THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much for that warm welcome. I'm
honored to be here. I want to thank Glenn Plummer for his kind
introduction. I want to thank those who put on the convention for
letting some of my fellow Texans in the hall. (Laughter.) I see
Evans, I see Gramm. It's good to see friendly faces. It's good to
see people with whom I've spent a lot of quality time. Thanks for --
thanks for letting me come.
And I'm honored to be with so many of you
all who have dedicated your lives to sharing the good news.
(Applause.) Before I came in this hall I had the opportunity to have
what they call a roundtable with members of the faith community here
in Nashville, Tennessee; people who are changing Nashville through
their love and compassion and decency.
I met folks from the Campus for Human Development. It's an
extraordinary testament to social entrepreneurship based upon faith.
And I want to thank all the roundtable participants for sharing with
me your stories. I particularly want to thank the four folks who
have recovered from homelessness and addiction to alcohol and drugs,
for your courage to share your story with the President. It's so
inspirational to see your courage, as well as to see the great works
of our Lord in your heart.
I also landed today and met an extraordinary woman from Nashville
named Sherry Jean Williams. She is sitting right over here -- Sherry
Jean, you mind standing up just for a second? Thank you for coming.
(Applause.) You'll hear me talk about the armies of compassion in
America -- she is a soldier in the armies of compassion. Sherry Jean
mentors children whose mom or dad may be in prison. She volunteers
to help grandparents who are raising their children. She is one of
millions of people who are helping people in need.
My call to our fellow Americans is, while one person can't do
everything, one person can do something to make our society a more
compassionate and decent place. And I want to thank you --
(applause) -- I want to thank you, Sherry Jean, for representing all
the decent people, whether they be foster moms or dads -- and by the
way, being a foster parent is an incredibly important part of our
society -- or whether being a mentor, or whether being somebody
volunteering their time for after-school programs to help save
lives, particularly lives of our children.
It's also great to be here in Opryland. It's an unbelievable
complex. (Laughter.) You need a road map to get around here.
(Laughter.) Either that, or a good Secret Service driver.
(Laughter.) But I'm honored to be back, and I appreciate the warm
Opryland has a way of bringing out hidden talents of politicians.
You may recall, in 1974, Richard Nixon came to Opryland and played
the piano and serenaded his wife. In 1998, Ashcroft, the great
Attorney General of the United States, came and sang a duet with Ray
Stevens. (Laughter.) So I was just thinking -- (laughter and
applause.) But that's as far as it got. (Laughter.) I think I'll
leave the talent to my great friend, Michael W. Smith and Sara Paul
It's good to see Michael W. I like a man who's middle name who's
middle name is W. (Laughter.) He and Debbie joined Laura and me at
the White House a couple of nights ago. It was good to be in his
presence. And one of the remarkable things about the evening is
Michael agreed to play the piano for us. He had to sing for his
dinner. Thankfully, he did. (Laughter.) But what a joy.
For more than 80 years, America's religious broadcasters have
been sharing the gospel on the airways. You bring words of truth,
and comfort, and encouragement into millions of homes. Broadcasting
is more than a job for you. It is a great commission. You serve with
all your heart and soul and America is grateful. Each one of you
knows that the power of faith can transform a life. People of faith
and goodness and idealism also have the power to transform our
neighborhoods and our nation. I've set a great goal for America. We
must apply the great compassion of our people to the deepest
problems of this country.
This country is blessed with virtually millions of good-hearted
volunteers who work daily miracles in the lives of their fellow
citizens. And today I ask our religious broadcasters, those who
reach into every corner of America, to rally the armies of
compassion so that we can change America one heart, one soul at a
The American people have deep and diverse religious beliefs,
truly one of the great strengths of our country. And the faith of
our citizens is seeing us through some demanding times. We're being
challenged. We're meeting those challenges because of our faith.
After we were attacked on September the 11th, we carried our
grief to the Lord Almighty in prayer. Last week, our nation lost
seven brave Americans -- brave souls, six Americans and one Israeli
citizen, aboard the space shuttle Columbia. Laura and I went to
Houston. We were so honored to meet the families. There's no
question in my mind they are finding strength and comfort because of
your prayers and because of the Almighty God.
In times of tragedy, faith assures us that death and suffering
are not the final word; that love and hope are eternal. Religious
faith not only comforts, it challenges. Faith teaches that every
person is equal in God's sight, and must be treated with equal
dignity here on earth.
This idea of human dignity forces us to constantly examine our
own country and our own hearts. And this ideal has inspired some of
the great reforms in American history. People of faith led the
struggle against slavery. People of faith fought against child
labor. People of faith worked for women's equality. And people of
faith worked for civil rights.
And in America today, people of faith are doing the work of
compassion. So many good people are serving their neighbors because
they love their God. The spirit of service is vital because the need
in America is great. There are pockets of despair and loneliness and
hopelessness in America. We do not accept as a fact of life that
some Americans must endure permanent poverty or bigotry or childhood
without love and guidance. Our work as Americans is not complete
until we build a single nation of justice and a nation of
Government, of course, must be involved and will be involved. We
just reformed our welfare in America and we've helped a lot of
people. Yet, even as we work to improve the welfare laws, we know
that welfare policy will not solve the deepest problems of the
I first heard an interesting reminder of that fact from Tony
Evans. He doesn't remember, but I do. We were in Greenville, Texas.
He tells a story about the guy who owns the house and there's a
crack running up the wall in the house. So he hires the best painter
he can find, and the guy covers the crack and everything is fine.
Until the crack reappears.
And so he hires another painter and he covers the crack. And Tony
Evans reminded me and the audience, he said, you don't fix the crack
on the wall until you first fix the foundation. (Applause.)
This economy of ours is growing okay; it can be better. As a
matter of fact, we've got plans in place to encourage job growth,
ways to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit of the country,
encourage small business expansion so that people can find work.
Yet, there are some needs that prosperity can never meet.
We've arrested and we convict criminals; yet building more
prisons will not substitute for responsibility and order in our
souls. (Applause.) The role of government is limited, because
government cannot put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose
in people's lives. That happens when someone puts an arm around a
neighbor and says, God loves you, I love you, and you can count on
us both. (Applause.)
And it is that spirit which defines some of the most effective
social programs in America. It is that spirit of love and compassion
which makes healing lives work. Yet, for too long, some in
government thought there was no room for faith-based groups to
provide social services. I have a different point of view. I believe
government should welcome faith-based groups as allies in the great
work of renewing America. (Applause.)
I welcome faith. I welcome faith to help solve the nation's
deepest problems. I understand there's a -- that government must not
and will not endorse a religious creed, or directly fund religious
worship. That's obviously not a role of government, and that's not
what we're talking about here.
But governments can and should support effective social services
provided by religious people, so long as they work and as long as
those services go to anyone in need, regardless of their faith. And
when government gives that support, it is equally important that
faith-based institutions should not be forced to change the
character or compromise their prophetic role. (Applause.)
I think the charities helping the needy, it should not matter if
there is a rabbi on the board, or a cross on the wall, or crescent
on the wall, or religious commitment in the charter. And he'd ask,
does it work? If an earthquake or hurricane damages a Christian, or
Jewish, or Muslim school, that school should not be denied federal
disaster assistance because of it's religious character. (Applause.)
What I'm saying is, the days of discriminating against religious
groups just because they're religious are coming to an end.
(Applause.) Thank you. I have issued an executive order banning
discrimination against faith-based charities and social service
grants by federal agencies. (Applause.) I continue to work with
members of Congress of both political parties to enact faith-based
legislation to encourage more charitable giving, so we're more
likely able to rally the armies of compassion. We created
faith-based offices in key Cabinet departments to ensure that
faith-based groups get equal treatment and fair access to government
I recognize some people around our country asking, what does this
faith-based initiative mean? And is it a threat to my very program?
And so we're holding meetings across the country to help faith-based
groups to understand how they can qualify for government grants
without compromising their mission. We're on an education campaign.
We're reaching out to find the social entrepreneurs who exist all
across this nation.
I went to Congress at my State of the Union and spoke about two
needs I want to share with you today. I have concerns -- I know you
do, as well -- about children whose mom or dad may be in prison.
Imagine what life must be like for those children. Imagine how they
wonder about their future, whether or not this great country holds
out hope for them. I know by calling upon the compassionate hearts
of our fellow citizens we can help save those lives by mentoring
programs, by putting the child in touch with somebody like Sherry
Jean Williams, who realizes somebody does care about them during
these tough and difficult times.
I asked Congress to support a mentoring proposal which will bring
caring adults into the lives of more than a million children,
disadvantaged children, including the children whose mom or dad may
be in prison. There's no question in my mind that if this nation
puts their mind to it, we can surround those little ones with love
and provide a better hope for them.
As well, I am concerned about those who are addicted to drugs,
who fight for their very lives and survival against addiction. I
believe that we can take a approach that focuses on the addict, give
that person a voucher to be redeemed at any program that he or she
chooses. Especially those programs that have got the capacity to
change heart and, therefore, change habit. (Applause.) Congress
needs to hear this call and work with us to facilitate the mentoring
and the healing of those who hurt.
America's religious broadcasters can really play an important
role in this work, and I want to discuss what I think that role can
be, and make a few suggestions today. (Laughter.) Christian media
outlets like yours reach 141 million people every year. That's a
huge audience, and it's a responsibility that I know you take
seriously. This nation has got a lot of wealthy and caring
congregations, and we've got a lot of churches in low-income areas
that need help, too. Your voices reach them all; you can communicate
with them, rich and poor, alike; suburban church and urban church,
alike. And you can help bring them together to serve those who hurt,
so we can achieve a more just and generous society.
It's been said that 11:00 a.m. on Sunday is the most segregated
hour in America. We all have a responsibility to break down the
barriers that divide us. In Scripture, God commands us to reach out
to those who are different, to reconcile with each other, to lay
down our lives in service to others. And He promises that the fruits
of faith and fellowship, service and reconciliation will far surpass
the struggles we go through to achieve them.
Suburban churches are often just a short drive away from brothers
and sisters who are facing great need, and doing God's work. There's
an opportunity here to end artificial divisions and join together in
fellowship and service. There's also an obligation. The poor and
suffering are the responsibility of the whole church, even when
they're not members of any church. (Applause.)
When a suburban church and an urban church become full partners,
great things can happen. Both churches benefit. The Chicago Christ
Church of Oak Brook, and Lawndale Community Church are working
together to serve the sick in Lawndale's health care clinic for the
poor. In Boston, Wellesley Congregational Church and the historic
Charles Street AME Church are creating a new center to boost the
reading and computer skills of Roxbury residents.
Right here on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, in Franklin,
Tennessee, a conversion between an associate pastor of Christ
Community Church and the pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church
began a fellowship that now includes nearly 60 pastors and church
members of all different races and denominations. I know that to be
a fact because I heard them both talk today. (Applause.) Their
churches work together to support a medical clinic for poor
A legal office that gives free advice; a New Hope Academy, a
faith-based school where children from different backgrounds study
together, learn the classics together. The inspiration for the
church told me that her hope was to provide a vision for the
children -- a vision that was positive and optimistic and clear. She
said, it's one thing to teach a child to read, but she wants the
literate child to see a better day.
At first, Pastor Denny Denson of the First Missionary Baptist --
Denny is with us, by the way -- was a little wary about how these
very different churches would work together. And here's what he
says. He says: there's some walls still there -- but they're down
low enough that we can just step over them. (Applause.) And then he
said this, he said: we are committed to each other to the end. And
the Nashville area is better off for it.
In all these partnerships lives are lifted up. We see unity and
racial reconciliation. We see faith renewed by its works.
So today I ask you to challenge your listeners to love somebody
just like they'd like to be loved themselves; to remind them that
one person can make a difference in somebody's life; to encourage
them, to mentor; to encourage them to start a ministry, which will
find the children of those who are incarcerated and love them. I ask
you to challenge your listeners to encourage your congregations to
work together for the good of this nation, to work hard to break
down the barriers that have divided the children of God for too
There is no question that we can rid this nation of hopelessness
and despair, because the greatest of America is the character of the
American people. (Applause.) We are a compassionate country, and we
are generous toward our fellow citizens. And we are a courageous
country, ready when necessary to defend the peace.
And today, the peace is threatened. We face a continuing threat
of terrorist networks that hate the very thought of people being
able to live in freedom. They hate the thought of the fact that in
this great country, we can worship the Almighty God the way we see
fit. (Applause.) And what probably makes him even angrier is we're
not going to change. (Laughter and applause.)
We face an outlaw regime in Iraq that hates our country. A regime
that aids and harbors terrorists and is armed with weapons of mass
murder. Before September the 11th, 2001, there's a lot of good folks
who believe that Saddam Hussein can be contained. Before September
the 11th, 2001, we thought oceans would protect us forever; that if
we saw a gathering threat somewhere else in the world, we could
respond to it if we chose -- so chose to do so. But that all changed
on that fateful day.
Chemical agents, lethal viruses, and shadowy terrorist networks
are not easily contained. Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam
Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or
help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a
threat to the United States of America. He's a threat to some of our
closest friends and allies. We don't accept this threat. (Applause.)
As a matter of fact, the world saw this as a threat 12 years ago.
Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein was told to disarm -- for a reason:
he's a dangerous man. And he hadn't disarmed. We've tried economic
sanctions; he hasn't changed. Over the years, we've tried limited
strikes against military facilities. It didn't work. We've offered
Iraq the path of voluntary disarmament and inspections. The Iraqi
regime is rejecting it.
Saddam Hussein has broken every promise to disarm. He has shown
complete contempt for the international community. Last fall the
international community spoke, with united voice. It said: this is
your last chance, Mr. Saddam Hussein, to do what you said you would
do, which is, in the name of peace, disarm; destroy your weapons of
mass destruction. The role of the inspectors is not to play
hide-and-seek, in a country the size of California, with 104 people.
The role of inspectors is to verify whether or not Mr. Saddam
Hussein is keeping his word; whether or not he's showing up with his
weapons and destroying them. The weapons, by the way, he says he
My attitude is that we owe it to future generations of Americans
and citizens in freedom-loving countries to see to it that Mr.
Saddam Hussein is disarmed. (Applause.) It's his choice to make as
to how he will be disarmed. He can either do so -- which it doesn't
look like he's going to -- for the sake of peace, we will lead a
coalition of willing countries and disarm Saddam Hussein.
If war is forced upon us -- and I say "forced upon us," because
use of the military is not my first choice. I hug the mothers and
the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of
peace and freedom. I take my responsibilities incredibly seriously
about the commitment of troops. But should we need to use troops,
for the sake of future generations of Americans, American troops
will act in the honorable traditions of our military and in the
highest moral traditions of our country.
We will try in every way we can to spare innocent life. The
people of Iraq are not our enemies. (Applause.)
The true enemy of the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein, has a
different strategy. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, Saddam
Hussein is positioning his military forces within civilian
populations in order to shield his military and blame coalition
forces for civilian casualties that he has caused. Saddam Hussein
regards the Iraqi people as human shields, entirely expendable when
their suffering serves his purposes.
America views the Iraqi people as human beings who have suffered
long enough under this tyrant. (Applause.) And the Iraqi people can
be certain of this: the United States is committed to helping them
build a better future. If conflict occurs, we'll bring Iraq food and
medicine and supplies and, most importantly, freedom. (Applause.)
As I said in my State of the Union, liberty is not America's gift
to the world. Liberty is God's gift to every human being in the
world. (Applause.) America has great challenges; challenges at home
and challenges abroad. We're called to extend the promise of this
country into the lives of every citizen who lives here. We're called
to defend our nation and to lead the world to peace, and we will
meet both challenges with courage and with confidence. (Applause.)
There's an old saying, "Let us not pray for tasks equal to our
strength. Let us pray for strength equal to our tasks." (Applause.)
And that is our prayer today, for the strength in every task we
I want to thank each of you for your prayers. I want to thank you
for your faithfulness. I want to thank you for your good work. And I
want to thank you for loving your country.
May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.)