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Transcript: Bush's Remarks to Unity

FDCH E-Media Inc.
Friday, August 6, 2004; 11:36 AM

Following is the text of President Bush's remarks to Unity, a consortium of four minority journalism associations, including a question and answer session with a panel of four journalists that followed:

BUSH: Thank you, Ernest.

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(APPLAUSE)

Thank you for having me. I appreciate the invitation.

Ernest tells me that there is nearly 10,000 members of your organization. I congratulate you for reaching out and including a lot of people. You represent a very important profession. It's one that I'm quite familiar with.

(LAUGHTER)

I appreciate the chance to deal with my press corps on a regular basis. It's a mutual beneficial society, see. I need them to get the message out, and they need me to be a messenger.

And we're working hard to make sure that our relationship is cordial and professional, and that's how I feel about coming here too, to establish a cordial and professional relationship with people who help spread the news.

You believe there ought to be diversity in the newsroom. I understand that. You believe there ought to be diversity on the editorial pages of America. I agree. You believe there ought to be diversity behind a managing editor's desk. I agree with that, too.

I also believe there ought to be diversity in the political parties in America, and that's why I'm going to work hard to tell people my message, to tell people what I believe.

And I believe that government should stand side by side with people and help them gain the tools necessary to realize the American dream; not just some people, but everybody.

I believe those of us who have been given the high honor of representing the people must work to reform parts of government that are stagnant and don't stand side by side with people to give them the tools necessary to perform.

BUSH: I believe it's more important to be a doer than a talker. I believe it's important to say to people, "Judge me by my results."

And so today I want to talk about some of the results of this administration, and then I look forward to answering some of your questions.

First, I want to thank the board of directors of this august organization. Thank you for having me. Thank you for greeting me behind stage.

I want to thank the sponsor for providing the opportunity for people from all around the globe to come here, all around our country to come here to talk about important issues.

I think, one -- you know, look, you can't read a newspaper if you can't read. And so one of the most important initiatives of this administration was to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. You know what I mean by that. If you lower the bar, guess what happens? You get lousy results.

And that's the way it was in American public schools three and a half years ago. That's why you had kids just shuffled from grade to grade, year to year, without learning the basics of education. That's the way it was.

Because there was no accountability. See, we weren't measuring. If you believe that every child can learn to read and write and add and subtract, which I believe, then you must be willing to measure to determine whether or not the children are learning to read and write and add and subtract.

Now, here in this capital, there's a lot of focus on funding, with very little focus on results. We increased funding for K through 12 by 49 percent since 2001. We increased funding for Title I by 52 percent since 2001.

But now, in return for increased funding, we're saying to local districts, "Show us whether or not a child can read -- early, before it's too late." We're measuring.

And when there are schools that aren't teaching, there's extra help to make sure the children learn early before it's too late.

BUSH: We've raised the bar. We believe in local control of schools, and we're insisting on accountability.

And you know what? It's beginning to work.

There is a reading gap in America. We can play like there's not a reading gap in America, but there is. Too many of our African- American kids cannot read at grade level by the 3rd and 4th grade, and that's not right for America.

Too many Latino youngsters can't read. And one of the reasons why is because it's so easy to quit on a classroom full of inner-city kids and kids whose parents maybe can't speak English as a first language. It's easy to walk in and say, "These kids are too hard to educate, let's just move them through." We've stopped the practice in America. And the schools are better off for it.

I'll tell you one other thing that we've done, which I think is important, is we've started the process of giving parents more choice in schools. If your public school fails after a period of time, you ought to be allowed to move your child to another school. Why should a parent have their child trapped in a school that won't change? That doesn't make any sense to me.

Here in the District of Columbia, we've given $7,500 scholarships to the parents of low-income children so that they can move their kid from school to school, to another school if the public school is failing. I appreciate working with the mayor of this city.

See, my attitude is, if school choice is good enough for the middle class and the upper class, it ought to be good enough for low- income Americans. And this is going to make a difference in Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, we're making a difference here in the public schools of America. In a recent study of 61 urban school districts, 73 percent of African-American 4th-graders narrowed the achievement gap with white students in reading.

You know how you know that? Because you measured. Because we say, show us whether or not a child can read. And if not, let's correct problems early before it's too late.

We're making progress in this country. About 60 percent of Hispanic 4th-graders narrowed the achievement gap. So long as there's an achievement gap, we've got more work to do. But we're making substantial progress toward achieving what we want to do, and that is every child reading at grade-level by the 3rd grade and remaining at grade level throughout their entire public school career.

There's more to do.

BUSH: We've got to make sure higher education is available for everybody. We've increased the number of students receiving Pell grants by a million since I've been president.

We've got historic levels of funding for our black colleges.

I told the Native Americans, you will see that their school systems were modernized. We spent $1.1 billion on Indian school construction repair since 2001, more than doubled spending in the previous four years.

I told people we'd focus on schools, and we are. And we're making progress in America.

You know, when I came into office, we had a problem with our economy; it was in a recession. In order to make sure this country is hopeful and people have a better chance to realize their dreams, we need economic growth.

That's why I cut the taxes on everybody. I didn't cut them; the Congress cut them. I asked them to cut them. It was to stimulate the economy. It was to help people have more money in their pocket, so they would demand additional goods or services.

And the economic growth is strong, and it's getting stronger. And that's good for everybody in America.

I want you to remember the tax relief and how it worked. We didn't play favorites in the tax code. We said, "If you're paying taxes, you ought to get relief." It seems to make a fair way, to me, to make policy: "If you're paying taxes, you're going to have tax relief. The government ought not to play favorites." So everybody who paid taxes got relief.

We paid special attention to parents with children. We raised the child credit.

We provided relief for the marriage penalty. It's an unusual tax code that penalizes marriage. It seems like we ought to be trying to encourage marriage in America, not penalize it.

A lot of our tax relief was aimed at small businesses. Most new jobs in America are created by small businesses. Most small businesses pay tax at the individual income tax level. That's just a fact.

By far, the majority of small businesses in America are what they call sole proprietorships, or Sub-chapter S corporations.

Since most new jobs in America are created by small businesses, it made sense to provide relief for small-business owners. And so, when you cut the taxes on individuals, you're cutting taxes on by far the vast majority of small businesses in America. And that's good for the economy.

It's also good to encourage an ownership society. I came to Washington aiming to help people own something. I want there to be more owners in America.

The role of government is not to create wealth, but an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish. At least that's my philosophy. And as a result of tax relief and a good economic environment, there are more small minority business owners today than ever before.

More and more people are realizing their dreams by owning their own business, and that's healthy for this country. It's important for this country.

There is more work to do. You've heard me talk about tort reform. Tort reform is necessary to make sure the business environment is such that people have the confidence necessary to start their own business.

Good trade policy will help small businesses. We regulate a lot here in Washington, D.C. I can't promise you whether or not any regulator has ever read the reports that we ask small-business owners to file in Washington. I suspect they haven't.

BUSH: But reasonable regulatory policy will help small-business owners.

Small-business owners must be able to afford health care. That's why I strongly urge the Congress to pass association health plans, which will allow small businesses to pool risk across jurisdictional boundaries, so they can get the same purchasing power that big businesses have.

I have got a plan that will help our small businesses thrive in America. When you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of this country.

Judge me on homeownership in America. I believe it's -- I can't tell you how exciting it is to know more people in America can now say, "Welcome to my home. I'm glad you're here to visit me in my home." To me, those are hopeful words for our country.

I set a goal, two summers ago, to have 5.5 million new homeowners by the end of the decade -- minority homeowners by the end of the decade. We're meeting that goal. 1.6 million new minority homeowners in the last two years.

You know, they talk a good game up here sometimes in Washington. We're delivering. More minority families own their home today than ever before in the history of the United States of America. And that's a positive development for this country.

(APPLAUSE)

A lot of it has to do with low interest rates. A lot of it has to do with good tax policy. A lot of it has to do with downpayment assistance, counseling out of Housing and Urban Development.

Listen, if you're a first-time homeowner and you take a look at the contracts, that fineprint looks a little small. People get a little nervous. And so, we're providing counseling to help people understand what it means to be a first-time homebuyer. And it's paying off.

Medicare -- there's been a lot of talk about Medicare here in Washington, D.C. You might remember that issue. Every single political campaign, people said, "I'm going to help our seniors. I'll help our seniors." Nothing got done. We got it done.

We reformed a very important part of our health-care system by enabling seniors to have choices of their own and providing prescription-drug coverage for seniors for the first time in Medicare.

They talk a lot up here. I want the people of this country to remember who actually has got the work done.

Now, let me tell you about the Medicare bill, the reform bill. Started off first by the distribution of drug discount cards, which provide real savings for our seniors. Over 4 million seniors have signed up so far. Low-income seniors get a $600 credit, as well as the discount on their card.

Next year, for the first time, there will be preventative screenings provided for in Medicare. Medicare has never done that before. I mean, it makes sense, doesn't it, to say in Medicare, "We want to diagnose problems early before they become acute, in order to save taxpayers money and, more importantly, in order to save lives."

In 2006, there will be a prescription-drug coverage available in Medicare for seniors, with low-income seniors getting substantial help in the payment of -- help in their prescription drugs.

In other words, the system is better.

Imagine a system where the government would pay a $100,000 hospital stay for heart surgery but wouldn't pay the medicines necessary to prevent the heart surgery from happening in the first place. We're changing that, for the good of our seniors.


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