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Special Event

President-Elect Bush Speaks at Ceremony Honoring Veterans

Aired January 19, 2001 - 3:16 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Joie Chen at the CNN Center. We want to take you live now to Washington. Of course, the inaugural festivities are under way, and as you see at the podium before the nation's veterans - -a salute to the nation's veterans today, the next commander-in-chief of these United States will be George W. Bush when he is inaugurated tomorrow.

Let's listen to what he has to say to the veterans today.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: OK.

(APPLAUSE)

Behave yourself.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I am certainly glad the vice president-to-be invited me.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: It -- it -- it does not surprise me, however, that he turned his tribute, or a tribute that was supposed to be to him, to honor somebody else. That's why I picked him to be the vice president. He is a decent, honorable man.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I am so pleased to see Secretary of Defense Cohen. Thank you so much for coming. I'm honored you're here.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: The secretary welcomed Dick and myself and a couple of other notables over at the Defense Department the other day and he did so with grace. And for that, we are very grateful, sir.

I'm so glad to see Bob Dole. What a good man.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Of all the notables here, I don't know why I picked you out, except you always make me smile when I think about it. What a great man. And thank you for your service in building the memorial to the World War II vets.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: It's good to see members of the United States Senate here; Senator Inouye, and of course, my friend Senator McCain.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Senator McCain is a pretty tough competitor. He brings the best out in people, if you know what I mean. But I look forward to working with both members of the Senate and the members of the United States Congress who are here as well. Thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: It's humbling to in the midst of heroes, but it's important that a president-to-be and a vice president-to-be do so because it reminds us of the greatness of our country; it reminds of the fact there are thousands of Americans who when called are willing to serve a cause greater than self. What an honor to be here.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: And it's a particular honor to be here with recipients of the Medal of Honor; great heroes of the American scene.

(APPLAUSE)

(APPLAUSE)

Americans who define the character of America remind us that we must never forget our history. Soon a new administration will be taking office in Washington, and we'll have the responsibility for keeping the peace, for making the world more peaceful. It begins by first having a national security team.

I believe in all due respect to other presidents, one who I happen to know quite well...

(LAUGHTER)

... that I believe the national security team I put together is the best in our nation's history, led by Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld.

(APPLAUSE)

I look forward to hearing their opinions. I look forward to their advice. I look forward to doing what is right to make the world more peaceful. This is an administration which understands, though, that in order to keep the peace our military must be strong, morale must be high.

(APPLAUSE)

We will make sure our soldiers are well-paid and well-housed.

(APPLAUSE)

We will make sure our soldiers are well-trained. I'm so glad to see general officers here of our military, because I want to say this as loud and clear as I can. The mission of the United States military will be to have a military prepared and trained and ready to fight and win war, and therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

(APPLAUSE)

In order to make sure morale is high with those who wear the uniform today, we must keep our commitments to those who wore the uniform in the past.

(APPLAUSE)

I have picked a really good man to head the Veterans Department in Tony Principi.

(APPLAUSE)

We will make sure promises made to our veterans will be promises kept.

(APPLAUSE)

In less than 24 hours, I have the highest honor, and that's to become the commander in chief of the greatest nation in the world. I accept that honor with pride. I accept that honor with purpose.

Thank you for having me. God bless.

CHEN: All right, we want to bring you up to date here as Mr. Bush speaks to the nation's veterans.

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