FROM THE 2004 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
NEW YORK • AUGUST 31, 2004
Thank you, George. I like being introduced
by the President of the United States. And Barbara and Jenna,
you were great. We are so proud of you both. I want to recognize
the best father and Mother-in-law anyone could ever ask for:
President Bush and Barbara Bush. And my husbands brothers
and sister who have become my brothers and sister too. Watching
tonight from her home in Midland, Texas, my mother, Jenna
Welch. Thank you for the wonderful privilege you have given
my husband and me of serving this great country.
Our lives have been enriched by meeting so many of our fellow
Americans. As we've visited your communities, we have witnessed
your decency, kindness and character. I am enjoying this
campaign. It has reminded me of our very first one, 26 years
ago. George and I were newlyweds and he was running for Congress.
Our transportation wasn't quite as fancy back then - an Oldsmobile
Cutlass, and George was behind the wheel. Even then, he was
always on time and he knew exactly where he wanted to go.
You learn a lot about your husband when you spend that much
time in a car with him. By the end of the campaign, he had
even convinced me to vote for him.
This time I don't need any convincing.
I am so proud of the way George has led our country with
strength and conviction. Tonight, I want to try to answer
the question that I believe many people would ask me if we
sat down for a cup of coffee or ran into each other at the
store: You know him better than anyone - you've seen things
no one else has seen - why do you think we should re-elect
your husband as President.
As you might imagine, I have a lot to say about that.
I could talk about my passion, education. At every school
we visit, the students are so eager. Last fall the President
and I walked into an elementary school in Hawaii, and a little
2nd-grader came out to welcome us and bellowed, "George
Washington!" Close, just the wrong George W."
When my husband took office, too many schools were leaving
too many children behind, so he worked with Congress to pass
sweeping education reform. The No Child Left Behind Act provides
historic levels of funding with an unprecedented commitment
to higher standards, strong accountability and proven methods
of instruction. We are determined to provide a quality education
for every child in America.
I could talk about the small business owners and entrepreneurs
who are now creating most of the new jobs in our country...
women like Carmella Chaifos - the only woman to own a tow
truck company in all of Iowa. The President's tax relief
helped Carmella to buy the business, and modernize her fleet,
and expand her operations. Carmella is living proof of what
she told me. She said: "If you're determined and you
want to work hard, you can do anything you want to. That's
the beautiful thing about America."
I could talk about health care. For years, leaders in both
parties said we should provide prescription drug coverage
in Medicare. George was able to bring Republicans and Democrats
together to get it done.
I could talk about the fact that my husband is the first
President to provide federal funding for stem cell research.
- He did so in a principled way, allowing science to explore
its potential while respecting the dignity of human life.
I could talk about the record increase in home ownership.
Home ownership in America, especially minority home ownership
is at an all time high.
All of these issues are important. But we are living in
the midst of the most historic struggle my generation has
ever known. The stakes are so high. So I want to talk about
the issue that I believe is most important for my own daughters,
for all our families, and for our future: George's work to
protect our country and defeat terror so that all children
can grow up in a more peaceful world.
As we gather in this hall and around our television sets
tonight, Joshua Crane stands watch aboard the USS John C.
Stennis. His brothers Matthew and Nicholas stand watch near
Fallujah. At home in Colorado, their mother Cindy stands
watch too - with worry, and prayer. She told me all three
of her sons enlisted after September 11, because they recognized
the threat to our country. Our nation is grateful to all
the men and women of our armed forces who are standing guard
on the front lines of freedom.
A Dad whose wife is deployed in Iraq recently wrote about
what he is learning as he struggles to rear his three children
alone. "I have ruined at least three loads of laundry," he
said, "Once you turn everything pink, it stays pink." He
goes on: "I have learned what our soldiers' wives have
known for generations: hope and grief and perseverance."
This time of war has been a time of great hardship for our
military families. The President and I want all our men and
women in uniform and their wives and husbands, mothers and
fathers, sons and daughters to know we appreciate their sacrifice.
We know it will mean a more peaceful future for our children
No American President ever wants to go to war. Abraham Lincoln
didn't want to go to war, but he knew saving the union required
it. Franklin Roosevelt didn't want to go to war - but he
knew defeating tyranny demanded it. And my husband didn't
want to go to war, but he knew the safety and security of
America and the world depended on it.
I remember some very quiet nights at the dinner table. George
was weighing grim scenarios and ominous intelligence about
potentially even more devastating attacks. I listened many
nights as George talked with foreign leaders on the phone,
or in our living room, or at our ranch in Crawford. I remember
an intense weekend at Camp David. George and Prime Minister
Tony Blair were discussing the threat from Saddam Hussein.
And I remember sitting in the window of the White House,
watching as my husband walked on the lawn below. I knew he
was wrestling with these agonizing decisions that would have
such profound consequence for so many lives and for the future
of our world.
And I was there when my husband had to decide. Once again,
as in our parents' generation, America had to make the tough
choices, the hard decisions, and lead the world toward greater
security and freedom.
I wasn't born when my father went to World War II. Like
so many of our greatest generation he is gone now, lost to
Alzheimer's nine years ago. He served in the US Army in Europe
for almost three years, and helped liberate Nordhausen, one
of the concentration camps. You can imagine his horror at
what he found there. The methods of the terrorists we face
today are different - but my father would know this struggle.
Our parents' generation confronted tyranny and liberated
millions. As we do the hard work of confronting today's threat
- we can also be proud that 50 million more men, women and
children live in freedom thanks to the United States of America
and our allies.
After years of being treated as virtual prisoners in their
own homes by the Taliban, the women of Afghanistan are going
back to work. After being denied an education, even the chance
to learn to read, -- the little girls in Afghanistan are
now in school. Almost every eligible voter - over ten million
Afghan citizens - have registered to vote in this fall's
presidential election. More than 40 percent of them women.
And wasn't it wonderful to watch the Olympics and see that
beautiful Afghan sprinter race in long pants and a t-shirt,
exercising her new freedom while respecting the traditions
of her country.
I recently met a young Iraqi woman. She is one of the new
Iraqi Fulbright scholars. She survived horrific ordeals,
including the gassing of her village by Saddam Hussein. She
told me that when people look at Iraq, what they don't see
is that Iraq is a country of 25 million people, each with
their own hope.
As we watch the people of Iraq and Afghanistan take the
first steps to build free countries, I am reminded of what
Vaclav Havel told me. Vaclav Havel -- playwright, intellectual,
freedom fighter, political prisoner, then President of the
Czech Republic -- said "Laura, you know, democracy is
hard: it requires the participation of everybody." I
think of how long it took us in our country, even though
we were given such a perfect document by our founders. It
took almost 100 years after the founders declared that all
men are created equal for America to abolish slavery-- and
not until 84 years ago this month did American women get
the right to vote. Our nation has not always lived up to
its ideals -- yet those ideals have never ceased to guide
us. They expose our flaws, and lead us to mend them. We are
the beneficiaries of the work of the generations before us
and it is each generation's responsibility to continue that
These last three years since September 11, have been difficult
years in our country's history, years that have demanded
the hope, grief and perseverance that our soldier's husband
wrote about. We've learned some lessons we didn't want to
know - that our country is more vulnerable than we thought,
that some people hate us because we stand for liberty, religious
freedom and tolerance. But we have been heartened to discover
that we are also braver than we thought, stronger and more
These have been years of change for our family as well.
Our girls went off to college and graduated, and now they
are back home. We are so happy they are campaigning with
us this fall and so proud they will be pursuing their own
careers soon. My mother moved out of my childhood home and
into a retirement community. We lost our beloved dog Spotty,
and had our hearts warmed by the antics of Barney.
People ask me all the time whether George has changed. He's
a little grayer - and of course, he has learned and grown
as we all have. But he's still the same person I met at a
backyard barbecue in Midland, Texas and married three months
later. And you've come to know many of the same things that
I know about him. He'll always tell you what he really thinks.
You can count on him, especially in a crisis. His friends
don't change - and neither do his values. He has boundless
energy and enthusiasm for his job, and for life itself. He
treats every person he meets with dignity and respect; the
same dignity and respect he has for the office he holds.
And he's a loving man, with a big heart. I've seen tears
as he has hugged families who've lost loved ones. I've seen
him return the salute of soldiers wounded in battle. And
then, being George, he's invites them to come visit us at
the White House. And they've come, bringing an infectious
spirit of uniquely American confidence that we are doing
the right thing and that our future will be better because
of our actions today.
Many of my generation remember growing up at the height
of the Cold War, hiding under desks during civil defense
drills in case the communists attacked us. And now, when
parents ask me, what should we tell our children - I think
about those desks. We need to reassure our children that
our police and firemen, and military and intelligence workers
are doing everything possible to keep them safe. We need
to remind them that most people in the world are good. And
we need to explain that because of strong American leadership
in the past we don't hide under our desks anymore. Because
of President Bush's leadership and the bravery of our men
and women in uniform, I believe our children will grow up
in a world where today's terror alerts have also become a
thing of the past.
These are also years of hope for our country and our people.
We have great confidence in our ability to overcome challenges.
We have gained a new appreciation for the many blessings
of America, and been reminded of our responsibilities to
the country that we love.
George and I grew up in West Texas, where the sky seems
endless ... and so do the possibilities. He brings that optimism,
that sense of promise, that certainty that a better day is
before us to his job every day - and with your help, he'll
do so for four more years. These are times that require an
especially strong and determined leader. And I'm proud that
my husband is that kind of leader.
Thank you, God bless you
and God bless America.
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