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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Speaks in Minnesota

Aired March 4, 2002 - 16:11   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.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go now to the president, who is in Minnesota at a high school.

(APPLAUSE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They tell me you got a good football team.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: And a good high pom squad.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: But I'm really not interested in talking about athletics.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I'm here because of the achievements, the academic achievements of the students, the quality of the teaching, and the involvement of the parents.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I'm here because this is one of America's finest public schools.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I believe strongly in the hope and promise of the public school system all across America. And I know how important it is to thank our teachers, to thank those who come to your classrooms every day, to wish them the best, and to herald such a noble and important profession for the future of our country.

I'm here to talk about teaching, and its responsibilities, and how our country can do a better job of supporting America's teachers.

I know -- look, I'm sure a lot of you are out there saying, "Guy's talking about teaching. I really get tired of seeing my teacher.

(LAUGHTER)

"Particularly at test time."

(LAUGHTER)

Trust me, you're going to miss your teachers. They're an important part of your life, and they're an important part of our country's future.

I really want to thank...

(APPLAUSE)

I just had a meeting with a group of teachers from all over the area, and I want to thank them for being here to share some thoughts about how to make sure the school systems work as good as they possibly can.

I want to thank Jeff (ph), the school's principal, for, gosh, opening up this huge facility and inviting so many people here.

I want to thank the superintendent of schools, Bill Gaslin. I want to thank my Mark Udall (ph) from the University of Minnesota who understands that...

(APPLAUSE)

About seven people appreciate you, Mark (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank -- the reason, Mark (ph), I want to herald Mark (ph), is that he understands that in order for a teacher to be able to teach, the teacher colleges have got to teach a curriculum that actually works in the classroom.

BUSH: And I appreciate his leadership.

I want to thank members of the U.S. congressional delegation, Gutknecht and Kennedy and Ramstad, for being here, as well.

Thank you all for coming.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank my friend Norm Coleman, former mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota.

(APPLAUSE)

Mary Kiffmeyer, the secretary of state is here, as well.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, Mary.

Christine Jax, the education commissioner of Minnesota, is here, too.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you all for coming.

Before I talk about the importance of education and teaching, I do want to talk to the students about my desire to defend freedom and try to put some context to what's taking place overseas and to your life.

You know, I'm sure it must have been troubling for high school seniors to turn on their TV -- or high school juniors or sophomores, for that matter -- to see America is under attack. When we grow up, these baby boomers and everybody else, we never really thought we'd be attacked. I mean, the last thing that entered my mind when I was getting out of high school in 1964 is that an enemy would attack America. And yet, here you are graduating from high school, the first high school class to ever have seen the 48 contiguous states attacked by an enemy. And you're probably wondering, "Why would somebody hit us?" It's because we love freedom.

There are people in the world who cannot stand a free society. There are people who do not believe that you should be able to worship freely. There are people who do not believe you should be able to speak freely. There are people who do not believe that young women should be educated. And when they find a nation that's willing to defend freedom, they try to attack it.

BUSH: And when they attacked us, they thought we were soft and materialistic. They thought our nation had no fiber and no courage. They fell prey to images of a selfish American, a selfish America, and, my, did they make a huge mistake, because this nation...

(APPLAUSE)

... will defend ourselves and freedom at any price. It is too precious a gift for future generations to give up to terrorists.

You know, I laid out an initiative that said, "You're either with us or you're against us." Either you stand with America to defend freedom, so that you can grow up and your children can grow up in a society in a civilized world that values individual freedoms. And most nations in the world chose to be with us, and for that our nation is grateful.

I also said that, "If you harbor a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, if you try to encourage a terrorist, you're just as guilty as those who murdered thousands of innocent Americans." And the Taliban has found out exactly what we meant.

(APPLAUSE)

I am so proud of our United States military. Many of you have got relatives in the military. You need to tell them how proud I am of their service and of their sacrifice and of their dedication.

(APPLAUSE)

We went into Afghanistan not as conquerors but as liberators. It's hard for you to believe, I'm certain, that Afghanistan, when it was taken over by the Taliban, a government that sponsored terrorism, that allowed Al Qaeda killers to hide and train in their country, would not allow young girls to go to school. It's hard for any American to understand how barbaric this regime was.

We didn't go in as conquerors. We went in as liberators, and now women and children are free from the clutches of these barbaric people.

(APPLAUSE)

People say, "Well, how long is this going to last?" And the answer is for however long it takes to make sure America is secure.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: People say, "Well, the hard part's over with." And my answer is, no, it's not. We're just beginning.

As we learned recently, that there's a group of Al Qaeda killers in a mountainous region in Afghanistan, and we find them bunched up, we find where they are, you can rest assured the United States and our coalition are going to hunt them down; that these are people that if we allow to go free could easily come back and harm the American citizens.

And so we sent teams in, and there's some serious combat as I speak, and lives are lost, and we send our prayers and tears to those whose families have lost life.

But I want to assure the students who are here, and the loved ones of those military, defending freedom is a noble cause, and it is a just cause, and so long as I am the president of the United States I will pursue those who want to hurt America and who want to take away our freedoms.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm confident that over time we'll prevail. I'm confident that this mighty nation has got the patience and the determination and the will to succeed. And when we do, the world will be better off.

And I'm confident that we can do what we need to do here at home to make sure every child is educated. It is so important we achieve that objective.

I was fortunate enough to be the president at a time when the people in Congress realized that -- maybe with a little bit of my persuasion -- that we needed to reform our school system, and I signed an historic reform bill. It was one of those wonderful moments in Washington where a group of us put aside our party politics, said, "It's OK to be a Republican, it's OK to be a Democrat, but what's most important is to function on what's best for America," and we got a bill done.

(APPLAUSE)

It's a good piece of education reform that says that in America we believe in educating every child -- each and every child.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: And that we must...

CROWLEY: The president of the United States in Minneapolis, Minnesota, talking briefly about the fighting going on now in Afghanistan, calling it serious combat. But he said, as long as I am president of the United States, I will pursue those who would hurt America.

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