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CNN Live Event/Special

Bush Addresses Booker T. Washington High School

Aired January 31, 2002 - 13:56   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: This is not a jump of the gun. We are going to go to President Bush, who is about to begin his remarks at Booker T. Washington in Atlanta. He is stepping to the podium and there he is.


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

Nice to be here at the home of the mighty bulldogs.


I'm glad I'm not on the other team.


I am so honored to be here. I am especially interested to learn this was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s high school.


And I want the students to understand something about his life. It goes to show that an individual can make a huge difference in the lives of our fellow citizens.

In his case, he made history. In your case, it could be just loving somebody. The lesson of Martin Luther King is a powerful lesson, and is part of what I want to talk about today.

But before I do so, I've got some introductions I want to make.

First, I am honored that your governor is with us, Governor Roy Barnes.


Appreciate you coming -- and the first lady.

And like me, he married above himself.


First lady of Georgia, it's good to see you. Thank you.


I appreciate members of the congressional delegation coming. Oh, I know, generally, you know, a Democrat is supposed to show up when a Republican shows up, and Republican is not supposed to show up when a Democrat shows up. But there is a new attitude in America today. I'm a proud Republican. Cynthia McKinney and John Lewis and Zell Miller are proud Democrats. Saxby is a proud Republican. Cleland is a proud Democrat. But first and foremost, we're all proud Americans.


I appreciate so very much members of the House and the Senate -- state House and the Senate, for coming over to say hello today. I'm honored that your mayor is here.


Thanks for coming.

I am so pleased that a member of my Cabinet came. I picked a good man when I picked the secretary of education. I didn't pick somebody who dwelt on theory. I picked on somebody who is experienced.

And you have a chance to kind of choose all kinds of people when you pick your Cabinet. I wanted somebody who actually understood how public education worked because he had lived in public education.

This man ran the toughest, biggest, orneriest school district in the state of Texas, Houston Independent School District. And he did a great job, and he's doing a great job as the secretary of education.


I appreciate you.

I want to thank your superintendent of schools here in Atlanta, Dr. Beverly Hall.

Thank you for coming, Beverly.


BUSH: One lesson I have learned, not only as governor but as president, that a school really functions well if it's got a fine principal. You got a fine principal.


I want to thank all the teachers who are here. I'm honored to be in your presence.


I want to thank not only the Teach for America teachers who are here...


... I want to thank all the teachers who are here. Yours is a noble, important profession.

And for those of you who have yet to graduate from high school who are wondering what life might hold for you, wondering what you career might be, please give teaching a consideration, please look at teaching. There's no better way to leave a mark, a positive mark, on the lives of America.


One of the things I like to do is herald, kind of, the quiet heroes of our society. In this case, I want to talk about a social entrepreneur, someone who had a dream and a vision and implemented it. And that's the founder and president of Teach for America, Wendy Kopp.

Now, for those of you who don't...


She brought some of her family members here.


It is -- Wendy shows that, with strength of purpose and setting goals and striving for a better tomorrow, it is possible to make a huge difference. Out of an idea came the desire to convince folks to teach in schools that are having trouble to get teachers. And she has succeeded way beyond what people thought a single person can do. There are 8,000 Teach for America teachers and alumni around the country.

I am proud to stand up and talk about the best of America and Wendy Kopp.

Wendy, thank you for what you do.


BUSH: I am proud of a country that is unified and strong. You know, I like to put it this way: The enemy must have been watching too much daytime TV.


They thought we were weak. They thought we would roll over by one single attack. My, my, were they mistaken. The enemy thought that we were too materialistic, too self-absorbed, that we would tire and weary. No, this United States is united.

We are strong, we are determined, we are patient. We are resolved to rout out terror wherever it exists to save the world from freedom. (APPLAUSE)

And it's important to do so. History has called us into action, and we cannot weary. Oh, I know some are -- some, the farther we get away fro September the 11th, are going to say, "Well, gosh, do we really need to go through this?"

Listen, I want you all to know, every morning, I walk into a fabulous office, the Oval Office. And I sit down at my desk, and I read a report, a threat assessment, about what the enemy wants to do.

There are still designs on America. The evil ones can't stand a nation that is free. Evil people can't stand free people. And so, they still want to hit us.

My most important job is to make sure that this nation is secure and safe. We're doing everything we can at home to find out, to track down anybody who would dare hurt innocent United States citizens. And we're making pretty good progress.

BUSH: The Federal Bureau of Investigation's major task now, its most important job is to protect the homeland. We've got thousands of agents tracking down any hint, any lead, making sure that America is safe.

I've got a homeland security office all designed to work to make sure a bioterrorist attack can be responded to, to make sure our heroic police and firefighters have the tools necessary to respond, to be active in first responders, to make sure we understand who's coming into our country and who's leaving our country. We're doing everything we can at home.

But I want to tell you all as plainly as I can, the best homeland defense, the best way to make sure America is secure and free is to find the enemy where it hides and bring them to justice.


And we're making good progress. And I appreciate the resolve and patience of our country. I appreciate the unity that stands behind the men and women who wear our uniform. I sent such brave, brave men and women into a tough conflict, and I want to tell you they haven't let us down.

I see some students with your uniforms on. If you choose to go into the military, I want to thank you and let you know that your government will stand squarely behind you.

Whatever it takes to win the war on terror, we will pay it.


I said to the people who killed thousands of Americans that we're coming after you, that we won't let your evil acts stand.

I also said that if you hide one of those people, if you feed one of those people, you're just as guilty as those who attacked America.

And the Taliban has learned the lesson of that doctrine. They no longer are in power, thank God for women and children in Afghanistan.

Our nation has liberated. We not only served to bring justice -- not revenge, but justice -- we have liberated women and children who lived under the most oppressive regime -- one of the most repressive regimes in the history of mankind. I'm proud of this great country.


BUSH: When you graduate this year, if you're a senior, you're the first senior class that has graduated after America has been attacked on the homeland. Think about that. That is historic.

And it's not over unless we pursue our mission. And so, therefore, the mission is not just those who flew into the building. These people, the Al Qaeda people, trained thousands of people in their camps before we started moving on them. I said, you know, thousands of ticking time bombs ready to go off.

And therefore, we must be relentless in our pursuit, not just in Afghanistan, but wherever they hide. That's why it's so important to have a vast coalition of nations, friendly nations, together. And it's why it's important for our country to continue to lead, to make sure that part of the doctrine that says, "Either you're with us or you're against us," is enforced.

It is so important that we fight for freedom so the young can grow up in a free society.

We're also in a pretty dangerous phase of the first theater in the war against terror. Because, remember, we're chasing down people who, on the one hand, send youngsters to their suicide deaths and, on the other, try to burrow in the ground in caves as deep as they can come.

But they're about to learn this lesson from our country: They can ride and they can ride, but they can't run and hide long enough, because this patient people are going to bring them to justice no matter how long it takes.


I also talked yesterday about countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction that could be used to hurt ourselves or our allies or our friends. And we're just not going to settle back and let them do it. They now have been warned. They can change their behavior, and I hope they do.

Some nations are already changing their behavior as a result of the United States leading a strong coalition. Now they know, and now they can change.

But one thing they've got to know is for certain: We will not let them use their weapons of mass destruction to threaten the security of the United States of America. They are on notice.

BUSH: And I expect them to make the right decisions about being a peaceful nation, a nation that doesn't want to harm our allies and friends, a nation that respects common values and a nation that adheres to freedom.

We have that obligation to future generations of Americans, and it's an obligation, I assure you, that I will keep.

The other thing...


Out of this evil came some incredible good. No one wished what happened on September the 11th happened. But out of evil came great good in the country, and I want to share some of that with you.

The country is taking an assessment of what's important in life. We've kind of stepped back and said -- one thing we've said in Washington is, politics is important but it's not nearly as important as winning the war. Politics is important -- listen, we're all politicians. Anybody who's holding office saying they're not a politician isn't telling the truth.

But at least we can put something greater than self, at least we can figure out how to do something -- what's more important than political party.

And we did so, by the way, with an education bill. I know you're not supposed to stand up, if you're a Republican, and say something nice about Ted Kennedy...


... but I did, for a right reason: Because we worked together, Republicans and Democrats, to fashion a really good piece of legislation that empowers the governors and local people to make the right decisions, but also says we're not going to stand for a system that simply shuffles children through. We know who gets harmed in a system that gives up on kids early, and we're not going to stand for it in America, because every child can learn and no child should be left behind in this country.


There are ways to fight terror other than wearing a uniform. A teacher fights terror every day by walking into a classroom and teaching children how to read and write and add and subtract.


A church group can do it by helping people in need. A synagogue can organize ways to help elderly, for example. And there's all kinds of ways to fight evil.

People ask me, "What can I do to help? What can I do to help?" Well, if you're dedicating your time to volunteer work, you're already helping.

BUSH: And I ask America, young and old alike, to dedicate at least two years of your life, 4,000 hours over your lifetime, to service to your fellow man, to service to your nation by serving somebody else.

And it's happening. Listen, I know Atlanta, Georgia, and I know the country. There are thousands of people dedicating thousands of hours, and for that, I am grateful. Just keep doing it.

But some are asking, "What can I do to help?" As a matter of fact, some in our society have never been challenged to help. After all, we've been living through an era that said, "If it feels good, just go ahead and do it."

My dream is to change that culture to one in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life. If you have a child, you're responsible for loving the child. If you're in a community, you have a responsibility of loving your fellow man, just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

No, we can change -- use the evil to help usher in a period of personal responsibility. And part of an era of personal responsibility is to help somebody, is to help somebody in need.

And so, I've set up a program called the USA Freedom Corps. If you're looking for someplace to help, here's a chance. If you want to participate in the good of your country, here's your opportunity to do so.

And all you got to do is pick up the phone and dial 1-877-USA- CORPS. That's all you got to do, and they will help you.

And we've got some ideas for you. If you're a senior citizen, join a Senior Corps and help make your community more alert to the potential of attack or help develop an emergency response team.

If you're a retired doc, participate with your local health systems to prepare your community and your neighborhood for what we hope doesn't happen.

If you want to participate in USA Freedom Corps, it's, if you're one of these computer-literate type people.


If you want to help and you feel like you want to take your compassion overseas, we're going to expand the Peace Corps mission and we're going to send people into the Islamic world for the first time, or one of the first times, to make sure we spread America's compassion and hope.

And you need to help at home, as well. One way you can help is to become a mentor. One way you can help is to find a child who needs somebody older in their life who can put their arm around them and say, "I love you. There's hope for you. What can I do to help you succeed in America?"


And another way you can help -- and I hope young Americans all across the country think about joining Teach for America.


It is a part of AmeriCorps, and our goal is to expand AmeriCorps by 200,000 volunteers this year.


BUSH: And I think my friends thank my friend, Steve Goldsmith (ph), for helping shepherd this program forward. He's a former mayor of Indianapolis. He understands how to rally community-based programs for the greater good.

And so, my fellow Americans, if you care about America, put 4,000 hours of service toward America. It will help defeat what the enemy wants.

You know, I tend to speak, I hope, plainly enough for people to understand. I view this as good versus evil -- there is no middle ground, as far as I'm concerned.

And therefore, in order to fight evil, what this nation must do is to gather the collective hearts, the good decency of our American people, and show the world we're not going to be intimidated.

We will not be intimidated overseas; we will not change at home. What we will do is take the momentum of millions of acts of decency and convert that to the greater good.

We've got a huge challenge for us, a huge challenge, a huge hill to climb in America: winning the war on terror and changing the culture for the better.

But guess what we're fixing to do? We're fixing to show the world the strength of America. We're fixing to overcome our obstacles. We're going to lead the world to a more compassionate, more decent, more free tomorrow.

It is such an honor to be the president of such a great nation. And we're a great nation because we're a great people.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

HARRIS: President Bush there wrapping up his remarks there at Booker T. Washington High School here in Atlanta, Georgia. And remarks that he's been making quite a bit lately, the last few days ever since the State of the Union Address, an Address in which he first introduced an idea of every American doing 4,000 hours or two years of some sort of volunteer service to the country over a lifetime and that idea has gotten a lot of -- been well received by a lot of different quarters across the country. And President Bush once again laid out that plan here in front of this audience, saying that if your care about America, put forth the 4,000 hours of service in support of America.

Let's check in now with our Major Garrett who has been traveling with the president -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Leon. Two central themes in this speech. Obviously, you identified one of them -- community service. You know, before the tragic events of September 11 the White House had basically built a schedule for the president going all through the fall when he would talk about communities of character, speaking about these very same issues. And then of course, the devastating catastrophic events of September 11 put all of that on hold.

The president has now decided to use what he has seen in the aftermath of September 11, where people responded so generously all across the country to various people's needs, and put that community of character back on the agenda and doing it in a slightly different way, by making a direct appeal to vounteerism.

That is clearly the message that the people all along this trim -- post State of the Union trip -- have heard. But there is another theme, probably being analyzed very carefully in Washington by international policy experts and in embassies across the world. The president was talking about the statement he made in the State of the Union address. putting Iraq, Iran and North Korea on notice that they are on a watch list essentially, for the United States government and their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and could be a future target in the war on terrorism.

Today he said, they, meaning those three countries, have now been warned. They can change their behavior and I hope they will. They are on notice and I hope they make the right decisions. But if they don't, the president made it abundantly clear to this audience, he has an obligation to pursue U.S. interests regarding those three countries, he said it is an obligation I assure you, I will keep.

So, two very powerful themes. One here sort of heard by the audience and Americans across the country about what they can do as far as community service is concerned. And at embassies around the world and those three key countries understanding they have been put on notice by this president about weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and what the presidents want them to do about it -- Leon.

HARRIS: Major Garrett, thanks very much. Good to see you.