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President Bush Delivers Remarks at West Point

Aired June 1, 2002 - 08:59   ET


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States and Mrs. Laura Bush.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we told you this was going to happen about 9:10. The president is early. We're almost at the 9:00 hour. Actually we just hit the 9:00 hour. And as you can see, President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, making a formal entrance in front of cadets here at West Point.

We were telling you that President Bush is going to give his first commencement address since the September 11 attacks. He'll be delivering a speech to the cadets here at the Military Academy at West Point, and we're told that the speech will be about much more than the current war on terrorism.

We're also told the focus of the president's speech will include talking about how the United States has defended peace, also how the United States must continue to preserve peace.


PHILLIPS: You're watching live coverage now as President George W. Bush is about to address West Point graduates.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: ... the invocation by Chaplain Scott McChrystal.

PHILLIPS: First the invocation by the chaplain, then the president expected to take the podium. Let's listen in for a moment.


O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! We invite your presence with us at this graduation ceremony. Thank you for such an awesome day, on which thousands have gathered here on the grounds of this special place, the United States Military Academy, as we celebrate an important milestone in the lives of the outstanding young men and women seated before us.

We thank you for the class of 2002, a class with the special privilege of graduating during the bicentennial year for this great academy. You have endowed each member with unique abilities and talents, and each has been found faithful. Even as these graduates attempt to absorb all the beauty and significance of this important occasion, their thoughts will surely jump ahead to consider the future, and in the context of today's world, that is understandable.

But Lord, just as you spoke to Joshua when you commissioned him for greater service, we ask that you encourage them to be very strong and courageous and remind them as well, Lord, that regardless of the path they take, you will be with them wherever they go.

We ask your blessing on President Bush as he addresses our graduates and upon the leadership and everyone gathered here to witness this graduation.

Lord, we ask your protection upon our nation as we continue to wage the war against terrorism. Be particularly with those who are deployed and with their families.

Finally, Lord, your Word tells us that righteousness exalts a nation. Lord, help the United States of America to be a nation that does just this.

Lord, we ask all of this in your strong name.


PHILLIPS: This is the second commencement address that the president will be giving, the first one was at VMI, Virginia Military Institute. That was back in April, and the president talked about the global campaign against terrorism, also giving his rationale for taking the fight beyond Afghanistan.

He's getting ready to make his second time around addressing cadets.

LT. GEN. WILLIAM J. LENNOX, JR.: We welcome each of you...

PHILLIPS: Let's listen in.

LENNOX: ... to this celebration, the graduation and the commissioning of the bicentennial class, the class of 2002.

This is a wonderful occasion long awaited by these young men and women, who are leaving us today to begin their service to their Army and the nation as leaders of character for the 21st century.

Let me take a moment to acknowledge those who are with us this morning on the dais. First, of course, our speaker, the 43rd president of the United States and our commander in chief, President George W. Bush, and the first lady, Mrs. Laura Bush.

Sir, ma'am, you honor us with your presence here today.

Governor George Pataki, governor of New York.

Congressman Bill -- Ben Gilman, 20th District, New York. Congressman Buck McKeon, 25th District, California.

Congresswoman Sue Kelly, 19th District, New York, the district that includes West Point.

And Congressman John Shimkus, 20th District, Illinois, West Point graduate.

Secretary of the Army, the honorable Tom White.

Major General Bruno Couchet (ph), superintendent of the Ecole Speciale Militaire de St-Cyr. He, along with the cadets from St-Cyr are here in honor of our bicentennial.

Brigadier General Eric Olson (ph), commandant of cadets.

And Brigadier General Dan Kaufman (ph), dean of the academic board.

Now to the members of the class of 2002 -- you made it!

You have written a proud chapter in the 200-year history of the Military Academy. You've certainly lived up to your motto, Pride in All We Do. You have excelled academically, physically, and militarily. You are well prepared to lead the men and women of our Army.

Mr. President, you can have confidence in these young leaders.

Over the past 200 years, members of the Long Gray Line have been called to overcome the challenges and obstacles that face our nation, early leaders like McNeill (ph) and Whistler helped build the nation in the early 19th century.

PHILLIPS: We lost video there. As opening remarks were being made by Lieutenant General William Lennox, Jr., superintendent of West Point. He's giving the opening remarks and the introduction, of course, of George W. Bush.

We're going to go to our CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace. She's also monitoring this ceremony at West Point.

Kelly, we lost video, so why don't we talk a little bit about -- oop, we almost lost you too. There we go, we got you back.

Let's talk a little bit about the president's upcoming speech and what a pivotable -- pivotal time this is for him, and being at West Point, especially with the war on terrorism continuing as it is.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Kyra. A lot of significant moments here, as you were reporting earlier. It is the president's first commencement address since the September 11 attacks. He is coming here to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, addressing new Army officers who could play a very strong role in the war on terror. And aides said the president will use this speech to really lay out his vision for the war on terror and beyond, and talk about the ongoing campaign. He'll talk about the importance of good intelligence and the need to modernize and reform domestic agencies, very important message, as there's lots of concern about the FBI.

And Kyra, he'll also talk about the importance of going after countries developing weapons of mass destruction.

But then he'll talk about beyond the war. He'll talk about the need to try to achieve and preserve the peace, according to a top official, talking about having good relations with powers around the world. He'll mention the warmer relationship with Russia coming off his trip to Europe and Russia, and also the need to fight poverty and really promote human rights around the world.

So this is being described to me as a very comprehensive speech, a thoughtful speech, no new policies or initiatives, but something the president, aides say, will do every four to six weeks to educate the American people, teach the military leaders, European allies about where the war is and where he sees it going, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kelly, we got our pictures back. And just in perfect timing as Lieutenant General William Lennox, superintendent of West Point, introduces the president of the United States.

LENNOX: ... for those who serve and sacrifice. What you may not know is that in the aftermath of 9/11, despite the many urgent demands of the moment, the president and Mrs. Bush visited those hospitalized in the wake of the Pentagon attack, spending time with our wounded soldiers, civilians, and their family members.

There was no media, no fanfare, no entourage, simply our president and the first lady, quietly connecting with members of the Army and their loved ones. Truly leadership by example.

And so, cadets of the class of 2002, ladies and gentlemen, I'm privileged to introduce a man who exemplifies the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country, the grandson of a World War I Army artillery man, our commander in chief and president of the United States, George W. Bush.


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

Thank you very much, General Lennox, Mr. Secretary, Governor Pataki, members of the United States Congress, academy staff and faculty, distinguished guests, proud family members and graduates. I want to thank you for your welcome. Laura and I are especially honored to visit this great institution in your bicentennial year.

In every corner of America, the words "West Point" command immediate respect. This place where the Hudson River bends is more than a fine institution of learning. The United States military academy is the guardian of values that have shaped the soldiers who have shaped the history of the world.

A few of you have followed in the path of the perfect West Point graduate, Robert E. Lee, who never received a single demerit in four years. Some of you followed in the path of the imperfect graduate, Ulysses S. Grant, who had his fair share of demerits and said the happiest day of his life "was the day I left West Point."


During my college years, I guess you could say I was a ...


... during my college years, I guess you could say I was a Grant man.


You walk in the tradition of Eisenhower and MacArthur, Patton and Bradley, the commanders who saved the civilization. And you walk in the tradition of second lieutenants who did the same, by fighting and dying on distant battlefields.

Graduates of this academy have brought creativity and courage to every field of endeavor. West Point produced the chief engineer of the Panama Canal, the mind behind the Manhattan Project, the first American to walk in space.

The fine institution gave us the man they say invented baseball and other young men, over the years, who perfected the game of football.

You know this, but many in America don't. George C. Marshall, a VMI graduate, is said to have given this order: "I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point football player."



As you leave here today, I know there's one thing you'll never miss about this place: being a plebe.


But even a plebe at West Point is made to feel he or she has some standing in the world.


I'm told that plebes, when asked whom they outrank, are required to answer this: "Sir, the superintendent's dog.


"The commandant's cat.


"And all the admirals in the whole damn Navy."



I probably won't be sharing that with the secretary of the Navy.


West Point is guided by tradition. And in honor of the golden children of the corps...


... I will observe one of the traditions you cherish most as the commander in chief. I hereby grant amnesty to all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses.


Those of you in the end zone might have cheered a little early.


Because you see, I'm going to let General Lennox define exactly what "minor" means.


Every West Point class is commissioned to the armed forces. Some West Point classes are also commissioned by history to take part in a great new calling for their country.

Speaking here to the class of 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor, General Marshall said, "We're determined that, before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming power on the other."


Officers graduating that year helped fulfill that mission, defeating Japan and Germany and then reconstructing those nations as allies.

West Point graduates of the 1940s saw the rise of a deadly new challenge, the challenges of imperial communism, and opposed it from Korea to Berlin to Vietnam and in the Cold War, from beginning to end.

And as the sun set on their struggle, many of those West Point officers lived to see a world transformed. History has also issued its call to your generation. In your last year, America was attacked by a ruthless and resourceful enemy. You graduate from this academy in a time of war, taking your place in an American military that is powerful and is honorable.

Our war on terror is only begun. But in Afghanistan, it was begun well. I am proud...


... I am proud of the men and women who have fought on my orders. America is profoundly grateful for all who serve the cause of freedom and for all who have given their lives in its defense. This nation respects and trusts our military, and we are confident in your victories to come.


This war will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I'm certain of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for our power but for freedom.


Our designation's cause has always been larger than our nation's defense. We fight as we always fight, for a just peace, a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants.

We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent. Building this just peace is America's opportunity and America's duty.

From this day forward, it is your challenge as well, and we will meet this challenge together.


You will wear the uniform of a great and unique country. America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish. We wish for others only what we wish for ourselves: safety from violence, the rewards of liberty and the hope for a better life.

In defending the peace, we face a threat with no precedent. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger the American people and our nation.

The attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men. All of the chaos and suffering they caused came at much less than the cost of a single tank.

The dangers have not passed. This government and the American people are on watch. We are ready, because we know the terrorists have more money and more men and more plans. The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology, when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike at great nations.

Our enemies have declared this very intention and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us or to harm us or to harm our friends. And we will oppose them with all our power.


For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply, but new threats also require new thinking.

Deterrence, the promise of massive retaliation against nations, means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend.

Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties and then systematically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.


Homeland defense and missile defense are part of a stronger security. They're essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt its plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.


In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action, and this nation will act.


Our security will require the best intelligence to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies, such as the FBI, so they're prepared to act and act quickly against danger.

Our security will require transforming the military you will lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world.

And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-emptive action, when necessary, to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.


The work ahead is difficult. The choices we will face are complex. We must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries, using every tool of finance, intelligence and law enforcement. Along with our friends and allies, we must oppose proliferation and confront regimes that sponsor terror, as each case requires.

Some nations need military training to fight terror, and we'll provide it. Other nations oppose terror but tolerate the hatred that leads to terror, and that must change.


We will send diplomats where they are needed, and we will send you, our soldiers, where you're needed.


All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price. We will not leave the safety of America and the peace of the planet at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants.


We will lift this dark threat from our country and from the world.

Because the war on terror will require resolve and patience, it will also require firm moral purpose. In this way, our struggle is similar to the Cold War.

Now, as then, our enemies are totalitarians, holding a creed of power with no place for human dignity. Now, as then, they seek to impose a joyless conformity to control every life and all of life.

America confronted imperial communism in many different ways: diplomatic, economic and military. Yet, moral clarity was essential to our victory in the Cold War. When leaders like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan refused to gloss over the brutality of tyrants, they gave hope to prisoners and dissidents and exiles and rallied free nations to a great cause.

Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong; I disagree.


Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.


Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong.


Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong.


There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name.


By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it.


As we defend the peace, we also have an historic opportunity to preserve the peace. We have our best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war.

The history of the last century, in particular, was dominated by a series of destructive national rivalries that left battlefields and graveyards across the Earth. Germany fought France; the axis fought the allies; and then the East fought the West in proxy wars and tense standoffs against the backdrop of nuclear Armageddon.

Competition between great nations is inevitable, but armed conflict in our world is not. More and more, civilized nations find ourselves on the same side, united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos.

America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge...


... thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.

Today the great powers are also increasingly united by common values instead of divided by conflicting ideologies. The United States, Japan and our Pacific friends, and now all of Europe, share a deep commitment to human freedom, embodied in strong alliances such as NATO. And the tide of liberty is rising in many other nations.

Generations of West Point officers planned and practiced for battles with Soviet Russia. I've just returned from a new Russia, now a country reaching toward democracy and our partner in the war against terror.

(APPLAUSE) Even in China, leaders are discovering that economic freedom is the only lasting source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only true source of national greatness.


When the great powers share common values we are better able to confront serious regional conflicts together, better able to cooperate in preventing the spread of violence or economic chaos.

In the past, great power rivals took sides in difficult regional problems, making divisions deeper and more complicated. Today, from the Middle East, to South Asia, we are gathering broad international coalitions to increase the pressure for peace. We must build strong and great power relations when times are good to help manage crises when times are bad.

America needs partners to preserve the peace, and we will work with every nation that shares this noble goal.


And finally, America stands for more than the absence of war. We have a great opportunity to extend a just peace, by replacing poverty, repression and resentment around the world with hope of a better day.

Through most of history, poverty was persistent, inescapable and almost universal. In the last few decades, we've seen nations from Chile to South Korea build modern economies and freer societies, lifting millions of people out of despair and want. And there's no mystery to this achievement.

The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress based on non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women and private property and free speech and equal justice and religious tolerance.

America cannot impose this vision, yet we can support and reward governments that make the right choices for their own people.

In our development aid, in our diplomatic efforts, in our international broadcasting and in our educational assistance, the United States will promote moderation and tolerance and human rights. And we will defend the peace that makes all progress possible.

When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world.

The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation, and their governments should listen to their hopes.

(APPLAUSE) A truly strong nation will permit legal avenues of dissent for all groups that pursue their aspirations without violence. An advancing nation will pursue economic reform to unleash the great entrepreneurial energy of its people. A thriving nation will respect the rights of women, because no society can prosper while denying opportunity to half its citizens.

Mothers and fathers and children across the Islamic world, and all the world, share the same fears and aspirations. In poverty, they struggle. In tyranny, they suffer. And as we saw in Afghanistan, in liberation, they celebrate.


America has a greater objective than controlling threats and containing resentment. We will work for a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror.

The bicentennial class of West Point now enters this drama. With all in the United States Army, you will stand between your fellow citizens and grave danger. You will help establish a peace that allows millions around the world to live in liberty and to grow in prosperity.

You will face times of calm and times of crisis. And every test will find you prepared because you're the men and women of West Point.


You leave here marked by the character of this academy, carrying with you the highest ideals of our nation.

Toward the end of his life, Dwight Eisenhower recalled the first day he stood on the plain at West Point. "Feeling came over me," he said, "that the expression `the United States of America' would now and henceforth mean something different than it had ever before. From here on, it would be the nation I would be serving, not myself."

Today, your last day at West Point, you begin a life of service in a career unlike any other. You've answered a calling to hardship and purpose, to risk and honor.

At the end of every day, you will know that you have faithfully done your duty. May you always bring to that duty the high standards of this great American institution. May you always be worthy of the long gray line that stretches two centuries behind you.

On behalf of the nation, I congratulate each one of you for the commission you have earned and for the credit you bring to the United States of America.

May God bless you all.

PHILLIPS: In a war we can't predict, President George W. Bush stressing to West Point graduates that they have a commitment to both protect and preserve American freedom at a time when terrorism continues to threaten it.

Our Kelly Wallace is also live at West Point.

Kelly, solid and strong speech to the cadets.

WALLACE: Definitely, Kyra. And the president had a number of messages, certainly, to these future military leaders, new Army officers, telling them the war against terror has just begun. But he said also that the dangers have not gone away, talking about the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

This speech not just to educate the American people but, Kyra, also to send a message to some skeptical European allies. Many have been concerned about where the president wants to take the war on terror, about his tough talk when it comes to Iraq. And you heard the president say that we really can't afford to sort of sit back and wait, that these threats must be confronted.

And then he sort of talked at the end again, beyond the war, about the role that the military will be playing, the American people will be playing in terms of not just defending the peace but keeping and achieving the peace. The president talking about the importance of relationships with countries such as Russia.

And in remarks very much at the end talking about the fight against poverty and promoting freedoms and human rights and not mentioning countries by name, Kyra, but mentioning the need for Islamic nations to respect the rights of their people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said that message definitely directed at Saudi Arabia -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kelly, the next step for the president, Ohio State University. You think he'll be carrying the same message there?

WALLACE: A different message, Kyra. That will be his second and only other commencement address. That one will be talking about the importance of community service, the president doing that here, of course, talking to these military cadets, 958 graduates, the president saying they are really paying the ultimate service to their country.

But that speech at Ohio State will be encouraging Americans to get involved, to volunteer. All cabinet secretaries who will be delivering commencement addresses will be putting forward that same theme. You know, the president has encouraged Americans to volunteer up to two years of their lives, or 4,000 hours. That will be his message later in the month of June -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Our Kelly Wallace live at West Point, as George W. Bush makes the commencement address to the West Point -- to West Point graduates, rather, there in West Point, New York, as the U.S. Military Academy cadets graduate today.




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