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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Spirit of America: Bush Speaks at Hispanic Heritage Month Reception

Aired October 12, 2001 - 14:16   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Here's the president of the United States.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much. Thank you. Please be seated.

(APPLAUSE)

Bien venidos.

(APPLAUSE)

Here's the way I like to put it: Mi Casa Blanca e su Casa Blanca (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

We're gathered here to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic Americans to our life. In a few moments, I will sign an executive order creating a commission on educational excellence for Hispanic Americans, to open new doors of opportunity for Hispanic boys and girls all across America.

Before I do, I have some thanks. First, I want to thank (SPEAKING IN SPANISH). I want to thank Judge Gonzalez (ph) for his sound advice. I love him dearly.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank the boys and girls for leading us in the pledge. Thank you all for being here.

(APPLAUSE)

I don't know whether you know this or not, but 52 million other children joined us at 2 o'clock today saying the Pledge of Allegiance all across America. These past weeks have given new meaning to those old words, and have only deepened our allegiance to our nation and to our flag.

I want to thank Jackie (ph) and Arturo (ph) for lending their voice and horn to this room. We've had some great music here throughout the years, and it's going to be hard to top what we heard today. And I want to thank them both for coming.

I want to thank all those (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) Americanos that sang today. I'm honored that you all are here. I love your music. I love your passion. I love your love for America. And we're glad you're here. And I'm glad America got to see some of our country's finest artists perform here in the East Room on a song that talks about the solidarity and love for our country -- a love that knows no bounds; a love that knows no culture; a love that everybody can share who is lucky enough to live in America.

And you all are welcome. Thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

And I want to thank Emilio (ph) especially for lending your talents. The last time you were here was Cinco de Mayo. I said, next time you come make sure you bring Gloria.

(LAUGHTER)

It just goes to show the power of the presidency.

(LAUGHTER)

I want to thank Luis Pallo (ph) as well for your prayer, and I want to thank Don Francisco (ph) as well. It's good to see you again, sir. Thank you for coming.

I am proud that (SPEAKING IN SPANISH). Good to see Ambassador Juan Jose Bremer from Mexico (SPEAKING IN SPANISH).

(APPLAUSE)

(SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

I should have said there were three ambassadors. I meant two ambassadors to America, but a friend of mine I named -- the ambassador of the Dominican Republic has joined us, Hans Ertel (ph). Hans?

(APPLAUSE)

I named a person who participated in Operation Ferro Pan (ph). For those of you who don't know Operation Ferro Pan (ph), years ago Cuban moms and dads put their sons or daughters on a boat to America in order that they could live freely. They were uncertain about their own fate, but they knew they wanted their children to grow up in America, one of whom is now here. He's in my Cabinet, Mel Martinez.

(APPLAUSE)

I named a good man to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals, the D.C. Circuit -- a man named Miguel Estrada.

Miguel, where are you? Thank you for coming, Miguel.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, there's a lot of talk in Washington about making sure we have diversity on our courts, and there should be. I asked the Senate to move this man's nomination through. He's smart. He's capable. He needs that job. America needs to have him on the bench. Get him moving before it's too late.

(APPLAUSE)

Ambassador to the OAS, representing America, Roger Noriega. Roger? He sent in his card, but he didn't show. There he is. Roger, how are you?

(APPLAUSE)

Next time we'll try to get you a better seat -- either that or show up on time.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Al Rascon is the national director of the U.S. Selective Service and, more importantly, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, is with us today. Thank you, Al, for being here.

(APPLAUSE)

A man whose service is going to be called upon a lot, particularly for the businesses that were severely affected during the attack, Hector Barreto, the SBA director.

(APPLAUSE)

Leslie Sanchez, who is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Where are you, Leslie? Leslie, right in front of me.

(APPLAUSE)

The Treasurer of the United States, Rosario Marin. Rosario?

(APPLAUSE)

Christina Seralahi (ph). Where is she? Christina (ph)?

(APPLAUSE)

As you know I used to be associated with the baseball world. And we're honored to have some major leaguers here with us today. And we got a great White Sox outfielder. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) Senor Ordonez from the White Sox? There he is. Como esta, Magglio. Welcome. Glad you're here.

(APPLAUSE)

Another Ordonez -- Rey Ordonez. Good to see you, Rey. Thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

Maybe next year.

Nelson Figueroa de la Phillies.

(APPLAUSE)

Nice to see you, Nelson. Thank you for coming. (inaudible).

And from the San Francisco Giant Russ Ortiz. Russ, thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm honored you all are here. Thanks for coming. Thanks for setting a good example. Thanks for understanding that people look at you off the field of play as well as on the field of play. It's important that there be young boys and girls to look up to our baseball players and see a good example. And you're setting that. We're honored that you're here with us.

We're also have three with us today who represent the thousands of Hispanic Americans who serve in law enforcement and public safety. It's been a particularly trying time in New York City for the firefighters and police officers. Fortunately, we have three gentlemen today who represent those fine men and women -- Anthony Miranda of the New York City Latino Officers Association. Anthony, thank you for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me try this a different way.

(LAUGHTER)

We have two others to introduce.

(LAUGHTER)

From the Hispanic Society of the New York City Police Department we've got Louis Hernandez, and from the Hispanic Society of the New York City Fire Department, Miguel Gromos (ph).

Now thank you all for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

Good job. Thanks for coming. It is clear America is pulling for you all, and please pass on the word to the men and women who wear the uniform how proud we are, and how much we mourn with you and how heroic you have been. The nation appreciates it very much.

You know, obviously this is a time of great national unity. The evil ones struck, but they forgot who they were striking, evidently. They thought they were going to weaken us, but they didn't. We're strong and united. I have been amazed by the incredible acts of kindness that I've heard about, and obviously we've all been impressed by the acts of heroism. It's the good news that has come during this tragedy. We've all come to realize how much we need each other.

Today, there has been another reported case of anthrax in New York City at NBC News. And it has got to cause concern for our nation, but I want everybody in the country to know we're responding rapidly. First of all, the person is feeling fine. She is doing well. She obviously didn't ingest enough to cause death, thank God. But we've got teams on the ground -- CDC, Center for Disease Control, the FBI, working closely with local agencies to respond quickly.

Our nation is still in danger, but the government is doing everything in our power to protect our citizenry. We need each other more than ever, and we're responding as quickly and as forcefully as we can.

The American people need to go about their lives. We cannot let the terrorists lock our country down. We can't let terrorists -- a few evildoers -- hold us hostage. Our government will fight terrorism across the seas and we'll fight it here at home. And the American people need to fight terrorism as well by going to work, going to ball games, getting on airplanes, singing with joy and strength like you all did today.

They will not take this country down.

(APPLAUSE)

We will not be cowed and we're certainly not going to be divided. The evil ones, as well as the rest of the world, are learning that we're a nation made up of many cultures, many races and many religions, but we are one strong nation. We've suffered loss together. We have entered a mighty struggle together and we will prevail together.

The diversity of America has always been, always been a great strength of this country. Here you can be proud of your cultural heritage, proud of your ancestry, proud of your native language and still be a proud American.

(APPLAUSE)

We see this spirit of pride today most vividly in the ties between our country and Los Gadien (ph) in Latin America (SPEAKING IN SPANISH). A lifetime in Texas has given me many things to be thankful for, but one of them for certain is my appreciation for the Hispanic culture. I realize how much the Hispanic culture has enriched my state, and I realize how much the Hispanic culture enriches my nation as well.

(APPLAUSE)

This month our country recognizes just how much we owe to the Hispanic culture, and more importantly the Hispanic Americans we're proud to call our fellow citizens.

And as we do so, we recognize as well our obligation to ensure that every American has an equal place in our society from the earliest years in life.

This nation of immigrant heritage believes that all children, whatever their circumstances, deserve a chance to learn and rise and succeed. This principle has guided my education reforms as we work to raise the standards of public schools across America and bring hope to every classroom for every child. I mean every child -- not just a few, not just those whose parents may speak English. We want educational excellence (SPEAKING IN SPANISH).

(APPLAUSE)

So today, I am creating a commission to help chart the path to greater achievement amongst Hispanic American students in every part of our country. I am pleased to sign this order in front of such distinguished company. And I'm proud -- I'm proud to be the president of such a great nation.

Thank you for coming and God bless you.

BROWN: The president now will sign his proclamation. It never ceases to amaze us in the last month how even the most routine events -- and this one of those moments that honestly would have gotten very little attention. The same was true of the Columbus Day signing on Monday or Tuesday, I forget now, how these utterly routine moments take on a totally different cast, given where the country is now.

The president, who entered the room and spoke quite lightheartedly for a while. "My White House is your White House," he said in Spanish, and danced between English and Spanish throughout the introductions, throughout his talk, turned steely serious when he said, our country is still, our nation is still in danger, trying to reassure the country, he said, "Your government is doing everything it can in addressing the anthrax case," the fourth which now has turned up in New York City. He said, "Go about your lives. We cannot let terrorists hold us hostage. "They will not," he said, "take the country down." This from the president in the East Room in what would have been a little-know event, ceremonial event on a Friday afternoon, in mid-October, the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

And I'm not sure this is correct. It is simply correct to my memory the president talked, today, about education reform, education excellence he said for all children, he said in English and Spanish. It's the first time I have heard him talk about any other item on the domestic agenda that was unrelated to the events that began on September 11. The White House frequently, has assured us that the president is paying attention to other items on domestic agenda. I have no reason to believe that is not true, don't want to suggest might be. It is just the first time in my memory, and I have heard a lot of this over the last month, that the president has specifically talked about something other than September 11, the events that followed, or economics related to the events of September 11. Did I say November? September 11.

The president working his way through the room, the East Room at the White House.

It struck us how different he his mood was. He came in almost jaunty in a way President George W. Bush can be, and clearly enjoying the time. He has a deep and long connection as he noted with the Hispanic community in his state of Texas, and the names flew off his tongue quite comfortably, didn't they. His good friend, the White House counsel introduced him, the president signs his proclamation, and again referenced this fourth case of anthrax that an NBC news employee is being treated for.

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