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Bush Calls for 'Heartland' Security

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2002 – "Homeland security in the heartland is just as important as homeland security in the big cities," President Bush said March 27 in Greenville, S.C.

Speaking to local police, firefighters and other first responders, Bush said, "A volunteer firefighter in Fort Mills, S.C., put it this way: 'We may not be a big department like New York City, but we have the same goal, to help our neighbors in time of trouble.'"

The president said his most important job is "preventing terrorists from hitting America again and taking innocent lives." His fiscal 2003 budget request reflects this priority.

It includes $3.5 billion to make first responders' jobs easier, he said. It includes $327 million "right off the bat" to provide critical training and equipment to first responders this year, he added.

"We've got to strengthen security in small-town America by helping smaller communities and smaller counties develop what we call 'mutual aid agreements,'" he said. "And in the budget that I've submitted to Congress, there's $140 million to do just that."

One town may have a good hospital, another may be able to lend fire trucks, a third may have hazardous material experts, he said. "We've got to develop these mutual pacts so that we can coordinate efforts (and) pool resources."

The best homeland defense, Bush stressed, however, is to find the enemy where they hide and bring them to justice. He thanked the U.S. military for taking on that mission.

"I'm proud of our military," the president said. "And for those of you who've got a relative in the military, I want you to thank them on behalf of a grateful nation." But giving thanks is not enough, he added.

"We've got to make sure that they've got the best training, the best equipment, the best pay possible," Bush said. That, he continued, is why the budget request includes the largest increase in military spending in two decades.

"We don't seek revenge, we seek justice. But it's more than justice," he said. "This nation will defend freedom. We defend the freedom to worship. We defend the freedom to speak. We defend the freedom of all Americans, regardless of their background, to enjoy a country that says if you work hard, you can realize your dreams."

Terrorists hate what the United States stands for and they thought Americans were weak, he continued. "They thought we were so self-absorbed in our materialism that all we would probably do is just sue them," he said. "Man, were they wrong."

Bush vowed to treat terrorists as international criminals and keep them on the run. "We're patient, we're determined, we're united," he said, drawing applause. "I can assure you that this distance between Sept. 11 is not going to cause me to weaken in my determination to defend our country and to fight for freedom."

The president then called on all Americans to "stand strongly in the face of evil with acts of kindness and compassion. We can better love our neighbor like we'd like to be loved (ourselves)."

America's great strength is not based on the military's might, nor the nation's strong government, he stressed, it's based on the heart and soul of its people.

"Our society can be changed one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time," he said. "The momentum of millions of acts of kindness will show the world the true heart of America.

"We will stand squarely in the face of the evil ones who did not understand who they were attacking," he said. "Out of the evil will come a more lasting peace if we're tough and firm. And out of the evil will come a new renewal of heart in the greatest land on the face of the earth."

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Related Sites:
President Pushes Promotes for Emergency First Responders: Remarks by the President to South Carolina First Responders, Greenville, S.C., March 27, 2002
President Rallies First Responders in Georgia: Remarks by the President to Georgia First Responders, Atlanta, Ga., March 27, 2002
Office of Homeland Security Web site

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