Remarks to the Community in Little Rock, Arkansas
Thank you all. It's nice to be back in Arkansas. Thank you for that great hospitality. You know, when I was Governor, you used to let me come across the river sometimes—[laughter]—that is, Governor of Texas—and it's good to be back. I'm so honored to be in this fine State with so many citizens. I'm here to give you kind of a sense about how things are going, at least from my perspective.
Before I do, I want to thank Senator Hutchinson for his hard work on behalf of the people of Arkansas, and I want to thank him for his friendship. I appreciate so very much Senator Blanche Lincoln being here as well. Thank you for coming, Senator Lincoln; I'm honored to have you here. Congressman Boozman from up north is here. Thank you for being here, John. I'm glad you're here. I hope they're here to get some of this update and not because they want a free ride back to Washington. [Laughter] By the way, it's a nice way to travel, I want you to know.
I've known your Governor for a long time. I'm proud to call him friend. I'm really—I know you're grateful for the job he's doing as the Governor of this important State, and I want to thank him.
Mike's invited me to his church today; I'm going out there to talk about the need to be compassionate for people who hurt. And I can't wait to go. Mike, I want to thank you for the invitation for—to give me a chance to herald the great faith that exists throughout our country and the importance of faith in the lives of our citizens and the importance of faith to make sure our Nation is as strong and as decent and as hopeful in every neighborhood as is conceivably possible.
And I appreciate Tommy Thompson traveling with us today. Tommy is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is a friend of mine as well. He's the former Governor of Wisconsin, who understands that welfare needs to help people help themselves. Tommy is doing a fantastic job as our Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Not on our traveling team is the most popular person in my family, the First Lady of the United States. [Applause] I know. The same thing happened to my dad. [Laughter] But Laura was recently here in Arkansas. She's talking about her passions of education and helping people. And when I asked her to marry me, she was a public school librarian in Texas, and she didn't particularly care for politicians or politics. And here she is, First Lady of the United States—thank goodness, for the country. She's doing a great job.
The family's doing well. Barney, the dog, is in great shape. [Laughter] Spot, the dog who was born at the White House when Mother and Dad were there, is getting a little up in the years, but she's doing well too. She's used to the confines of the South Lawn. And I invite her every morning into the Oval Office with me to start my day. Kind of in the southern tradition, I'm an early morning person. I get there about 10 until 7 every morning, and Spot makes herself comfortable on the new carpet. [Laughter] That's why Barney's not invited in in the morning. [Laughter] But we're doing great.
And before I begin the state of our Union, or at least how I see it right now, I want to thank all of you for your prayer. Many people in this State and around our Nation give the President the greatest gift a President could receive, and that is prayer. And it's a—it's not a Republican prayer; it's not a Democrat prayer. It's a prayer that's far greater than politics, and I know that. And I want to thank you for that, and I want to thank you for praying for our Nation as well, because we've got some challenges ahead of us.
And there are some truths to the challenges we face. What's interesting is that we've been at war for 9 months. And that's a short time in the—generally, in the history of war. It seems like a long time to some. But not much time has passed, really, when you think about it. And we're making good progress, though. We are. We've got—we're learning a lot. We're learning that there are people that hate America because of our—the fact that we love freedom. That's what we've learned.
I remember some children asking me, "How can we be attacked? Who would want to hurt America?" And the answer is, people that can't stand freedom. They hate the thought of a nation being tolerant about religion. They can't stand that we're allowed to worship freely in America; that bothers them. It bothers them that we can have good, open, and honest political discourse. It bothers them we've got a free press. It bothers them that we are the beacon to freedom. So when people look around the world for what freedom means, they look to America, and that bothers them.
We've learned that this enemy is nothing but a bunch of coldblooded killers—coldblooded killers who hijack a religion. That's what we've learned. We've learned they're pretty resourceful and pretty devious. They'll hide in a cave, thinking that we'll quit. They're willing to send youngsters to their death, while they, themselves, are taking care of their own. That's who we're dealing with. And they're patient, and they're still determined—they're still determined. They've still got an army out there. Oh, it's not the kind of army we're used to when you think about war—certainly not the armies that fought on the continent of Europe. Just—as you know, I was honored to go to Normandy. What an unbelievable sight that is, by the way. And for all the World War II vets who are here, thanks from the bottom of our collective hearts for securing our freedom.
We've learned that the new enemy, the enemy of the new wars of the 21st century—they don't have lines of defense; they kind of meld into society. They take advantages of either weakness or freedom. That's what we've learned. And it's good to know that—it's good to know that.
And they've learned some stuff about us. They've learned we're pretty tough when people come after America. They've learned that when it comes to defending our freedom, we'll defend it with all our might. That's what they've learned. They've learned that we love freedom, and it is nonnegotiable, our love for freedom.
They have learned that the United States has got a great military. They have learned that America is grateful for those who wear our—the uniform of our military. And they've also learned that this is an administration that understands, anytime we commit any of our young to battle, they deserve the best pay, the best equipment, the best training possible.
The enemy probably thought that we were such a weak society, so materialistic and self-absorbed, that when they attacked that all we would do is file a couple of lawsuits. [Laughter] They've learned that that's not the way we think, that we're resolved.
Much to their chagrin, they've learned that we're a patient nation, that the people of this country understand what I know, that this struggle for freedom is going to take a while. As a matter of fact, there is no—there's not a calendar that says it's got to quit by such-and-such a moment; that if things aren't wrapped up by this election or this Super Bowl or this World Series that we're just going to fold up and go on home; that we're a patient people; that the American people understand that some days there will be moments of great drama on the TV screens, and sometimes there's going to be, you know, kind of a lull in the action; and that—that we understand that.
And that's important in this war, that American people, much to the chagrin of the enemy and much to the delight of a grateful President, understand that we face a new threat, the likes of which we've never seen before, and that we will do what it takes to win the war.
If there's a cave that needs to be searched, we'll search it. If there's a country that needs to hear again and again, "You're either with us, or you're against us," they'll hear it. We're on an international manhunt. And you just need to know, my fellow citizens, that even though it may not be prominent in the news, I think about defending this country every day and that we're after them, one person at a time. Anybody who thinks they're going to hurt America is going to be hunted down. The best way to defend—the best way to defend this country, the best way for me to do my most important job, which is to protect innocent Americans, is to go on the offense and chase them down one by one and bring them to justice, which is precisely what America is going to do.
And we learned that we've got some work to do at home, that we can do a better job of defending the American people, which we are going to do. We know we've got to do a better job on our borders, understanding who's coming into the country and who's leaving and why they're here and why they haven't left. We know that we need to do a better job of that in order to defend the homeland.
We know we've got to make sure we're ready for whatever happens. I want to thank the police and the fire and the emergency workers here in the State of Arkansas for the important job you do and let you know that part of our strategy is to make sure we've got a first-responders initiative and strategy that will make the homeland more secure. We know we need to do that, and we're doing that.
We've got to make sure that we get the best intelligence possible. In this new war against this shadowy enemy, it's very important that we gather as much intelligence as we can. We need to know what they're thinking and what they're planning on doing before they do something. That's the best way.
And we also know that at home we needed to have changed and are now changing our law enforcement agencies from—to a new strategy, one that not only chases down criminals and arrests them, but a strategy which works to prevent further attacks. So when you read about the FBI, I want you to know that the FBI is changing its culture. The FBI prior to September 11th was running down white-collar criminals—and that's good—was worrying about spies—that's good. But now they've got a more important task, and that is to prevent further attack. And so the FBI is changing, and they're doing a better job of communicating with the CIA. They're now sharing intelligence.
My point to you is that whether it be at your airports or on a border or law enforcement, the whole mission of the Federal Government, working in conjunction with the State and local governments, is to protect the American people.
The enemy also knows that I'm really serious when it comes to routing out harm before it hits America. I don't know whether that's good or bad they know that, but they're learning that. They're also learning we're the kind of team that does what we say we're going to do. So when I said the other day that I'm concerned about these countries which develop weapons of mass destruction and we know they hate America and I intend to bring the diplomatic pressure or the pressure of the world and, if need be, act, I mean it.
History has called this Nation into action. History has put the spotlight on America. History is going to write, did this country, in its position—unique position in the world, did we blink in the face of terror, or were we willing to lead the world to a more free and civilized society? And as far as I'm concerned, there's only one answer to that question, and that answer is, this great country will lead the world to a more safe and secure and free society.
No, this Nation is plenty patient and plenty tough. And we're ready—we're ready. But you know what else I've learned? That out of evil can come some incredible good. Out of evil, out of the evil done to our country, we have a chance to not only keep the peace—and I want the youngsters here to know that when you hear about fighting, it's because we want the world to be peaceful. Our goal is peace. We never have sought revenge. This great country seeks justice. And we want you to be living in a world that is peaceful, so when you grow up, you can feel freedom and be free.
But also at home, we have a chance to show, out of evil can come some incredible good. People say to me, "What can I do to join this great country in the war on terror?" And my answer is, love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. If you want to fight evil, do some good. You want to fight evil, help somebody who needs some help. And those acts can be great acts, or they can be small acts, but they all add up. Our society can be saved one heart and one soul, one conscience at a time. And I recognize while one person can't do everything, one person can do something to make a difference in somebody's life.
You've seen how people have taken a look at their own lives and at their own soul since 9/11. You've seen moms and dads recognize their most important job, if they happen to have a child, is to love their children and remind them they love them. That's part of a compassionate society. There are people all across this country who are—who hear a call to help somebody. It's not a Government-issued call, really; when you think about it, it's a call of conscience and a call of heart. All the President can say, "If you want to help, please help," and I do that all the time. We've got the USA Freedom Corps, Peace Corps, ways to help—and AmeriCorps.
And today we've got with us Brenda Ross, who's a USA Freedom Corps honoree, full-time AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer. She works in making sure people who need food get food. She's working in Boys and Girls Clubs. I don't know where Brenda is, but anyway, she is part of the soldiers in the armies of compassion.
And you can join that army of compassion, too, by mentoring a child. I told you, we're going to Huckabee's church—excuse me, Governor Huckabee's church—I call him Huckabee. [Laughter] This is a church which is helping welfare recipients learn a skill so they can work. There's nothing more—there's no more—there's no better way to earn dignity than to work. And this church understands that.
We can fight terror by feeding people who are hungry. We can fight terror by loving the lonely. We can fight terror by insisting every child learns to read. We can fight terror by doing good, and that's happening all across America.
The great strength of this country is not really our military. The great strength of the country is the people of America. The great strength of the country lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens, people who are willing to serve something greater than materialism and selfishness, people who are willing to serve something greater than yourself.
You know, that really came home to me most vividly on Flight 93. Think about that: People got on an airplane; they're flying across the country; and all of a sudden the call comes and says, "Your airplane is going to be used as a weapon." And so they tell their loved ones they love them; they said a prayer; they took the plane to the ground to save somebody else's life.
You see, it's that sense of serving something greater than yourself that we all can do—that we all can do—by showing compassion and decency and love. And as a result, we will show the world the true strength of America. We're going to keep the peace by being strong militarily and by doing our job, and we will win the war by being a compassionate, decent, honorable nation.
It is such an honor—such an honor— to be the President of such a grand country. Thanks for giving me the chance.
May God bless you all. May God bless America.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:50 a.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.
George W. Bush, Remarks to the Community in Little Rock, Arkansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/215103