[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush (2005, Book II)]
[September 21, 2005]
[Pages 1462-1469]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 20th Anniversary Luncheon
September 21, 2005

    Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you. Thanks for the warm 
welcome. Thank you. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm honored to join you 
in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Republican Jewish Coalition. 
The RJC has been a powerful voice for the values of limited government, 
free enterprise, and a strong national defense. I want to thank you for 
your patriotism. I want to thank you to the devotion to our country. 
Because of your efforts, I really believe America is a stronger and 
better place.
    I'm particularly pleased to be invited to help pay tribute to one of 
the founders of this organization, Max Fisher. He was a trusted adviser 
to many Presidents, starting with Ike. He has been a friend of my 
family's. I was honored to count him as a wise counselor. I'm honored to 
know his wife, Marjorie, who is with us 
today. Max Fisher was a man of generosity and accomplishment, a 
patriotic American, a friend of Israel, and a champion for peace. And 
he's going to be greatly missed.

    As well, we mourn the passing of a great hero for freedom, Simon 
Wiesenthal. Simon Wiesenthal was a survivor 
and a witness, who served--who seared the horror of the Holocaust in the 
collective memory of the world. He's one of these leaders that refused 
to back down. He spoke with clarity. He insisted that we remember the 
lessons of the crime. He insisted that we remember that hatred prepares 
the way for

[[Page 1463]]

violence, and the failure to expose and confront intolerance can lead to 
atrocities beyond imagining. As we saw in the recent desecration of the 
synagogues in Gaza, the ancient hatred of anti-Semitism still burns in 
the hearts of men. And the best way we can honor Simon Wiesenthal's 
memory is to expose and confront anti-Semitism wherever it is found. By 
condemning this hatred at home and abroad, we stand with the victims of 
the Shoah and declare to the world: Never again.
    I want to thank my friend Sam Fox. I appreciate 
your friendship, you and Marilyn. I want to 
thank you for your leadership. I want to thank Matt Brooks. A smattering of applause out there for old Matty. 
    I see some of the members of my administration here. I thank you all 
for coming. Don't linger too long. Get back to work. [Laughter] I 
appreciate the Members of the United States Congress who are with us. I 
see Senators and Congressmen--thank you all for coming.
    I know we got--we've got some statehouse folks here. I think my 
friend Haley Barbour is here. He was looking 
for a meal--he told me that on the plane yesterday. [Laughter] Anyway, 
he's doing a fine job as the Governor of Mississippi. Governor 
Romney is here with us today. I appreciate him 
being here. Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele is with us--Michael--from Maryland. Thank you for coming. 
Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie from Vermont 
is with us. Brian, thank you for being here.
    How about your master of ceremonies? Good to see you, Ari. Thanks 
for coming. How's the kid? Huh? Good. Good man and a good friend, Ari 
    I want to thank my friend Lew Eisenberg for being one of the cochairmen of the luncheon--and 
Elliott Broidy. I appreciate you all taking 
this assignment on.
    You're honoring good people today. Bernie 
Marcus--I appreciate the spirit of your corporation, Bernie--or your 
cooperation--your corporation during these tough times. It's remarkable. 
And I want to thank you for the outpouring of compassion you and your 
folks have shown. Shelly Adelson, 
congratulations, Shelly. It's good to see you. And of course, the man 
who is doing a fantastic job at the RNC, Ken Mehlman.
    I appreciate the fact that the Israeli Ambassador to the United 
States is with us today. He's a good man--Danny Ayalon. Good to see you, Danny.
    When I first came here, I looked around, I thought it might have 
been the ex-ambassadors club. [Laughter] Former Ambassadors 
Bernstein, Price, 
and Sembler are with us. Thank you all for 
serving our Nation, proud you're here.
    We are a strong and resilient nation. I've seen that strength, and 
I've seen that resiliency firsthand. One of the things that I hope you 
take comfort in knowing is that throughout our history, we've been 
challenged a lot, and every time we've been challenged, we have emerged 
a stronger and better nation. There is no challenge of man or nature 
that our citizens cannot overcome.
    And we're facing some challenges these days. At this moment, our 
fellow citizens along the gulf coast are recovering from one of the 
worst natural disasters in this country's history. Hurricane Katrina 
caused immense destruction. You cannot imagine what that countryside 
looks like down there. This storm swept away homes. It destroyed entire 
communities. It uprooted lives. And today, we've got another hurricane 
headed for Texas and Louisiana. I spoke to the Governor, Perry. I spoke to Governor Blanco yesterday about the preparations being made for 
this storm. Federal, State, and local governments are coordinating their 
efforts to get ready. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for New 
Orleans and Galveston. I urge the citizens to listen carefully to the 
instructions provided by State and local authorities, and

[[Page 1464]]

follow them. We hope and pray that Hurricane Rita will not be a 
devastating storm, but we got to be ready for the worst.
    The scenes we witnessed in the past 3 weeks in Alabama and 
Mississippi and Louisiana have touched our hearts and have moved this 
Nation to action. I'm not talking about just government; I'm talking 
about the whole country. There has been an amazing outpouring of support 
all across America, and it's sent a clear message to the victims of 
Hurricane Katrina: This Nation cares about you. You're not alone.
    I made a pledge to the people of Alabama and Mississippi and 
Louisiana that we're going to stay as long as it takes. We'll do our job 
to help you recover. People need to hear that loud and clear. And I 
outlined our strategy for reconstruction on the gulf coast. It rests on 
three commitments.
    First, we're going to help meet the immediate needs of those whose 
lives were turned upside down. You got to understand thousands of people 
had to leave their homes and left all their possessions behind and went 
to shelters all throughout America. We have a duty to help them. So far 
we've mailed checks to 600,000--600,000 evacuee families to help them 
pay for food and clothing and other essentials. We helped them register 
for other aid that will be available because of laws on the books.
    Second, we're going to help the citizens get their lives back 
together. We've got housing assistance going to evacuees. We understand 
they can't live forever in shelters. We've got a strategy to help them 
go from shelter to apartment, or shelter to home. We've sent doctors and 
nurses to the region to help.
    You know, an amazing thing that's happened is a lot of States have 
accepted the families--the kids of these families into their schools. 
What a fantastic gesture of compassion and decency. In our own State of 
Texas, school district after school district has said, ``If you have a 
child that's school age, bring them to us. We'll help educate them.'' 
The Federal Government has an obligation to reimburse those school 
districts, and I'm going to work with Congress to make sure we fulfill 
that obligation.
    And third, we're going to help ensure that the communities emerge 
stronger and better. The storm caused huge suffering, as I told you, but 
it's an opportunity to bring new life to neighborhoods that were 
suffering before the storm. So I've proposed some interesting ideas, and 
I want the United States Congress to listen carefully to these ideas.
    First, I believe we ought to create Gulf Opportunity Zones up and 
down the devastated areas to provide tax incentives and tax breaks to 
get business and jobs back in that area as quickly as possible. If you 
want to grow something, you shouldn't tax it. If you want to encourage 
small-business growth, we ought to incent it to grow in that part of the 
world. Somebody said the other day, ``Well, that's a tax break.'' That 
region is going to have zero income anyway. There's nothing there, in 
many parts of it. It makes sense to provide economic incentive, create 
economic incentives for jobs to exist. We want people heading back there 
for good, decent, good-paying jobs.
    I've proposed Worker Recovery Accounts to help evacuees be prepared 
for the jobs that are going to exist in that part of the world. Listen, 
there's going to be a construction boom down there. We want people from 
that part of the world being prepared to take on those jobs. And so 
these Worker Recovery Accounts will help with job training.
    I believe in urban homesteading. That says we're going to identify 
Federal property and provide lots for low-income citizens that they'll 
have for free, so long as they build a house on there with a mortgage or 
with the help of a charitable group like Habitat for Humanity.
    We've got a fantastic chance as we rebuild. See, when those streets 
are open, we want them to be lined with businesses, including businesses 
owned by minorities.

[[Page 1465]]

When those houses are rebuilt, we want more owners and less renters. 
When reconstruction is complete, we ought to look back at Hurricane 
Katrina and say that this country grew not only in prosperity but in 
character as well.
    There's a Federal role to play, and we'll play it. We'll do our 
duty. But there's also a State role and a local role. I believe as the 
vision of New Orleans emerges, it ought to be planned by people from New 
Orleans. And as the vision of that gulf coast of Mississippi emerges, it 
ought to be planned by the people in Mississippi. And we're going to 
help them. We'll help them make right choices. But we've got to remember 
that perhaps the greatest engine for change and growth will be the 
private sector. So as Congress thinks through its strategy, let's 
encourage the private sector to come in and help build those jobs and 
rebuild those lives.
    We'll make sure your money is spent wisely. We're going to make sure 
we make tough choices and set priorities here in Washington, DC. And 
we're going to make sure that the money is spent honestly by sending a 
team of inspector generals down there to review all expenditures. That's 
what the people of this country expect, and that's exactly what we're 
going to do.
    The American people have got a role to play in this effort. And 
since this storm, our Nation's armies of compassions have rallied and 
have come to the aid of people who are in desperate need of help. Our 
charities and houses of worship and idealistic men and women across this 
country have opened up their homes, their wallets, and their hearts. 
There's been an amazing, amazing outpouring of help. And the Jewish 
community of this country has been on the forefront of the efforts.
    At Tulane University, the director of the Chabad, Rabbi 
Rivkin, brought teams of students to New 
Orleans and southern Mississippi and other communities hit by the storm. 
He called in folks to help. He didn't say, ``Head away from the storm 
area.'' He said, ``Let's take it right to the middle of the storm area 
to help people.'' They helped rescue stranded people. They distributed 
bottled water and self-heating kosher meals. They cleaned up and helped 
salvage homes. They provided spiritual support for those who lost loved 
ones. And one of those rescued from New Orleans put it this way: In the 
days after Katrina hit, ``Chabad saved lives.''

    Rabbi Stanton Zamek of the temple Beth 
Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helped an African American 
couple displaced by the storm track down their daughter in Maryland. 
When Rabbi Zamek called the daughter, he told her, ``We have your 
parents.'' She screamed out, ``Thank you, Jesus.'' [Laughter] He didn't 
have the heart to tell her, she was thanking the wrong rabbi. [Laughter]

    Jewish organizations have thus far raised $17 million to help the 
victims of Katrina. Our citizens are answering the call of the Prophet 
Isaiah: ``If you give what you have to the hungry, and fill the needs of 
those who suffer, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your 
darkness will be like the brightest time of day.'' People are hearing 
that call all across the country. And there's more work to be done. I 
urge you to continue to pay attention to the folks down there by 
contributing to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or the United Jewish 
Communities or B'nai B'rith International or the American Jewish 

    It's important. We got a lot of work to do. But when it's all said 
and done, people are going to realize that this country can respond to 
crises and help a neighbor in need. This country has got enormous heart 
and enormous compassion. After it's all said and done, because of the 
compassionate outpouring of our people, the country's heart, collective 
heart, is going to be stronger and better.

[[Page 1466]]

    You know, something we--I've been thinking a lot about how America 
has responded, and it's clear to me that Americans value human life and 
value every person as important. And that stands in stark contrast, by 
the way, to the terrorists we have to deal with. You see, we look at the 
destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break. They're the kind of 
people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war 
against these people. It's a war on terror. These are evil men who 
target the suffering. They killed 3,000 people on September the 11th, 
2001. And they've continued to kill. See, sometimes we forget about the 
evil deeds of these people. They've killed in Madrid and Istanbul and 
Baghdad and Bali and London and Sharm el-Sheikh and Jerusalem and Tel 
Aviv. Around the world, they continue to kill.
    They have a strategy. They want to achieve certain objectives. They 
want to break our will. They want the United States of America and other 
freedom-loving nations to retreat from the world. Why? Because they want 
safe haven. They want to topple government. Just think Taliban in 
Afghanistan. That's their vision. And we can't let them do that.
    We have a solemn duty as a United States Government to protect the 
American people from harm. We have a solemn duty to remember there are 
generations coming behind us. We have a solemn duty to stay on the 
offense against these people, to defeat them in other lands so we don't 
have to face them here at home. And we have a solemn duty to lay the 
foundation of peace for generations to come.
    Iraq is the central battlefront in the war on terror. It's not the 
only place we're fighting the terrorists, but it's the central front 
right now. You see, the terrorists want to turn that country into what 
Afghanistan was. Imagine a place like Iraq, where they've got safe haven 
to plot and train. That's what they want. That's why they're pouring in 
there. That's why they're going into the country. That's why they're 
trying to create instability. They got a powerful weapon--these car 
bombs that end up on our TV screens. They got the capacity to affect our 
conscience because we value every life. Every person matters to the 
United States--people of the United States of America. It doesn't matter 
whether it's a--living in Iraq or right here at home, we care deeply. 
And they know that. And they're trying to get us out of there, is what 
they're trying to do, for a strategic objective. They want to be able to 
continue their war against freedom-loving people, with Iraq as a base.
    We've got our own strategy. We've got a strategy for victory. Our 
troops--we've got incredibly brave troops--are hunting these people down 
and bringing them to justice. We're training the Iraqis so they can 
fight--take the fight to the enemy alongside of us. Our motto is this--
it's important for you to understand--as Iraqis stand up, we stand down. 
That means as they become more and more capable, it's up to them to take 
the fight to the enemy, with our help. It's up to them to be on the 
frontlines of dealing with these people.
    We're also going to defeat the enemy because they have no vision for 
the future that's positive. You can't be successful in convincing people 
to follow you if your vision is so dark and so dim as that of the 
terrorists. They have nothing to offer except violence.
    We've got something to offer, and that's freedom. And freedom is 
powerful. I believe this. At the heart of my belief is, one, there's an 
Almighty; and two, that freedom is a gift from the Almighty God to each 
man and woman in this world. That's what I believe. Freedom is not 
exclusively American. Freedom is universal. And last January, the people 
of Iraq showed the universality of that freedom. Now, it seems like a 
decade ago, doesn't it, since those 8\1/2\ million people went to vote, 
but it wasn't all that long ago. And a lot of people around the world 

[[Page 1467]]

believe that there was this great desire to be free. And yet, 8\1/2\ 
million people showed up to the polls. They said, ``We want to be free. 
We want something other than the dark vision of these coldblooded 
killers, people who kill our children and kill police and kill aid 
workers and try to kill coalition forces.''
    And now the people have come together in difficult circumstances and 
written a constitution, and it's a good constitution. It's a 
constitution written with compromise, not with guns. It's a constitution 
where they're trying to overcome years of brutality because of a tyrant. 
And then the people are going to go to the polls again and vote for a 
government. No matter how many car bombs there are, these terrorists 
cannot stop the march of freedom in Iraq.
    But that march of freedom is not contained to Iraq only. I don't 
know if you paid attention to it the other day, this past weekend, but 
the Afghan people went to the polls again. They had a successful 
Presidential election. Now they voted for the parliament. It's amazing 
progress in a country that not all that long ago was a safe haven for 
Usama bin Laden and his plotters, that 
plotted the September the 11th attacks.
    But freedom isn't--the march of freedom isn't contained in 
Afghanistan alone. We saw the march of freedom take place in Lebanon, 
Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Georgia. These examples of freedom are 
inspiring others. Freedom is universal. People want to live in freedom, 
and the more the world becomes free, those who live in darkness will 
demand the light of freedom. And as freedom advances, we're laying the 
foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren. [Applause] 
Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you.
    This isn't easy work. I see the Members of Congress are still here, 
halfway through the speech. [Laughter] I want to remind you it's not 
easy, what we're doing, but it's necessary. It's the calling of our 
time. It's an opportunity to say, ``We've done our duty.'' It's an 
opportunity to say, ``We made this country safer, and we made the world 
    I got a partner in peace in Ariel Sharon. 
I've been impressed by his leadership. Sam mentioned 
the time when the RJC flew four Governors--and I happened 
to be one--to the Holy Land. And we went to a briefing by the Government 
of Israel then, and one of the Cabinet members was Ariel Sharon. And 
after the briefing, he introduced himself. He said, ``Would you like to 
go on a helicopter ride and take a look at the West Bank?'' I said, 
``Are you flying?'' No--[laughter]--I said, ``You bet.''
    It's interesting how history works, isn't it? In 1998, fall of 1998, 
the future President of the United States and the future Prime Minister 
of Israel were flying across the--across that 
country, with him describing to me how to keep Israel secure. A couple 
of lessons I took away from there is, one, you know, how tiny the 
country is. You know, a guy from Texas, we got a lot of space there. 
There's not a lot of space there. How vulnerable Israel can be. I also 
came away with the strong impression about how strong the people there 
not only want to defend themselves, but how much they love democracy, 
that democracy is a critical part of their existence.
    Ariel Sharon has shown great leadership, 
and he made a tough and courageous decision. He decided to withdraw from 
Gaza. I'll never forget when he came and told me that. My immediate 
reaction was, ``This is a bold step for peace, Mr. Prime Minister, and I 
support you.'' He saw it, and I think I did, too, at the time, that such 
a decision would really force the world to recognize that only true 
peace will come when we defeat terrorism and establish democracy.
    And so now there's an opportunity, and the opportunity rests with 
the Palestinian people to show that they can govern themselves in a 
peaceful way. The policy of this Government is to streamline the 

[[Page 1468]]

forces so there's only one authority with security forces, and that's 
the authority that campaigned based upon a peace platform. The policy of 
this Government is to help entrepreneurship flourish, to help small 
businesses start. The Arab world needs to help right now. They need to 
step in and help the peaceful democratic forces within the Palestinian--
within Gaza to thwart those whose stated objective is the destruction of 
    The United States of America is firmly committed to defending the 
security and the well-being of our ally Israel. And we'll work with our 
friends in the region and throughout the world to achieve the peace that 
all want. My hope is that someday, there will be two democratic states, 
Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.
    These are historic times, and they're challenging, but I've got to 
tell you, I've got great hope, too, for the future. You know, in our 
response to terror and tragedy, we have seen how great suffering can 
awaken an even greater love, and we've been reminded there is no evil 
from which our Creator cannot draw forth greater good. You know, the 
attacks of September the 11th really causes us to be more determined 
than ever to defend our way of life. And it also gave us an opportunity 
to advance the cause of freedom that were previously unthinkable. And 
out of the horror of Katrina is going to come a rebirth for parts of our 
country that will mean people down there will be able to live with 
greater hope and prosperity--the hope of prosperity--than ever before.
    It's such an honor to be the President of a country that not only 
deals with our adversity but is able to create good out of the adversity 
we face. And the reason why we're able to is we've got a indomitable 
spirit, and we've got a land full of people that are incredibly generous 
and strong and compassionate. And I appreciate being in a room full of 
such people.
    I want to thank you for your friendship. Thank you for the love of 
America. May God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 12 noon in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. 
In his remarks, he referred to Sam Fox, national chairman, and his wife, 
Marilyn, Matthew Brooks, executive director, and Lewis M. Eisenberg and 
Elliott Broidy, members of the board of directors, Republican Jewish 
Coalition; Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; former White House Press 
Secretary Ari Fleischer; event honorees Bernard Marcus, co-founder, The 
Home Depot, Inc., Sheldon G. Adelson, chairman of the board, Las Vegas 
Sands Corp., and Kenneth B. Mehlman, chair, Republican National 
Committee; former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Stuart A. Bernstein; former 
U.S. Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles, and Comoros John Price; former 
U.S. Ambassador to Italy Melvin Sembler; Gov. Rick Perry of Texas; Gov. 
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana; Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin, director, 
Tulane University Chabad Jewish Student Center; former President Saddam 
Hussein of Iraq; Usama Bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida terrorist 
organization; and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel.

[[Page 1469]]