Bahai News - Transcript of Remarks by Bush to American Jewish Committee
Transcript of Remarks by Bush to American Jewish Committee
6 May 12:28
Transcript of May 3 Remarks by the President to the American Jewish Committee
To: National Desk
Contact: White House Press Office, 202-456-2580
WASHINGTON, May 6 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following is a transcript of May 3
remarks by the President to the American Jewish Committee:
National Building Museum
8:22 p.m. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Bruce, thank you very much for that kind invitation.
I'm glad I came, and I'm proud to call you friend.
I appreciate David Harris, your eloquence. I want to say welcome to the
foreign dignitaries who are here; members of the Congress; Justice O'Connor;
my friend, Mayor Williams. And I'm proud to be here tonight with such close
friends of America.
Mi amigo, un hombre muy fuerte, muy inteligente, el Presidente de Mexico,
Vicente Fox. (Applause.)
Foreign Minister Fischer and Foreign Minister Peres. I had the honor of
meeting with Foreign Minister Peres today in the Oval Office. It is not the
first time we have met. He had a sparkle in his eye some 12 years ago when
we met; he still has this marvelous sparkle in his eye. I love his optimism.
As Bruce mentioned, he said, when you talk to Shimon Peres, you feel like
you're talking to a poet; you know you're talking to a leader. He's been a
good friend of the United States throughout his many years of public service.
And I look forward to showing him my friendship for the state of Israel over
the coming years. (Applause.)
And Mr. Fischer, welcome to Washington. Please take back my best regards to
your Chancellor. I had a great visit with him, as well, in the Oval Office.
And Mr. President, thank you for coming by -- he also was in the Oval Office.
I had a pretty busy day. (Laughter.)
This is the third time I've met with President Fox, and it's right that it be
that way, because relations with Mexico and the United States are incredibly
important for our future. We want our friend to the south to be strong and
vibrant -- a strong Mexico, a healthy Mexico is good for the United States of
The four of us don't always agree; we occasionally have our differences. But
one thing, obviously, we all agree on is when Bruce Ramer invites us
somewhere, we go. (Laughter and applause.)
I took a look at this weekend's program before coming here. I was flattered
to read that "understanding the new administration" is called a "central
feature" of this year's meeting. Well, I may be able to save you some time.
(Laughter.) I believe in equal opportunity for all, without discrimination
or prejudice of any kind.
I believe that tolerance and respect must be taught to all our children,
because too many young minds and souls are lost to hate. I believe that our
government should support the works of charity that are motivated by faith
-- but our government should never fund the teaching of faith, itself.
I am a Christian. But I believe with the Psalmist, that the Lord God of
Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Understanding my administration should
not be difficult. We will speak up for our principles; we will stand up for
our friends in the world. And one of the most important friends is the State
of Israel. (Applause.)
Incredibly enough, when I visited Israel two years ago, I had the honor of
touring many parts of that land in a helicopter with Ariel Sharon. I'm pretty
confident he didn't think I was going to be the President. (Laughter.) The
truth is, I wasn't sure he was going to be the Prime Minister. (Laughter.)
But, nevertheless, here we are. I look forward to working with the Prime
As Foreign Minister Peres told me today -- and I agree -- he's a man who
knows how to keep his word, and that's important when it comes to foreign
For a Texan, a first visit to Israel is an eye-opener. At the narrowest point,
it's only eight miles from the Mediterranean to the old Armistice line: that's
less than from the top to the bottom of Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. (Laughter.)
The whole of pre-1967 Israel is only about six times the size of the King
It's a small country that has lived under the threat throughout its existence.
At my first meeting of my National Security Council, I told them that a top
foreign policy priority of my administration is the safety and security of
Israel. (Applause.) My administration will be steadfast in supporting Israel
against terrorism and violence, and in seeking the peace for which all
The Middle East is the birthplace of three great religions: Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam. Lasting peace in the region must respect the rights
of believers in all these faiths. That's common sense. But it is also
something more: it is moral sense, based upon the deep American commitment to
freedom of religion.
That commitment was expressed early and eloquently by our first President,
George Washington, in his famous letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport,
Rhode Island. He argued for an attitude beyond mere tolerance -- a respect
for the inherent and equal right of everyone to worship God as they think
best. "The government of the United States," he said, "which gives to bigotry
no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live
under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens."
Over the years, Washington's rejection of religious bigotry has matured from
a foundation of our domestic politics into a guiding doctrine of our foreign
policy. The American Jewish Committee deserves special credit for this
progress. (Applause.) You were among the very first groups to support the
International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Formed to resist anti-Semitic
persecution in Czarist Russia, the American Jewish Committee has emerged as
a great champion of religious liberty worldwide.
I am proud to say that it was a fellow Texan, Leo Napoleon Levi, who was
responsible for one of the earliest American protests against anti-Semitic
violence. Levi, a Galveston, Texas, lawyer and a president of the national
B'nai Brith, drafted President Theodore Roosevelt a telegram denouncing a
Russian pogrom in 1903. The czar of Russia was so stung by Roosevelt's
message that he formally refused to accept it. Some Americans complained that
Roosevelt had gone too far. He replied that there were no crimes so monstrous
-- that there were crimes so monstrous that the American conscience had to
And there still are. Such crimes are being committed today by the government
of Sudan, which is waging war against that country's traditionalist and
Christian peoples. Some 2 million Sudanese have lost their lives; 4 million
more have lost their homes. Hospitals, schools, churches and international
relief stations have often been bombed by government warplanes over the 18
years of Sudan's civil war. The government claims to have halted air attacks.
But they continue. Women and children have been abducted and sold into
slavery. UNICEF estimates that some 12,000 to 15,000 people are now held in
bondage in Sudan.
The story of the Exodus still speaks across the millennium: no society in all
of history can be justly built on the backs of slaves. (Applause.) Sudan is a
disaster area for human rights. The right of conscience has been singled out
for special abuse by the Sudanese authorities. Aid agencies report that food
assistance is sometimes distributed only to those willing to undergo
conversion to Islam.
We must turn the eyes of the world upon the atrocities in the Sudan. Today,
I have appointed a special humanitarian coordinator, USAID Administrator
Andrew Natsios. He will provide the leadership necessary to ensure that our
aid goes to the needy, without manipulation by those ravaging that troubled
land. (Applause.) This is the first step. More will follow. Our actions begin
today -- and my administration will continue to speak and act for as long as
the persecution and atrocities in the Sudan last.
I'm pleased to say that many countries in the region show considerable and
improving respect for religious liberty: Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Bahrain
among them. But there are other regimes, not only in North Africa and the
Middle East, whose disrespect for freedom of worship is seriously disturbing.
Iraq murders dissident religious figures. Iran systematically maltreats
Jews, Christians and adherents of the Baha'i faith. The Burmese junta
tortures adherents of Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. Cuba monitors and
harasses independent priests and ministers. Afghanistan's Taliban government
has horrified the world with its disdain for fundamental human freedoms,
epitomized by its destruction of ancient Buddhist works of art. And the newly
independent republics of Central Asia impose troubling limits on religious
expression and missionary work.
We view with special concern the intensifying attacks on religious freedom in
China. In many respects, China has made great strides toward freedom in
recent decades. China's economy has opened. Chinese people enjoy greater
personal mobility, more secure property rights, and enlarged access to
information. These are not small achievements. And they do promise even
But the Chinese government continues to display an unreasonable and unworthy
suspicion of freedom of conscience. The Chinese government restricts
independent religious expression. We hear alarming reports of the detention
of worshippers and religious leaders. Churches, mosques have been vandalized
or demolished. Traditional religious practices in Tibet have long been the
target of especially harsh and unjust persecution. And most recently,
adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement have been singled out for
arrest and abuse.
China aspires to national strength and greatness. But these acts of
persecution are acts of fear -- and, therefore, of weakness. This persecution
is unworthy of all that China has been -- a civilization with a history of
tolerance. And this persecution is unworthy of all that China should become
-- an open society that respects the spiritual dignity of its people.
No one is a better witness to the transience of tyranny than the children of
Abraham. Forty centuries ago, the Jewish people were entrusted with a truth
more enduring than any power of man. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,
"This shall be My covenant with them, said the Lord: My spirit which is upon
you, and the words which I have placed in your mouth, shall not be absent
from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of
your children's children -- said the Lord -- from now, for all time."
It is not an accident that freedom of religion is one of the central freedoms
in our Bill of Rights. It is the first freedom of the human soul -- the right
to speak the words that God places in our mouths. We must stand for that
freedom in our country. We must speak for that freedom in the world. And I
thank the American Jewish Committee for your willingness to do both.
God bless. (Applause.)
END 8:38 p.m. EDT
WHITE HOUSE, GOVERNMENT, TRANSCRIPT
/U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/
©Copyright 2001, U.S. Newswire
Page last updated/revised 050701
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