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The East Room
5:18 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much for that warm reception, and welcome to the White House — the people’s house. It is such an honor to live here, and it’s an honor to receive you all. And I look forward to thanking you in person for coming.
It’s also a high honor for me to be on the podium with so many outstanding leaders of faith. I’ve had the honor of meeting many of the cardinals who are here, and many of the bishops and archbishops from around the country. I’ve been struck by how humble the good folks are; how there’s a universal love for mankind and a deep concern for those who are not as fortunate as some of us. The Catholic Church is fortunate to have such strong, capable, decent leadership. And America is fortunate to have such strong leaders in our midst.
I want to thank the cardinals and bishops who are here, and thank you for your service and love for your fellow mankind.
I’ve been struck by a lot of things as I’ve had the opportunity to meet the leadership of the Catholic Church. I think the thing that has captured my heart the most is the not only universal care for the weak and the suffering, but also the strong focus on making sure every child is educated.
And for those of you who are involved with the education system in America, thank you for your hard work. For those of you who are the administrators, thanks for providing great education. For those who give your hard-earned dollars to support the education systems around America, please continue to do so. (Laughter.) Isn’t that right, Bishop? (Laughter.) It’s an incredibly important part of the mosaic of a hopeful tomorrow.
I also appreciate the prayers of many of my fellow Americans. Many times layman and leader alike says, Mr. President, we pray for you, and for that I’m most grateful. It does remind me that I think there’s a great awakening in America; people are rediscovering the inspiration of faith in their lives, and the importance of faith in our society. Faith gives our lives dignity, and faith gives our lives direction. Faith makes our nation more just and more generous, and welcoming.
All of you are part of the humanizing mission which is part of the “great commission” and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, which we will dedicate tomorrow, will bring this message to generations of Americans in this capital of our nation. The best way to honor Pope John Paul II, truly one of the great men, is to take his teaching seriously; is to listen to his words and put his words and teachings into action here in America. This is a challenge we must accept.
But you know something about our country? With the right focus and the right leadership, it’s a challenge this nation will accept, because this is a great land. The greatness of the country lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens. And again, I want to thank those of you who inspire and teach love and compassion and hope.
God bless you all. (Applause.)