Thank you very much for that warm welcome. I'm pleased to beback in New York City. New York City is a unique symbol of America's creativityand character and resilience. In the last 10 months, New Yorkers have shown awatching world the true spirit of your city. (Applause.) A spirit that honorsthe loss, remembers its heroes, and goes forward with determination and withconfidence. The people of this city are writing one of the greatest chapters inour nation's history, and all Americans are proud of New York. (Applause.)
I've come to the financial capital of the world to speak of a seriouschallenge to our financial markets, and to the confidence on which they rest.The misdeeds now being uncovered in some quarters of corporate America arethreatening the financial well-being of many workers and many investors. Atthis moment, America's greatest economic need is higher ethical standards--standards enforced by strict laws and upheld by responsible business leaders. The lure of heady profits of the late 1990s spawned abuses and excesses.With strict enforcement and higher ethical standards, we must usher in a new eraof integrity in corporate America.
The American economy--our economy--is built on confidence. Theconviction that our free enterprise system will continue to be the most powerfuland most promising in the world. That confidence is well-placed. After all,American technology is the most advanced in the world. Our universities attractthe talent of the world. Our workers and ranchers and farmers can compete withanyone in the world. Our society rewards hard work and honest ambition,bringing people to our shores from all around the world who share those values.The American economy is the most creative and enterprising and productive systemever devised. (Applause.)
We can be confident because America is taking every necessary step to fightand win the war on terror. We are reorganizing the federal government toprotect the homeland. We are hunting down the terrorists who seek to sow chaos.My commitment, and the commitment of our government, is total. We will notrelent until the cold-blooded killers are found, disrupted, and defeated.(Applause.)
We can be confident because of the amazing achievements of American workersand entrepreneurs. In spite of all that happened last year, from the economicslowdown to the terrorist attack, worker productivity has grown by 4.2 percentover the last four quarters. In the first quarter of 2002, the economy grew atan annual rate exceeding six percent. Though there's much work left to do,American workers have defied the pessimists and laid the foundation for asustained recovery.
We have much to be confident about in America. Yet our economy and ourcountry need one more kind of confidence--confidence in the character andconduct of all of our business leaders. The American economy today is rising,while faith in the fundamental integrity of American business leaders is beingundermined. Nearly every week brings better economic news, and a discovery offraud and scandal--problems long in the making, but now coming to light.
We've learned of some business leaders obstructing justice, and misleadingclients, falsifying records, business executives breaching the trust and abusingpower. We've learned of CEOs earning tens of millions of dollars in bonusesjust before their companies go bankrupt, leaving employees and retirees andinvestors to suffer. The business pages of American newspapers should not readlike a scandal sheet.
The vast majority of businessmen and women are honest. They do right bytheir employees and their shareholders. They do not cut ethical corners, andtheir work helps create an economy which is the envy of the world.
Yet high-profile acts of deception have shaken people's trust. Too manycorporations seem disconnected from the values of our country. These scandalshave hurt the reputations of many good and honest companies. They have hurt thestock market. And worst of all, they are hurting millions of people who dependon the integrity of businesses for their livelihood and their retirement, fortheir peace of mind and their financial well-being.