changes shook the world, most of them, if you'll look back over your shoulder, very, very positive. Freedom and democracy, on the march. Ancient enemies talking to each other for the first time across the table, one from the other, in the Middle East.

And now, we must wrestle with the victory of our ideals. With this cold war over, our military needs have changed. And the bipartisan -- this brings me right home to Chase -- that bipartisan base closing commission decided that Chase should be shut down. I know that the civic leaders did what they should. They fought hard, fought the decision, long and hard because this base has provided a foundation for life in Beeville for decades.

But I said early on I would support the commission, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Defense, and I did that. And I know that other local institutions have suffered in the wake of closing of Chase, just as they have in the other areas where bases have been closed.

And now we've got to rebuild. And Washington can and will help. The Pentagon's Office of Economic Adjustment -- that's the fancy name for the department that has to deal with these, the hardship and the ache of the base closings -- has provided a grant of more than $100,000 for community planning assistance. And that money is going to support efforts to find new opportunities for development right here in Beeville.

That investment can produce huge rewards. The Department of Commerce's EDA, the Economic Development Administration, has $50 million dollars in funding to assist communities across the country with base closings. And it offers an average of $1 million for development efforts after the communities go forward and produce sound ideas for creating new businesses and new jobs.

An Assistant Secretary of Labor, Bob Jones, leads a program with $150 million in defense funds to assist this country's dislocated defense workers in job counseling and training, relocation aid, job placement, and so on. And that could be about $3 to 4 million for business efforts in Beeville.

And I'm told that the Pentagon will turn the base over to you sometime late in 1993. And that deadline, I think and hope, will help everybody get moving.

And then there's still some more: The SBA, the Small Business Administration, will conduct business seminars here, just as it did over at Fort Hood, when deployments and realignments hurt families over there.

In all, we've got in the Federal Government 23 departments and agencies ready to help, right now. And we'll do everything that we possibly can to help Beeville make the tough transition into this post-cold war world that we're living in.

There are many blessings to count. But yes, there are hardships. I'm not singling out here tonight special treatment. I am simply saying to the civic leaders here what is available at the Federal level. And that's how we deal with all base closings around this country.

And still, whatever the Federal Government does, whatever its role, your defense future really depends on you, depends on the heartbeat of Beeville, Texas.

I know Beeville's going to turn things around. When I arrived here in this motorcade, Jay showed me the headlines from the Corpus paper today. I'd like to show it to some of the people that have been reporting the news lately because it did have a nice positive ring about it at the end of the year. And I hope the predictions therein prove to be accurate, because they were predicting rather substantial improvements in this economy that's been sick and sluggish in many places in this country.

But Beeville's going to work. It's going to turn things around. Texas towns like Harlingen and Laredo, Mineral Wells, Waco have been through what you've been through. And they've recovered. And they've expanded their employment bases. And they did it because they were determined to make things better for themselves and for their kids. And I know you're going to do it here. I know you can do it here, too.

Before yielding the floor and getting on to the main event, which is eating the good barbecue and listening to some good country music, I'd like to cover just a couple of other important topics.

First, you have learned, and you might say the hard way, that foreign policy and domestic policy do go hand-in-hand. And anyone who says that you can divorce foreign and domestic policy is living in a dream world, or more accurately, living in a nightmare world.

Twice this century, we tried to pull back to retreat into isolationism, and we got two world wars as a result. We tried economic isolationism, protectionism, once. And we got -- some of you older folks here will remember -- the Great Depression.

People these days must make a choice: Join the rest of the world or get passed by it. And I say that the destiny of the United States of America is to lead. And as long as I am President of the United States, I will not neglect my responsibilities for the national security of this country. And I will do all I can to see that these kids back here have a chance to grow up in a world where they don't have to worry about nuclear conflict or going to war themselves. And I will not be deterred from those responsibilities.

I'm leaving Monday, Barbara and I leave Monday morning early, for a trip to Asia. And while I'm there, I'm going to be talking with leaders of four countries about international security, defending our vital interests in the Pacific. We are a Pacific power as well as a power that looks to our own south and looks to the east across the Atlantic. Talking about our vital interests there, cultural exchanges; talking about overall world economics, talking about getting those countries, those that are doing well in that part of the world, to help us as we try to reinforce and strengthen the fledgling democracies to our south.

And most important, though, on this trip, we're going to be talking about breaking open markets that shut out American products, American business, and in the process deny us the opportunity to create more good American jobs. Those countries must open their markets to American products. So the most important priority is then, if you look at it, is good jobs for Americans. And I am going to Asia to help create those kinds of jobs.

I want a world of free trade where the best of each nation, the best, can compete in free and fair trade, free and fair markets. And that world offers everybody the best goods at the lowest prices. And the exports have saved America as we've gone through a sluggish economy. And one way to shut those exports off is to resort to protection ourselves.

Trade's got to be fair. I believe this: I believe that we can compete with anyone in the world if we get a fair chance. And that's what we've got to see happens in these world markets.

So, the sum of it is this: Free trade means jobs. Now, this is an agricultural community, listen to this one: Every billion dollars' worth of agricultural exports creates more than 25,000 new jobs here in the United States of America. Every billion dollars' worth of manufactured exports created more than 20,000 good jobs.

Incredible things have taken place all around us. The cold war is over, the Gulf war won. Relations with Mexico and other neighbors to the south have never ever been better. And I want to see them even stronger because that means jobs and better opportunity for all Americans, North Americans and South.

And if you want to put it all in wonderful year-end perspective, if your family is like ours, from Christmas and then again at New Year's, we count our blessings. And believe me, we have many, many things to be thankful for. There's a lot of things aren't going the way I'd like to see them in this country, but Barbara and I have an inclination with our kids around us, as we had them there at Camp David, to count our blessings, to thank God for the blessings that we have as a family and that we see in this great country of ours.

So, we have a lot to be grateful for. American leadership, American ideals have literally reshaped the world that we are living in.

And so, I think it is time then that we further seize our destiny. We've got so much to do at home. We're doing not bad in some aspects. In fact, we're doing quite well in some aspects of the drug fight. We've got to continue. We've got to continue it until every family knows that their kids won't be plagued by narcotics.

We've got to make our schools the best in the world. And with this America 2000 program, which is Democrats and Republicans and liberals and conservatives working together, I'm optimistic that we can do just that: Revolutionize these schools and give our kids the best opportunity for an education that any generation has ever had.

Light a fire under our best inventors, innovators, and workers and liberate the working people from taxes, regulation, and red tape. And then do that, and the rest of the world is going to watch in awe. And we'll create the kind of society we want.

Yes, I still want a kinder and gentler, fast-growing, always improving America. And yes, I will continue to fight against the excesses of Government spending. I believe deficits matter. And I believe we've got to do a better job in Washington in controlling the excesses of Federal spending.

So, in about a month, about a month from now, I will deliver a State of the Union Message that's going to outline a new strategy for building on our international success. We're moving into a partisan year. Everybody here knows that. Certainly, I know it. We're moving into a partisan year. But what I will challenge the Congress to do in this State of the Union Message is to find a window where we just put politics aside and say, "Look, there's some Americans that are hurting out here, far too many all across our country. So now let's set aside the politics, only for a short period of time." That's the only realistic thing that can happen. Set it aside, reach out my hand to the other side, and say, "Let's get some things done that will make this economy grow, that will put America back to work, and will still guarantee that we are the leader of the entire free world. I am convinced we can do it." And that's the approach I'm going to take in the State of the Union Message.

I'm going to outline a new strategy for building on our international success. And it will be about unleashing the creativity, the ambition, and the drive of the American people, about really getting again this sluggish economy on the move. And I'm absolutely confident, I am absolutely confident that we will do just exactly that. We are Americans. We will not fail.

I just want you to know, in the first place, just a couple of comments to friends, and then we'll eat. I like my job as President. Al Simpson was coming down on the plane, he said, "Hey, you're getting clobbered out there by the media these days." And I said, "Yes, that goes with the territory. It takes one to know one." You talk about Simpson telling me about getting clobbered by the press, why -- -- [laughter].

But we reminisced about it. And we both concluded just as friends, no politics, that it is well worth it. I cannot think of a more exciting period in this century to be President of the United States. I'm working hard. I'm doing my level best. I'm absolutely confident that this country's going to turn around and this economy will be back on track. And I am absolutely confident that you, the American people, want me to continue to lead, to have America be the leader around the world.

So, there's some slings and arrows out there. But don't feel sorry for the Bushes. We love it. We feel privileged every single day that we live in the White House. And I feel honored; I feel the same sense of emotion that Dan Ouellette told me that he had when he walked into the Oval Office maybe for the second or third time. I go there every day, and I still get a little choked up and think, God, what a wonderful country we are living in.

God bless the United States of America. And thank you for this fantastic South Texas hospitality. I will never forget it. Thank you very much.

[At this point, Mayor Salazar presented gifts to the President.]

And now, under the theory that some practice that it is better to give than to receive, let me hand this token to Mayor Salazar. And it is simply a certificate from the President of the United States, a certificate of appreciation to Beeville, Texas, in recognition of the kindness and the hospitality shown during this Presidential visit to your wonderful area. And again, thank you all so very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:54 p.m. in the Bee County Rodeo Arena. In his remarks, he referred to Hayden W. Head, Jr., U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas; Will Farish and Tony Salinas, long-time friends of the President; and cochairmen of the barbeque, Dan Ouellette, former county Republican Party chairman, and Jay Kimbrough, an attorney in Beeville. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks to the Bee County Community, Beeville, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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