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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Bush Speaks to Charlotte Chamber of Commerce

Aired February 27, 2002 - 11:24   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now to North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina to be specific. And there you see the stage, where President Bush is about to take the podium. We just saw moments ago the Health and Human Secretary Tommy Thompson was speaking. And now this lady introducing President Bush was a welfare- to-work program participant introducing Bush. She's one of the success stories. There you see there she is just now welcoming President Bush to Charlotte and welcoming him to the podium.

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

Please be seated. Thank you.

Only in America.

(LAUGHTER)

Francis (ph), thanks, I appreciate your story. I appreciate your courage, and I appreciate your introduction.

I'm also thankful that Tommy Thompson agreed to leave the state of Wisconsin to come and help make sure that Health and Human Services was run in the right spirit and the right compassionate attitude, one in which we fight for federal funds that are reasonable and realistic but understand that the true wisdom and strength of the country is at the local level.

Speaking about the local level, I want to thank the mayor, thank you very much for being here as well. And I appreciate both you all's leadership, the innovation that takes place in this community is positive and strong, and that's why we're here, to herald a program that actually works.

Sometimes they sound good on paper, they read good, but the results are short. That's not the case in Mecklenburg County when it comes to putting people to work. So I want to thank you all for your leadership.

I had the privilege of flying down with Sue Myrick and Robin Hayes today on the airplane, two really good United States congressmen from the state of North Carolina, people who understand that North Carolinians can best run North Carolina, and not people out of Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

So I want to thank you all for coming.

I want to thank Rodney Carroll (ph) as well for being here. I want to thank Carol Grey (ph), members of the Chamber.

A lot of times I talk about responsibility ushering in a period of responsible behavior in America. There is a such thing as corporate responsibility, corporate America not only making sure the balance sheets are real, that all assets and liabilities are exposed for shareholder and employee alike, but there's something about saying, "I'm going to do something in the community in which I live," working hard to take the extra step to employ somebody, to keep him on, to help them work through their difficulties. This is a community in which corporate North Carolina, or corporate Charlotte, has heard that call. And I want to thank the Chamber for being on the leading edge of encouraging corporate responsibility.

First, let me tell you that, as I said a while ago, the state of this union is very strong. It is clear to me when I sat in the room today that the state of the state of North Carolina is strong and vibrant, at least in this corner of the state if not the whole state, but the state of our union is strong. We are steady. We're resolved. And we are a determined nation.

You know, the enemy attacked a nation that they thought was weak. And man, did they make a mistake. They thought the United States was so materialistic, so caught up in a false Hollywood vision of America that we would accept their attack as part of normalcy in America; that we would do nothing about it.

And they've now learned that this nation is actually resolved to defend that which we hold dearest to our heart, and that's freedom. And when somebody attacks freedom, that we'll defend it with all our force and all our might. And that's what we're doing.

The country has laid out a clear message. First, that, a, that you're with us or against us in the fight, that either you stand beside this great nation as a part of a coalition that will defend freedom and defend civilization itself, or you're against us. I think the message has gotten out.

The world is knitted up pretty tight when it comes to bringing the Al Qaeda and other killers to justice. We've had over 1,000 arrests around the world, different countries, different governments, that are putting these Al Qaeda people behind bars. We're slowly but surely, methodically and patiently demolishing Al Qaeda so they cannot hit us again.

(APPLAUSE)

We have made it clear that if you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you train a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist. And the Taliban government in Afghanistan found out exactly what I meant. Thanks to a strong and spirited, well- motivated, well-trained United States military, a military of which I am immensely proud, we have liberated a country.

This great nation seeks not revenge, but justice. And at the same time, we're not conquerors, but we're liberators. We have liberated women and children from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes history has ever known.

It was my honor to welcome Mr. Karzai and his cabinet, including a woman minister, to Washington, D.C., and hear him firsthand say how anxious he is to restore Afghanistan to normalcy, where women and children, young girls are educated just like young boys, where people are given a chance in life.

The Taliban made a terrible mistake, and they paid a dear price. And I'm grateful for the United States military for the job it's done. But more importantly, so are the average citizens of Afghanistan.

I want to tell my fellow Americans that we're still in a dangerous period when it comes to the first theater in the war against terror. Dangerous, because until we complete our mission, which is to bring all Al Qaeda killers to justice, that we're going to hunt them down, that we will stay on task.

The good news for our United States military is that the American people are very patient. And they're resolved, just like our military is resolved.

But we're now facing people who send young kids to suicide and on suicide missions, and they themselves try to hid in caves; a leadership which is willing to send some mom's child on a fruitless mission in the name of religion. And they themselves are doing everything they can to hide and not be accountable for what they've done. But they can't hide long enough. There's no cave deep enough for them to avoid the long arm of justice of the United States.

And so, it doesn't matter how long it takes, as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't matter if it's a month, a year, Al Qaeda, the people who killed thousands of United States citizens, the thugs who want to challenge freedom wherever it exists, those who use religion in the name of murder will be brought to justice.

(APPLAUSE)

But it's not just Al Qaeda.

The mission is more than just one group or one individual. History has called us into action. History has given us chance -- this nation a chance to lead a coalition to fight terror wherever it exists. There is a nightmare scenario that we must not let happen. Imagine, for example, if a faceless terrorist organization was able to team up with a nation which sponsor and developed weapons of mass destruction.

Imagine how the balance of power in the world would change. We're not going to let that happen. The United States of America cannot let nations that are not transparent, closed societies, societies which harm their societies, societies which have a past history have not been a civilized nation to develop a weapon of mass destruction that could possibly team up with somebody like the Al Qaeda organization which would therefore then hold us hostage, hold the coalition hostage.

We owe it to our children and our children's children to rid the world of terror now so they can grow up in a free society, a society without fear, a society without the threat of attack on our homeland. The best homeland defense policy is to find out terrorists where they live, where they hide, and bring them to justice. And that's what I'm going to do so long as I am president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

I picked a good man to lead the homeland security effort, Tom Ridge who was the governor of Pennsylvania. Last time I was here in the state of North Carolina, I talked about a first-responders initiative, about how the budget I was going to submit to Congress not only was going to make national defense a priority, but also the homeland defense would be a priority.

I have since done that. We talked about first responders to make sure that the police and fire had the strategy necessary to respond to emergencies that were to occur.

I'm also talking about a bioterrorism initiative. I'm also talking about a border of security initiative. One of the interesting things I think that the people of North Carolina will appreciate is I hold in high esteem the United States Coast Guard. We've got a plan to beef up the Coast Guard, to modernize her ships, to make sure the Coast Guard is available around all the coasts of the country, to protect the homeland.

We've got better a intelligence sharing system in place. We've got a strategy to defend the homeland of the United States, and every day, I ask the question to the FBI directors and others, "What have you done to make the homeland more secure?" My fellow citizens, you should know we're doing everything in our power to protect innocent families.

There's a lot to be done in Washington as well. Obviously, we've got to fight a recession. My view about the recession is that we'll help people with unemployment checks, and we must.

But as Congress tries to figure out ways how to deal with this, I always want them to remember that people want more than an unemployment check. They want a paycheck, and therefore, we ought to have jobs as the central aspect of any economic recovery plan. How best to create jobs, what should we do? Well, I thought I did something pretty wise, and that was last year, when we got a sniff that the economy was pretty darn slow, was the fight for a tax relief package that gave people their own money to spend.

When people have more money in their pocket to spend, it creates more demand which means somebody's producing products, which means somebody's getting a job. The more money people have in their pockets to spend in the face of a recession, the more likely our economy is going to come out of a recession.

And for those in Washington who think they want to roll back the tax relief, they're not going to get to do so. The tax relief was right. And it is important for the American people that we defend tax relief.

(APPLAUSE)

But there is more to do. I would hope Congress would pass an economic stimulus package that will encourage investment in plants and equipment. The more investment in plants and equipment, the more likely it is a textile worker is going to find a job.

The more incentive there is for somebody to put a new piece of equipment in a factory, the more likely that somebody's going to work.

And so, as they debate the stimulus package, it's important not only to remember we want to take care of those who have been affected by the attacks on 9-11, we also want to stimulate jobs, to encourage jobs.

We also -- I submitted in my budget a priority for educating the American people, educating our kids. We talked today about best welfare plan, to best make sure to keep people off welfare, besides helping them find work, is to make sure they're educated. And the state of North Carolina deserves congratulations for having a really good public school system.

You were tied with Texas. And that's a big admission for a Texan to say.

(LAUGHTER)

I want you to know that we passed a good piece of education reform, and it ties in directly to what we're talking about today. It says, every child matters. We've got to challenge a system that tends to just shuffle children through without regard to whether they can read or write and add and subtract. We need to focus resources on Title I. We'll demand accountability. We'll pass flexibility out of Washington, D.C., to the local level. We got a reading program that understands reading is the new civil right. If you can't read, you can't succeed in the America of the 21st century.

This is a great piece of legislation sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. It shows what can happen when we put our nation ahead of political party, which we must do more of in Washington, D.C., as far as I'm concerned.

(APPLAUSE)

In order to make sure our economy recovers, in order to make sure we have got a balance sheet that is reasonable as we go into the out years. I want to insist Congress hold the line in spending, that they not get carried away, that they not spend what they think is, you know, sounds like -- sounds good, but it's not going to work. One area in which I'm going to hold the line on the budget, though, is on TANF funds. My budget calls for over $17 billion a year for TANF funds to be block granted back to states. Now, there's going to be some in Congress who'll say, "We've got to reduce the TANF monies, welfare monies, because the caseloads have dropped." I don't think we ought to do that at this time in history. And so, the budget I've submitted holds the line on TANF.

On the other hand, I do think we need some reforms, and I want to share with you some of those. But, first, let me tell you that there has been great success when it came to welfare reform. We've actually changed the whole culture from dependency to self-sufficiency.

(APPLAUSE)

And by doing that, the welfare rolls have declined dramatically, and the country's better off for it.

But more importantly, so are the human beings. It's so easy to get caught up in statistics and forget about behind each number is a person.

And today, I have the honor of talking about -- of hearing from the people involved. The human stories, the real life stories of people that have overcome incredible obstacles.

I like to tell people, the toughest job in America is a single mom trying to raise her children. That's the hardest hill to climb in this country. And yet as a result of a collaborative effort of public-private partnership here in Mecklenburg County, a place where government and business teamed up, many people have been moved from dependency upon government to work. Now, the system worked, but in order for that to happen it requires a will -- a personal determination.

Some person has to say I can do better and want to do better, just like my introducer Francis Cunningham (ph) did. She is a single mom with two teenagers. That in itself deserves a medal. She has started working with the Work First program, obviously has a job, but I want to quote what she said. "The success of it is, my children see me go to work everyday, and that makes them go to school everyday, because they see mama isn't staying at home." The ability for somebody to realize you can have an independent life, less dependent upon government, not only affects that person, but also affects a lot of other people, starting with the children, starting with the children.

I met with Michelle Vinegas (ph). Michelle is articulate. I told her she speaks better English than I do, although she got hired as a translator. She's from Mexico, Tijuana, Mexico. She was working for a company that went out of business. She needed a little transition help. She found it here in Mecklenburg County. She herself is a mom, got a little ninita. She went to the county department of social services. She found out they needed someone with Spanish language skills. She's now employed full-time by the department. Kathleen Colato (ph), met with her as well. She's a single mom, recently divorced. She had no high school diploma. Imagine how tough her future looked. She needed to take a step up in life, and she found help. Kathleen was able to get her GED. She polished her interviewing skills, and now works for US Airways. These are stories that are real.

The good news is, in this county and all across America, they happen time and time again. There are 20,000 businesses nationwide that helped 1.1 million people go from welfare to work. It is an essential ingredient of what the future bill ought to look like.

We need to make sure that work is an integral part of any welfare reauthorization, that the cornerstone of a good bill understands that when we help somebody find work, and I emphasize the help somebody find work, that leads to more independence, more self-esteem, and more joy and hope.

And so as Congress begins to reauthorize, I want to make sure that work is an integral component and a strong component. As a matter of fact, I believe that, within five years, 70 percent of the welfare recipients must work; as part of the requirement, 70 percent of people being helped have got to get to work, and we'll help. The bill must allow that there be adequate time for training.

Of a five-day work week, three could be devoted to work and two to education and job training.

For the tougher cases, there ought to be time set aside exclusively for job training or drug rehabilitation. And high school moms ought to be allowed to get credit for going to high school at the same time as part of their work requirement. In other words, the system ought to insist upon work, but encourage work by making sure people have got the skills necessary to work or the help necessary to make them a responsible person in the workplace.

Secondly, our public policy must encourage families. Research shows that two-parent families are more likely to raise a child that's going to go to high school or college, that a child in a two-parent family is less likely to get addicted to drugs. Now I understand, there are some families that simply aren't meant to be. I know that. I'm not -- you know, I'm wise about that.

On the other hand, we ought to aim for a goal, a goal that recognizes the power and importance of two-parent families in America. And therefore, the budget I'm submitting and the reform that I hope that Congress will insist upon recognizes that premarital counseling can work; conflict resolution after marriage is important; anti- gambling, or you know, help the old man get off the gambling habit, will help; drug and alcohol rehabilitation can be a part of an important concept about keeping families together.

We've got $300 million -- up to $300 million -- in the budget to encourage parent and family programs to flourish at the local level. And as well, I've got $135 million in the budget for abstinence education programs. Now let me be as candid as I can about this. Abstinence works every time...

(LAUGHTER)

... when it comes to making sure someone might not have a unwanted child, or someone picks up a sexually transmitted disease.

BUSH: And this society ought to give children the benefit of the doubt. We ought not to assume that our culture is automatically going to lead a child to, you know, defy an abstinence education program.

We ought to try it. We ought to work hard. We ought to shoot for the ideal in society and not get drugged down by the cynics. And so part of making sure that the welfare reauthorization is going to achieve objectives is to promote family and to encourage right choices amongst American youth.

Thirdly, we must trust local officials to manage the money necessary to achieve certain objectives and goals. We've got to...

(APPLAUSE)

We have got to have flexibility at the federal level. Tommy understands that -- it's one of the main reasons I asked him to become the secretary of Health and Human Services. He was a governor. I was a governor.

We understand that the more flexibility there is at the local level the more possibility (sic) it is to meet local needs and therefore meet local and national objectives, to meet goals. And so one of the things we're going to ask Congress is not to micromanage the system. There are hundreds of federal welfare programs.

For those of you who work in this line of work, you know what I'm talking about -- hundreds of them, many of them with incredible you know hoops that need to be, you know, jumped through in order to be able to access funds.

It is not necessary to have hundreds of welfare programs. What's necessary is to make a commitment to set goals, to expect results, and to trust local people in managing the dollars. And that's the spirit of welfare reform. And we're going to push hard for this initiative in the United States.

I can't guarantee 100 percent success, but I can guarantee we're going to give our best shot to make sure that we're able to achieve local objectives, and therefore realize a national goal, and that is moving as many people as we can, as compassionate as we can, from welfare to work -- helping people help themselves.

And finally, any part of a welfare authorization must understand the power of faith-based organizations and charitable organizations in our society.

(APPLAUSE) I have asked for legislation that will encourage charitable giving and at the same time allow faith-based organizations to access federal dollars without discrimination; without causing the faith- based organizations to abandon faith.

You see, here's what I believe: I believe there are neighborhood healers and helpers all across America who want to love their neighbor just like they love themselves and ought to be encouraged, rather than thwarted.

I know you've got a strong faith-based initiative here in Mecklenburg County. I want to applaud you for that.

It makes sense to say to church and synagogues and mosques that, if you want to help a neighbor in need, we encourage you to do so. It makes sense to recognize that sometimes a drug addict or alcohol -- person hooked on alcohol -- needs a change of heart in order to change behavior. And that doesn't happen through government bureaucracies. It happens as a result of people of faith interfacing with neighbors in need.

And so, I'm calling on Congress to send it. And I talked to Senator Daschle about this this morning, and he wrote a very positive editorial about the need for faith-based programs in our society. I hope they get this legislation passed and to my desk.

It is essential that we rally the armies of compassion all across the country.

Yesterday, in Washington, D.C., I met with a guy hooked on crack cocaine. He found the Lord. He changed his life. He's married. He was a lousy dad. He's now a good dad, upholding his obligations. He feels so much better about himself. And as importantly, he's a part of a program that exists in inner-city Washington, D.C., trying to find the next crack cocaine addict and help that person help themselves.

The fabric -- I envision a fabric in our nation of healers and helpers and faith-based, compassionate people all reaching out to a neighbor in need.

People ask me all the time, "What can I do in the fight against terror?" And the answer is, "Do something good." You see, it's the -- what I like to call the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness on a daily basis that stands strong against the evil which attacked our country. It is the ability for our nation to show its compassionate side through acts and deeds of kindness and the willingness of somebody to put their arm around a child as a mentor and say, "I love you." Or just walking into a neighbor's house, an elderly neighbor's house, a shut in, and say, "I care about you. What can I do to help you today?" And this is the strength of the country. We're not trying to reinvent something. We're tapping into the great soul of America. The spirit of our country is one based upon neighborhoods, people helping each other, communities all bound up with one thing in mind, how to make people's lives better. You know they hit us. They attacked us. They took life, but they have not been able to damp the spirit of America. We are strong. We are compassionate. We're a loving nation, and as a result, I see a future that is so hopeful and so bright for every citizen who's fortunate enough to call himself an American.

Thank you for letting me come.

(APPLAUSE)

God bless.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: And with that, President Bush wraps up his remarks, remarks which featured, finally for us, at least, the laying out of the principles in which he wants to see in whatever welfare bill is actually going to make it from Congress on to his desk. He laid out for us four priorities that he wants to see in any program that does get signed by him. Number one, he says he wants to make sure that 70 percent of the people who are on welfare are working. That is a new standard that he would like to establish, he says, and to make that happen, adequate training and drug rehabilitation has got to be provided for people who need it.

Also, high school moms should be getting credit for participation in a program like this, and should be encouraging work for anyone who is going to be participating in the welfare program.

Secondly, he said the program must encourage families, and by that, he went on to explain into further detail, two-parent families. He also says that local officials in manage whatever programs are actually instituted, and that should include programs for premarital counseling or drug or alcohol rehabilitation and counseling, whatever is needed to insure that families stay as two-parent families, and finally, he says, faith-based organizations should be included in whatever system is set up to provide those services.

We'll have more coverage of the president's remarks and travels throughout the day here on CNN, and coverage of much other news happening as well today, just after the break.

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