George Bush photo

Remarks to the Community in Hamtramck, Michigan

September 07, 1992

Thank you, Paul. And thank you, Governor Engler. Thank you very, very much. I love this sign, of all the signs out there: "These are the Poles that count." You are the Poles that count.

Early this morning the Governor and his wife, Michelle, and Barbara and I all joined about 80,000 for a walk across the great bridge up in northern Michigan. He didn't mention it, but I beat the Governor across the bridge. But he says he was just being polite and hanging back with the First Lady.

Today I don't want to talk about politics. I want to talk about something else, something that's near and dear to the hearts of everybody: freedom. May I recognize some of the outstanding leaders who are with us today: Monsignor Milewski; your great Mayor, Robert Kozaren; my friend the president of the Polish General Council who introduced me, Paul Odrobina; parade chairman Ted Koltowicz; and the grand marshal, Walter Budweil. Thank you all very much.

My fellow Americans, this past Independence Day I traveled to the heartland of Poland to bury a treasure. In the crypt of an ancient cathedral, I stood with President Walesa as the remains of the great patriot and artist Ignacy Paderewski were finally laid to rest in the rich and free Polish soil that conceived and sustained him. And the ripples from that moment, as his remains were consecrated to the earth on that warm summer day in Warsaw, are passing through this crowd here and now. Sons and daughters of Hamtramck, your forebears came to this great country because they too could not countenance a Poland shackled by repression. Rather than cling to native soil bled dry by empty promises, they chose instead to flourish free on foreign soil and to make it their own. Today you are part of the great family that is America.

Fellow Americans, I am proud to be with you in Hamtramck on Labor Day. You are the blood and bone of Copernicus and Chopin and Curie. You are the sweat and sinew that built this city and this industry. And you are the voice and vision of your parents who struggled to be heard and won that struggle, that labor's voice may be heard always, always. You are the inspiration for Americans who watched and prayed and cheered through recent years as the great nation of Poland, racked by the rhythms of war and oppression, rose like a phoenix, a free nation once again.

We watched this new force, not pushing down from a tyrant but up from the people. We prayed for the nation of Poland, reborn, brimming with a new and different fluid of life, inspired by a Pope and by a passion for freedom, for freedom at last. We cheered a Gdansk electrician who electrified the world with the charge that all people should be free and be heard. We stood proud as American labor took to the forefront during the struggle, standing with Solidarity in its darkest hour, firm in the belief that the dream was real.

I stood before you right here in Hamtramck, right here 3 years ago, with this message: Communism has left an ugly scar on Poland. It will heal, but with pain, the pain of insecurity and insolvency. I pledged America's help. Today I return to you to say that this country and our allies have responded forcefully.

First, our concern for Poland's security. On that day here 3 years ago, I called for an end to the cold war. Thank God, the cold war has ended, and thank God, freedom won. America will do what's right to make certain Poland never again braves the chilling tomb of communism.

And second, our concern for Polish solvency. It's been said that communism is not a form of economics, it's the death of economics. So 3 years ago, I called for all to rally 'round with economic efforts to help pull Poland from an economic grave. I called for giving Poland preferred trade treatment so she can reach out to the world through exports. I called for reducing Poland's debt to ease her burden. I called for investors to help unleash the explosive entrepreneurial energy of the Polish people. I called for loans so the Polish private sector can help her economy blossom. I called for international financial agreements so Poland can build a financial base worthy of a great nation.

In 1989 these and other major initiatives marked a radical new direction for our foreign policy toward Poland and other democracies. In 1992 I've returned to tell you, Democrat or Republican, whoever you're for: All these predictions and pledges have come true, every single one of them.

There are those who tell me that foreign policy doesn't matter, that with our internal challenges America has no business paying attention to the world anymore. I say, tell that to the immigrants of America. Tell that to our children who are free of nuclear nightmare and can dream the sweet dream of peace. I am proud that we helped change the world. Tell that to the American workers who have a new world of consumers eager for the fruit of your labors. On this Labor Day, let me be clear: No one can outproduce, outthink, outcreate the American working man and woman, no one.

So we recognize that the noble experiment taking place in Poland and other nations today is in fact an inspiration and an opportunity for us and the rest of the world. We pledge our support for Poland's security. We pledge our support for Poland's solvency. We pledge to work for a democratic peace, an enduring peace anchored in economic and political freedom. Most of all, we pledge to keep our word. We pledge to keep Poland free.

My friends, we stand today in the twilight of one millennium and the dawn of the next. Never before has humankind beheld such a view. Never before has our Nation been pressured by such deep energies of change and growth reshaping America like the strong hands of a potter on wet clay. But we will survive, and we will thrive. Why? Because the American people are like the great Statue of Liberty that stands in New York Harbor. We're like that great statue, brought over in pieces from the Old World, strapped together with bolts of steel right here on our own American soil, assembled, raised, and anchored on a rock in our own American waters. And we are like that statue because the family that is America came over in pieces as well.

We came as Poles and Hungarians and Chinese and Germans; Japanese, Irish, Swedes, and French; Italians, Russians, Spaniards, Cubans, Koreans, Hondurans, Lithuanians, and Finns; Ukrainians, Latvians, Bulgarians, and Mexicans; Israelis, Albanians, Czechs, Macedonians. And that roster of new Americans goes on and on and never ends. Like that great statue, we came over in pieces. Our cultures were bolted together by hope. Our cross-struts are many. Our strengths are eternal. Our hopes unite us. And our vision is one: a vision of prosperous peace for our children. And the last best hope for that vision is you, the American people.

It's now time to take those same heartfelt urges that made us become the statue and put them to work here at home. This fight for freedom isn't fought on the dark, treacherous borders far from home. This fight for freedom is fought on the economic battlefield by creating new jobs, opening new markets, building new American strengths right here, here and abroad. And this fight is fought with creativity, determination, and investment in the hearts and minds of the American people.

Here in Hamtramck and across this Nation, these are the forces Americans must bring to bear on our future so every American's human potential is stretched to its God-given best. Hamtramck, you can change the world with a gift your mothers and fathers left behind. And today I challenge you to redeem the struggles they endured. Make their labors mean something. Redeem the struggles Solidarity suffered. Redeem the struggles Kosciuszko and Pulaski and, in fact, all the Kowalskis and Janowskis who lived and died and aimed at one simple thing: to be heard, to have a voice, to vote.

Come November 3d, I challenge you to breathe life into the meaning of Labor Day and into the meaning of Solidarity and into the hopes and the dreams of the thousands who have died for the precious right we so often ignore. I challenge you to vote your conscience. I would hope you would vote for me, of course, but only you can know your heart. As you cast that vote, observe how easy it is. And remember how costly, how terribly costly this great gift was to win and to earn and to pass down to us here today.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the legacy of Hamtramck. That is the legacy of your ancestors' homeland. And that is the legacy of the family of America. Make her proud.

Thank you all. God bless you for this wonderful support. And may God bless a free, an always-free Poland. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:18 p.m. after participating in the Polish Festival parade. In his remarks, he referred to Monsignor Stanley Milewski, chancellor of Orchard Lake St. Mary's, and Paul Odrobina, city councilman and president of the Michigan chapter of the Polish American Congress.

George Bush, Remarks to the Community in Hamtramck, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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