-- George W. Bush, 1999
There is another destructive mindset: the idea that if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved. An approach with no higher goal, no nobler purpose, than "Leave us alone."
Yet this is not who we are as Americans. We have always found our better selves in sympathy and generosity, both in our lives and in our laws. Americans will never write the epitaph of idealism. It emerges from our nature as a people, with a vision of the common good beyond profit and loss. Our national character shines in our compassion.
We are a nation of rugged individuals. But we are also the country of the second chance, tied together by bonds of friendship and community and solidarity.
We are a nation of high purpose and restless reform, of child labor laws and emancipation and suffrage and civil rights.
We are a nation that defeated fascism, elevated millions of the elderly out of poverty and humbled an evil empire.
I know the reputation of our government has been tainted by scandal and cynicism. But the American government is not the enemy of the American people. At times it is wasteful and grasping. But we must correct it, not disdain it. Government must be carefully limited, but strong and active and respected within those bounds. It must act in the common good, and that good is not common until it is shared by those in need. . . .Here is an example. America has tripled its prison population in the last 15 years. That is a necessary and effective role of government, protecting our communities from predators. But it has left a problem, an estimated 1.3 million children who have one or both parents in prison. These are forgotten children, almost six times more likely to go to prison themselves, and they should not be punished for the sins of their fathers. It is not only appropriate, it is urgent, to give grants to ministries and mentoring programs targeting these children and their families for help and support. My administration will start bringing help and hope to these other, innocent victims of crime.