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intimidating, wait until you look at one of those contracts, isn't that 
right?
    And so we're going to talk about a program that we've instituted 
through HUD that helps with educating people. And Nikki is going to talk 
to us about that in a second. I believe Congress ought to pass tax 
credits to encourage homebuilding, affordable homes in areas that need 
affordable homes.
    We've set a grand goal. We want to close the minority homeownership 
gap, and there are three practical ways to encourage the construction of 
a home and to help homebuyers buy a home. I readily concede there's 
nothing like low interest rates to stimulate homeownership. And so I 
suggest that people listening out there, if you're interested in buying 
a home, take advantage of the low rates. Take advantage of those low 
rates. Lock in good, low mortgages to make your future so bright.
    Nikki Holcroft is with us today. Nikki, tell us what you do. Thank 
you for coming. Nikki is a sweet soul who cares deeply about the people 
she's helping.

[At this point, Ms. Holcroft, housing counselor, Genesis Housing Corp., 
Lansdale, PA, made brief remarks.]

    The President. You might have more than one customer out there, you 
know? [Laughter]
    One of the things, as I said, we emphasize is counseling services. 
It sounds like kind of a simple thing, but it's a profound opportunity 
for help. And you'll hear from Pearl. Are you about ready? [Laughter]
    Pearl Cerdan. Yes, sir.
    The President. How many kids have you got?
    Ms. Cerdan. I have six, but four of them are with me.
    The President. Yes, I met them all. How many cats?
    Ms. Cerdan. One.
    The President. I met it. [Laughter] When did you start thinking 
about buying a home?
    Ms. Cerdan. Well, like Nikki said, I had--about 3\1/2\ years ago, I 
had started. I was thinking then, but it was only a thought. And then I 
came back----
    The President. Was it a dream or a thought?
    Ms. Cerdan. Well, at first it was a thought, but then it became a 
dream.
    The President. I got you.
    Ms. Cerdan. Did I say that right? [Laughter]

[[Page 412]]

    The President. It's your dream. It's not ours. [Laughter] You're 
doing great.

[Ms. Cerdan, first-time homebuyer, Ardmore, PA, made further remarks.]

    The President. Now, Judy is the cofounder of Genesis. Is that an 
accurate statement?
    Judy Memberg. Yes, it is.
    The President. She's a social entrepreneur.
    Ms. Memberg. I've never been called that, but okay. [Laughter]
    The President. It's a plus.
    Ms. Memberg. Sounds good. [Laughter]
    The President. Why don't you tell us how you got the idea and talk 
about Genesis right quick.

[Ms. Memberg, refinancer and executive director, Genesis Housing Corp., 
Norristown, PA, made brief remarks.]

    The President. Right. It's interesting, this Ardmore project was on 
an abandoned filling station.
    Ms. Memberg. Yes, it was.
    The President. And you got brownfield money.
    Ms. Memberg. Yes, there were some environmental problems with 
gasoline in the soil that had to be cleaned up. And there was some 
funding that made that available, because anytime you get into 
environmental problems, it gets very expensive.
    The President. Right. And so when did you see the house you're going 
to buy?
    Ms. Cerdan. When did I see it?
    The President. Yes, first see it.
    Ms. Cerdan. The first time I'd seen it was I think, like July.
    The President. Really?
    Ms. Cerdan. Yes, sir.
    The President. And you bought it in----
    Ms. Cerdan. December the 16th of 2003.
    The President. Fantastic--homeowner.
    Penny is with us. Penny, you're in the process of buying a home. Is 
that accurate?
    Penny Wolk. That's accurate, Mr. President. [Laughter]
    The President. All right, let her go. [Laughter] Tell us about 
yourself, please, ma'am.

[Ms. Wolk, potential homebuyer, Norristown, PA, made brief remarks.]

    The President. And so where are we in the process? Judy, maybe you 
can give us a hand here?
    Ms. Memberg. Penny is going to be one of the buyers in the second 
phase of the project, and there's four more houses are going to be 
built, and she should be signing an agreement of sale in about 2 weeks.
    The President. Good. Explain what it's like to be somebody who wants 
to buy a home, and you're kind of lost, I guess, in the process, is 
maybe a good way to say it. What does Genesis do, how do they--if 
somebody is listening out there that probably is in your position----
    Ms. Holcroft. What does Genesis do?
    The President. Yes, how do you find out how to----

[Ms. Holcroft made further remarks.]

    The President. You can't live in a home unless you've got somebody 
who is willing to build them. And Scott Cannon is a homebuilder. He's 
the president of Cannon Custom Homes.
    Scott Cannon. Thank you, Mr. President.
    The President. Did you bring your family with you--I can see. 
[Laughter]
    Mr. Cannon. I've got the family here.
    The President. Tell us about your business. Tell us about what it's 
like to be a homebuilder in the Philadelphia area.

[Mr. Cannon made brief remarks.]

    The President. One of the things we were talking about backstage was 
the--about how if there is a local forum, that ought to be good enough 
for the Federal Government, I guess is the country-boy way of 
summarizing what we're talking about. And that's beginning to happen.
    Mr. Cannon. I haven't seen it yet.
    The President. Well, it should be happening. I mean, it's supposed 
to be happening soon, is what I understand. [Laughter]
    Mr. Cannon. To a theater near you. [Laughter]
    The President. That's right. How about tort reform? You could use a 
little tort reform, couldn't you?

[[Page 413]]

    Mr. Cannon. Well, we could use tort reform, sure--the class-action 
lawsuits and things like that that we truly do fear, of course. But 
again, that's just a cost that we pass on to Pearl and Penny. It's not 
something that--really you're not coming after me. I just have to pay 
more for insurance, and I pass it on to the homebuyer.
    The President. No, that's exactly right. Are you building any homes 
these days?
    Mr. Cannon. Yes, we're building a few. We've had a challenge the 
last year or so with the weather, but things are going good.
    The President. Well, I might be able to do something with the 
bureaucracy, but--[laughter].
    Mr. Cannon. That would be enough. [Laughter] We'll deal with the 
weather.
    The President. Judy, you got anything else you want to share with 
anybody who might be listening out there about buying a home?
    Ms. Memberg. I think the thing that's really important is that with 
housing counseling, anyone can put together a plan on how they can 
become a homebuyer. Some people, it's a very short process; some people 
are very familiar with being homeowners or their family has been 
homeowners. But a lot of people who, if their parents aren't homeowners, 
really don't know where to start. And a good housing counseling agency 
can really guide you through that process.
    The President. Right. And I presume there's a lot of housing 
counseling agencies around the area?
    Ms. Memberg. There are a few. There are many in Philadelphia. There 
are a few in Montgomery County. But there's a lot of good counselors out 
there to find one that matches up with your need.
    The President. Good. Well, listen, if somebody's listening, I hope, 
and are interested in buying a home, there's opportunity here in this 
part of the world. You've heard two ladies say that they've been able to 
overcome the fears of homeownership and kind of the mental blocks 
associated with homeownership, because they were able to receive 
counseling. And the counseling is available. We want more people owning 
their home. That's what we want. We want you to feel comfortable about 
coming--thinking about buying your own home so that when somebody knocks 
on your door, you open that door and say, ``Welcome to my home,'' just 
like this good lady did to me today.
    Listen, thank you all for coming. It's been a joy to be here. I want 
to thank you for your stories. May God bless you all.

Note: The President spoke at 2:57 p.m. at the Main Line YMCA. In his 
remarks, he referred to Mary Frances Reilly, executive director, Main 
Line YMCA; James R. Matthews, chairman, and Thomas Jay Ellis, 
commissioner, Montgomery County Commission, Montgomery County, PA; and 
former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The Office of the Press 
Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of these remarks.


<DOC>
[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents]
 [frwais.access.gpo.gov]
                         

[Page 413-415]
 
Monday, March 22, 2004
 
Volume 40_Number 12
Pages 403	436
 
Week Ending Friday, March 19, 2004
 
Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende 
of the Netherlands and an Exchange With Reporters

March 16, 2004

    President Bush. Here's what we're going to do. We'll have a couple 
opening statements. I'll call upon an American press; the Prime Minister 
will call upon somebody from the Dutch press; American press; Dutch 
press; and that's it. Thank you all for coming.
    Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. I'm glad you're back. Thank you for a--
your friendship. Thank you for your clear understanding about the need 
for us to work together to achieve a more free and peaceful world. I 
appreciate our bilateral relations are strong. We had a wide-ranging 
discussion, talking about a variety of issues, whether it be foreign 
policy or the economy. It was a good, frank discussion, and I appreciate 
my friend being here again. Welcome.
    Prime Minister Balkenende. George, thanks again for the hospitality. 
We had, indeed, a very good discussion. We talked about issues around 
Iraq, the role of the United Nations, by example. We talked about the 
cooperation in the economic sphere, developments in Afghanistan. We also 
talked about values in society, an important issue. And especially, we 
talked about terrorism, the fight against terrorism, and it is important 
that the world society, international community, stands shoulder to 
shoulder and shows

[[Page 414]]

its solidarity to fight against these terrible attacks. And we share 
that same view, and we will work together, also, in the second half of 
this year, when the Netherlands is taking over the Presidency of the 
European Union.
    President Bush. Yes.
    We'll answer a couple questions here. We'll start with you, Terry 
Hunt [Associated Press].

Implications of Terrorist Attack in Spain

    Q. Thank you, sir. Mr. President, do you think terrorists have 
reason to believe that they can influence elections and policy, given 
the outcome of what happened in Spain?
    President Bush. I think terrorists will kill innocent life in order 
to try to get the world to cower. I think--these are coldblooded 
killers. I mean, they'll kill innocent people to try to shake our will. 
That's what they want to do, and they'll never shake the will of the 
United States. We understand the stakes, and we will work with our 
friends to bring justice to the terrorists.
    They have not only killed in Spain; they've killed in the United 
States; they've killed in Turkey; they've killed in Saudi Arabia. They 
kill wherever they can. And it's essential that the free world remain 
strong and resolute and determined.
    Want to call on somebody from your press?

Iraq

    Q. Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. President, according to opinion polls, 
most Dutch people want to withdraw the Dutch troops from Iraq. Many 
Dutch people think the war in Iraq has little to do with the war against 
terrorism and may actually encourage terrorism. How would you respond to 
those Dutch people who want to withdraw?
    President Bush. I would ask them to think about the Iraqi citizens 
who don't want people to withdraw, because they want to be free. And I 
would remind the Dutch citizens that Al Qaida has an interest in Iraq 
for a reason, and that interest is, they realize this is a front in the 
war on terror, and they fear the spread of freedom and democracy in 
places like the greater Middle East. They can't stand the thought of 
free societies springing up in the Middle East, because they understand 
a free society is against their very wishes. And so it's essential that 
we remain side by side with the Iraqi people as they begin the process 
of self-government.
    And we're making good progress. The basic law that was written by 
the Governing Council was a substantial piece of work that talked about 
freedoms, the very same freedoms that we honor in America or in the 
Netherlands. And it's essential that we help Iraq--and Afghanistan--
develop into free societies, which in itself will start changing the 
regions in which they exist.
    Adam, [Adam Entous, Reuters] yes.
    Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
    President Bush. You're looking fine today, Adam, but the tie--
[laughter].

2004 Election

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Candidate Kerry has suggested he has 
support of world leaders. Do you think he should--that should be a 
factor in the campaign? Was that an appropriate thing for him to say?
    President Bush. I think it's--if you're going to make an accusation 
in the course of a Presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with 
facts.
    Prime Minister Balkenende. I won't talk about that issue.
    President Bush. Okay, fine.
    Prime Minister Balkenende. It has to do with the campaign here in 
the United States.

Iraq

    Q. Mr. President, have you convinced the Prime Minister of the 
Netherlands to leave the Dutch troops in Iraq?
    President Bush. The Prime Minister will make a--the appropriate 
decision. It's his decision to make. We both agree that a free Iraq is 
essential to a peaceful world. We both understand the stakes. We both 
know that Al Qaida is interested in fighting us in Iraq. How do we know? 
We know because they've said so publicly. Al Qaida understands the 
stakes. Al Qaida wants us out of Iraq, because Al Qaida wants to use 
Iraq as an example of defeating freedom and democracy. And so the Prime 
Minister has got issues at home that he'll deal with, but there's no 
doubt that he understands the stakes and the historic opportunity with 
which we're faced.

[[Page 415]]

    Prime Minister Balkenende. It's good to add that we did not talk 

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