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President Bush delivers remarks to Cabinet and Sub-Cabinet Members in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 16, 2002.  White House photo by Paul Morse.
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Messages From The President

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February 13, 2002
President Sets Goals And Expectations For His Appointees

ANNOUNCER: As he began the second year of his administration, President Bush took time out to speak to his management team - the cabinet and sub-cabinet appointees. He talked about what has already been accomplished - and his goals and expectations for the future. Following the President: remarks by Vice President Cheney, Secretaries Powell and Martinez, and Governor Whitman. First, President Bush.


Thank you all very much, I'm... first of all thank you Mr. Secretary for hosting this event in this beautiful room, I'm glad that got it cleaned up for us. I have been asked to talk a little bit about I guess the vision thing.

(Unint.) approach this, I learned the President must assemble the very best team of people in order to be a good president. And that's exactly what I've done. I have learned that it is impossible... that it's impossible to do this job without incredibly bright, dedicated citizens who love their country more then themselves, willing to serve by my side.

And that's what's happened. And so I want to start off by thanking you all for your service to your country. And (unint.) for being here, I've assembled a fabulous cabinet,people who aren't afraid to make decisions and people who understand that when a decision is made, they say, yes sir.

One of the important things about having a good team is not only that the people need to be competent and strong, but the environ... there needs to be an environment in which people are willing to express their mind, willing to discuss issues in an open and candid way, that there can't be any kind of ridicule or... cynicism for somebody else's point of view.

One of the most important things about a process of (unint.) decision making is that the decision makers get the best information possible. Another important part of this job is to think as big as you can think. We didn't all come to Washington to set a little agenda.

We came to Washington to set big goals, goals that will leave a indelible mark on the country after we leave. I don't know about you, but I plan on leaving, I changed my address, I didn't change my home. I want to talk to you real quickly about one such goal that landed on our desk, it's a goal we didn't chose but it's one that we're going to pursue with incredible vigor and strength and that is the goal to eliminate terror.

And our team has performed brilliantly. But one of the things that has been so important about the decision making process in the war against terror is first we all understand the goal. The goal isn't going after Osama Bin Laden, that's part of the goal. And by the way, I like our chances better than his.

The goal is to rout out terror wherever it may hide or exist in order to defend freedom. I can't think of any more profound goal for an administration to pursue when we're successful as we will be, I can't tell you how long it's going to take, but when we're successful we will have left behind a legacy of freedom.

After all that's the whole notion the country was founded on. And one reason we're doing so well is that the administration has a war counsel of people involved in setting the strategy have had freedom to express their opinions, say exactly what's on their mind and it brought vast amounts of experience to the table.

And it felt comfortable about lending their voice and their experience to the process. I don't know if you remember when we first got going, there was a little bit of criticism about me dragging out some old hands... [laughter] Sorry, Mr. Secretary. [APPLAUSE]

I don't hear them saying that anymore. I am pleased with the way things have gone, there have been disagreements, as there should be. I mean if we all agreed 100 percent of the time, some of us wouldn't be necessary.

And so we've had good disagreements but the amazing thing about this administration and it's something I expect from everybody who works here, that you keep your disagreements private.

And when a decision has been made we act together in concert as a team and that's what's happened: we set a big goal, we set clear objectives in the first theater of war against terror and we executed the plan. We executed the plan as a team should and that's the way administrations should work.

And this is what ought to happen on all agenda items that we put forth. That I expect there to be good debate, but I don't particularly like reading about the debate in the newspapers. I know that's inevitable because people want to have their name, want to feel like they're making progress for their own personal agenda, but there are no personal agendas, that's the problem.

You see we represent the country, we don't represent you, we represent something much bigger than all of us and that's the exciting thing about being here. And we're making some good progress, I'm really proud of what we've done in a relatively quickly period of time. In a year's time we've booted out the Taliban and we've got Al Queada on the run. We're implementing a national strategy for homeland security. We've cut taxes which is a major accomplishment and thank goodness we did when we did because it's going to help our economy recover so people can find work. We reformed the education system, that is a significant reform by the way, it was not... it was a large project, the goals were (unint.).

Because what we have done is for the first time the federal policy have said that each child matters and we refuse to accept an education system that quits on any child. That we recognize some kids just get moved through the system, particularly those who are so-called hard to educate.

But we're changing the whole attitude, the whole mindset of public education for the better. And so I'm proud of the progress we've made. I just wanted to assure you though, there is more to do, a lot more and each of you have got responsibility to help us get it done.

And I could go right down the department heads here each year and think of big important goals and I look at Tommy Thompson and I'm thinking about reforming Medicare so seniors actually have got a modern system that provides prescription drugs or agriculture so that we've got an agricultural system where we can trade the world.

There are all kinds of important goals that your department heads or your cabinet secretaries are... are setting for you that we've all got to work together to achieve. I... I also think it's important that as we implement our goals, it is vital that members of this administration be willing to challenge the status quo.

Now in order to be effective to challenge the status quo you've got to recognize what works and accept what works and encourage what works. If you find something not working, blow the whistle on it. Demand something different, you cannot achieve long lasting reform or big goals in our government if you're just there to accept what's not working.

It just doesn't make any sense to come to Washington DC, try to do something magnificent for our country in a variety of ways and accept something that's failed. I hope you don't do that, I don't want you to do that. As a matter of fact I want you to take the opposite perspective.

Recognize what works, herald what works, revel in those who made it work and then say if something doesn't work, challenge it in an aggressive and respectful way. There is a lot of process that happens in government. For those of you who are new to government I'm sure you've seen that. This can be a process-oriented world if we're not careful.

So one of the things we've gotta do is to focus on results. Finally, in order to make good decisions we've gotta make decisions based upon principle. I am pleased to report to you that no one has walked in Oval Office in a year's time and said Mr. President, we have run a focus group and the focus group says these ten people think you ought not to go after the Taliban or these ten people think that so-and-so.

I'm proud to report that we don't run polls in the Bush administration to figure out where we're headed. (Applause) Mayor Michael Curly of Boston said, "there goes my constituency. I must follow them for I am their leader." He's not a part of our administration. (Laughter) Our philosophy is here's what we believe. Here's the principles and reasons we believe them. We're gonna lead.

I was with President Mushara today. I don't know if you remember the beginning of the war against terror when there were thousands of people demonstrating in the streets of Pakistan and the Washington press and all the people saying well you know the Bush administration has put us a position where Pakistan will fall apart.

All of a sudden the President made the right decision thanks in large part to our Secretary of State's insistence that he make the right decision. But when he made the right decision and began to lead you don't see riots in the streets. People love leadership, and that's what this administration is going to provide.

Not only that. When it comes to results, my man Mitch, Mitch the Blade Daniels (Laughter) has developed a management report card. The good news everybody is starting at the bottom in the administration. You can only go up. I want to assure you that I take it seriously. So on a periodic basis I'll call my man Mitch in and say Mitch, how are these departments doing?

He's gonna give me a report and I'm gonna watch to see whether progress can be made toward goals. So we're gonna lead, we're gonna achieve results and we're gonna do one other thing. We're gonna make Americans proud of what they see. There's only one standard in this government, and that's the highest possible ethical standards. There are no corners to be cut. There are no excuses to be made when it comes to setting an example for our fellow Americans.

We have the chance to change America for the better. We have a chance to restore confidence to government. You wouldn't be sitting here if I didn't have your confidence, if I didn't believe that you're gonna do exactly what I know you can do and will do.

So I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come by and visit with you. Oh, by the way, one final thing. Remember who your boss is. It's not me. It's the people. When we spend taxpayers' money it isn't your money. It's somebody else's money. The way our tax system is it's generally some poor old guy out there working his heart out trying to get ahead.

Your boss is not the President, because my boss is the people. We're fortunate enough to be able to represent the people of the greatest country on the face of the earth. Now I want to introduce a fabulous Vice President. I want to say something to you that's gonna be hard for me to--be hard for--well maybe some in my family (unint.), but it's the best Vice President ever. (Applause)

We were talking about the Vice Presidency. I said you know if times are good you're probably not gonna be needed much. But if we ever have a problem you're gonna have a huge role to play. If we ever have something like a recession or an emergency or a war I'm gonna count on you. Thank God he's the Vice President. (Applause)


Thank you very much Mr. President. We especially appreciate those kind words. I won't tell (unint.). In a meeting like this my thoughts go back to when I first came to work in the White House some thirty-three years ago this spring. I went to work there as a young assistant for one Don Rumsfeld. Now more than three decades later I'm still cleaning up after Don Rumsfeld. (Laughter)

Along the way I've learned a few things about the Executive Branch and about Presidential leadership. When we speak about the modern presidency we're talking about an enormously complex institution. No matter new agencies or delegations of power or position that are created at the center there's still only one person, one man who put his name on the ballot, who was tested in the national political arena, who took the oath of office, recruited all of the rest of us and who wields the ultimate authority.

The Constitution places the entire, this entire branch of government in his charge. Each one of from the Vice President, cabinet secretaries on down the line, we're all here for one reason and that's to help him execute the office he holds in serving the American people.

That's the only measure of our success as members of the team. As in any enterprise the man at the top can set the tone. I saw this a quarter of a century ago when I worked for President Ford and watched him raise the bar of conduct throughout the entire government. I've seen it most recently in the standards set by the President from the day we began the transition exactly fourteen months ago.

I observed at that time that after one of the most chaotic elections in American history it was the smoothest transition I'd ever been involved in. From that day to this there has been a clear sense of direction and maturity and discipline, the willingness to cooperate and an ethic of civility.

I've watched over the years administrations that I've served in and others and virtually every one of them when faced with that first major national crisis that involved national security questions, troops, issues of war and peace, virtually all of them stumbled the first time out. That didn't happen this time.

I know this president from having watched him operate in Texas as governor, before that as a business executive. When he is in charge the entire operation focuses on results. That's one of the reasons I accepted his invitation to return to public life, and I'm sure the same is true for virtually everyone in the room.

Mr. President, we all feel ourselves to be part of a team with a leader who brings out the team behind it.

Above all Mr. President, I want to thank you. This has been a year of real accomplishment, of commitments carried through, setting us in resolve in the face of new and terrible challenges. The entire country is grateful for the strength and clarity and character and purpose that you bring to the Presidency.

For my part I've enjoyed the association enormously of you and your entire team. I know its too early to think about future elections, but should you find yourself once again in need of a running mate I'd be delighted to run the search for you. (Applause)


Mr. President, Vice President and my colleagues it's a great pleasure to welcome you here to the State Department this afternoon and into the diplomatic rooms of the State Department. Many of you have shared (unint.) before. For those of you who have not I hope you will linger for a moment not only here in the Ben Franklin room but the Jefferson room behind this room and all the other rooms on this floor which are named after founding fathers (coughing), lawyers, secretaries of state.

I have been asked along with Mel Martinez and Christy Todd Whitman to give a brief homily on subjects that were assigned to us. I was assigned two subjects. I don't know who came up with the subject but I suspect it might have been either Andy Card or Clay Johnson. But I got government of the people, by the people, for the people.

I also was asked to talk about the relationship between political appointees and career officials in the departments. Ronald Reagan always used to say the way you say that, that powerful last line of Gettysburg Address is "guvment" of the people, by the people, for the people. With the emphasis always, as the President noted a moment ago, on the PEOPLE of government, PEOPLE.

Comes from one of the more powerful addresses ever uttered in the English language, the Gettysburg Address. The first two sentences, two lines of that address we all know so well. "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal".

Lincoln when he wrote this in 1863 reached back four score and seven years ago to the Declaration of Independence. It's a historical oddity that by 1863 people spent more time talking and thinking about the Constitution than the Declaration of Independence because the Declaration of Independence had no force of law.

It was an indictment against King George. So they (unint.) the Constitution. But then Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address brought this great vision from the Declaration of Independence right back to the forefront of American consciousness when he went back to four score and seven years ago our fathers and then he said all men are created equal.

Of course he was taking that from the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence. Nobody ever reads the bill of particulars against King George but we all know the depth of our heart, those four lines that give vision to this nation and inspire us for so many years, inspire the world. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and that they are created with certain unalienable rights. Among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

There's a desk out in the Adams room that is supposed to be the desk that Jefferson wrote some of these words on. I hope in the course of the afternoon you might want to just stop and take a look at it. That's the sentence that everybody knows so well. But there's a sentence that comes right after that I've reflected on many times over the years.

It says that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, derived under just powers from the consent of government. The word that really struck me was to secure these rights governments have instituted-- not to give these rights, not to protect them, not to defend them--to secure them. Governments doesn't give rights. What is it saying? No. Gave these rights to men and to women- -life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The whole purpose is government. The only reason that government--the only reason that government is instituted allowing men and now women is to secure these rights. Meaning if they don't exist that they don't exist for a particular group of people government has the responsibility to go get them and give them to these people because God endowed them with these rights.

Jefferson wrote these words at the time he was slave holder. He knew it was an vision to see in his lifetime. Some say it was hypocritical to include vision down, but it was a vision for all time. As we think about Lincoln, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and all the other founders that are represented in these rooms just remember that all men are created equal by their God. Their given rights by their God.

Our responsibility as a government instituted by free men and women is to remember that resolve and issues and to secure these rights and to secure them for the richest and the most powerful and more importantly to secure them for the poor, those who are wanting, for those who have (unint.) from the blessings of this beautiful land of ours.

The President in his State of the Union Address not too long ago had me word the section at the end that did not get enough attention where he talked about values, where he talked about values that we believe in because we knocked those values out of the (unint.). But he talked about them as universal values that apply to us, that apply to everybody in the world all because God created (unint.).

As we go forward and as we try to have government of the people, by the people and for the people strike through hapless world, remember the source of this vision. Remember the source of this inspiration and remember that it is so easy to connect.

Jefferson said in the Gettysburg setting--the president said the other night--to this great value system rights given to us by God and we are privileged to be part of government that is determined, committed as far as our vision to secure these rights not only for our fellow citizens of America but for our fellow citizens throughout the world.

When I first arrived in the department last year received a series of briefings as I know all of you did in your various departments. I came here for my first political appointment having been in career civil service so to speak for thirty-five years.

So I (unint.) and now I was a political appointee. I learned in my military career that you have to make the best use of all the human talent that is entrusted to you (cough) (unint.) by the American people. One of the first briefings I had was with the Africa bureau. Assistant Secretary of State, Susan Rice, President Clinton's appointment was there.

I invited the outgoing political appointees to bring in the whole team, career and non-career to brief me. I wanted to hear things they were doing, why they did them and what they were doing. Then bring our own vision and perspective to it.

Susan was very gracious. She sat with the large group that came to all of them. It wasn't just State. They were there from CIA and Congress. They figured they'd better get in this room while the getting was good. So all of them packed the room and Susan at one point, in a gracious comment, she said when your team takes over--and I interrupted her and said Susan, this is my team.

Meaning you're leaving and that's the way it is in a Democratic system. The people have made a different selection. A new vision is coming in. A new political ideology is coming in. A new way of doing business is coming in. But these people that you leave behind, these careerists, are not getting shut off, left outside. They are now part of our team.

My experience with our careerists and my own experience as a careerist says to me that they want to do the best job they can for the American people. That's why they're in the Civil Service or the Foreign Service or all the other components represented here.

Just remember as we go forward, as we give them direction, as we take the President's vision and apply it to all of our departments and agencies and bureaucracies, touch them. Let that vision become their vision. Let them know that you trust them. Let them know that they are now part of our great team, the great team with a vision for a better America. A great team with a vision for a better world. A great team with a great leader we are all so proud to serve. Thank you. (Applause)


Good afternoon. It's mine now to have an opportunity to address you. I guess at the very outset I should say that I'm not one of the old hands. Many of you might have been saying Martinez who? So I'm immensely grateful to the President and the Vice President for giving me this incredible opportunity to serve the people of the United States of America.

I guess really that rooky sort of factor came, why I'm being asked to speak to the subject of ethics and ethical behavior in government. When we were having my little job interview with the President and the Vice President the President said to me you know Mel the first indictment of this administration is probably gonna come out of HUD.

Well I took a deep breath and thought about it and decided that yes, I did want the job. But you know having been a practicing lawyer for many years of my life I did have a good sense of what ethical behavior might be about. I thought that that was a huge part of my assignment was to make sure that I didn't let the President down and I didn't let the country down. That I didn't let the administration down. The first thing I did as all of you have done and we've been so blessed that people have been willing to serve was to surround ourselves with some people that are ethically rooted and were gonna help me carry out that mission. Deputy Secretary Lafonda (ph.) Jackson and then the general counsel, Dick (unint.), who came in with an attitude we're gonna be proactive about the issue of ethics.

We weren't gonna wait to find out if there was a problem and then deal with it and try to clean up after it. But we were really going to be aggressive and proactive in this issue of ethics knowing that we were an agency that might have been ethically challenged. So we did some of the same things that I know many of you have done.

I know many of you have decided that the confidence we've been given is such that we must insure that we never breech that trust and that confidence. So we have to do the things that it takes to improve the united partners, quality of life of American families.

One of the things that kind of struck me due to the assignment that we have at HUD is that when people might do something--you know HUD's an agency with a thirty billion dollar budget which about half flows through us to others to utilize our money, to do things for the people of this country.

So it quickly dawned on me that those who might cheat the federal government and do wrong things for the money that floats through HUD are not really cheating some impersonal being. They're really cheating that single mother with a couple of kids that's trying to make a go of life and lives in public housing.

So they're really impacting the lives of American people, and those are sometimes the most vulnerable in our society. So as the President said we serve people. They're our bosses. He's often said too in the sense of cutting taxes that it's the people's money. So as we spend that money and as we oversee that's it's gonna deal with our money, it is the people's money. So we have to be ever so careful and ever so focused on insuring that that is not breached. The President is focus on ethics and moral leadership and again in the same way when we lead our departments we have to base that on values, in a values way of doing things and a values way of doing business and essentially bring our values to the job that we have to do.

Those are the core values that we bring and those are the ones that define us. That's exactly what we try to do at HUD and I know many of you have tried to do where you work. Technical compliance we decided wasn't good enough. We would try to determine where the line was of ethical behavior and then we would move well back of it because in my mind the appearance of impropriety is just as much as an impropriety itself.

The opportunity to embarrass the administration is not like going up to the line of what might be legal and what might be ethical. But it might be avoiding even the appearance of an impropriety. Because at the end of it it's about people having confidence in their government.

If they're gonna have confidence in what we do and what we're doing in this age of so much cynicism the facts of (unint.) self-confidence in the way we do our work and we much avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

So some other things that we've specifically done at HUD is that we've taken this message to all our employees. We've conducted some seminars with our senior staff so that they can be briefed on our corporate commitment to change the culture of the department that oftentimes was the butt of jokes in this city and to not ever accept that kind of performance as the kind of performance we would be judged by.

So I spoke to our employees on the subject of ethics. We had a conversation. It made a profound impact because it showed that this was really a commitment. This wasn't just a conversation and that I was putting our administration on the line and was committed to ethics. Drawing on what Secretary Powell said we took in our career people and the response was outstanding from these very energetic career people who now have a fresh and renewed understanding of the central purpose of our mission.

We obviously know that as we go along the way there'll always be an opportunity for slips, an opportunity for problems. But if we keep in mind that it is a values-based ethics that we are seeking I don't know if we will ever fail.

At the end of the day I know the President (unint.) are not just to occupy an office. We know that great leaders are not defined by their government. Great leaders are grounded in public service and through their ethics define the government itself.

I believe that government built on the shoulders of leaders like we serve in this President and Vice President that it's the kind of government that can leave a legacy behind. You know I'm the first Cuban-American to have the opportunity to serve in the cabinet of the President.

That's an honor that I take with great pride. But it carries with it a great burden as well because when I hear a young Cuban-American boy tell me that they look up to me and they think that I am someone that they want to aspire to be like one day it makes me realize that the way we will be defined and the way that we will be judged is by whether or not the next generation of Americans, in my case hopefully some Cuban-Americans or Hispanic-Americans, are motivated to want to serve our government and want to lead our government at the end of the generation.

Mr. President, along with your leadership we'll be up to that task and we'll get it done. Thank you. (Applause)


I was asked to take a few minutes to talk a little bit about what this great concept of teamwork means. The President often says that not all wisdom resides in Washington. I suspect that when he looks around the room that he has some doubts.

Every single person here is very bright, very dedicated. Many of you come from positions of great authority and responsibility in the past. It's very easy, and we all do get very focused on our issues because we're here. Because we care about serving the people. It's very easy to get so invested that we sometimes forget that it's not about us.

It's about those issues. That as much as we care about something that when a decision has been made to move forward on an issue by those who have been elected to make those decisions that we need to get behind that 100% because it's about the issues and not about us.

That no decision when it is made is--reflects on a person. When we look at issues, when we decide where we think we ought to go, when we make the pitch to whomever it is that we make it to, the next up the line, and then that decision is made and it may not be exactly the way we want it, we need to understand it wasn't about us.

It's not a personal reflection that we didn't do our job right. It's that there are other considerations that have driven the decision. We need to be respectful of the fact that the people with whom we work are just as dedicated, just as bright and just as committed as we are, and they may know something we don't.

That's not always easy. It's not always easy when you have people who really do know their subject areas. But it's a very important fact to keep in mind because this administration has made it so clear that we serve the people.

This is an administration as you've heard the President say with principle and an administration that is committed to delivering on promises. That's another challenge that we have before us because how do we know that we've delivered on the promises unless we set ourselves some very measurable goals?

I know in our agency the President wants to see our air cleaner, our water purer and our land better protected when we leave than it was when we took office. I often look around at all the process that's going on and wonder how do we know what the progress is? So we're in the process of putting together now a report card on the environment.

The challenge is gonna be we can set that in our goals, but the challenge is gonna be recognizing that we're not always gonna get there when we want to get there. It's gonna take us some time. We're going to find some ideas that we had that don't work the way we thought they were gonna work.

We're gonna find some times when we're frustrated and we can't always get there. But there's nothing wrong with that. The real strength of this administration, this President and this Vice President, is that they understand that are not afraid to set those challenges out there realizing that they may have to look at the people in the eye and say no, we didn't get there.

We're not quite there yet. But you know what? That tells us we need to do a better job here. We're already succeeding there. We're gonna focus on another goal. We're gonna focus on another target to get us to where we need to be. That takes an enormous amount of courage for a political figure let me tell you.

When you answer to the electorate and you're willing to stand up to them and say this is where I think we ought to go, this is how I think we ought to get there, and when you don't make it all in the timeframe that you wanted to stand up and say, look we're still working on it and it's okay. It's okay to keep those challenges out there and to be willing to report to the public because that's our obligation.

The only two people here that were elected are the President and Vice President. The rest of us have been given an extraordinary opportunity to serve in what I believe is an exceptional administration. We are part of a team, and that means it is greater than the sum of its parts.

It's greater than each and every one of us individually no matter how much we know and how much background we bring to the issues that we face and the challenges in front of us. We can only serve this President and Vice President, well we can only serve this country and the people of this country well if we remember that it's about the issues, if we remember that it's about being honest with people.

It's about setting goals so we know where we're going and we know when we're getting there. It's about being willing to admit if you don't succeed right away and re-dedicate yourself to those principles because they are ones that are going to last throughout time. It's not about us.

It's about the issues. It's about the people that we serve and it's about this extraordinary country, the United States of America. I thank the President for having asked me to be part of this team. Thank you. (Applause)


I hope you all have found this to be an instructive and complimentary. I'm really glad I came over. In fact my cabinet secretaries will be doing a great job. I want to thank you all for your service to the country. May God bless you all. (Applause)
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