Increased security evident at speech

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2002

BNI Newswire

BIRMINGHAM – Increased security and decreased face-time with the public during a visit by the president Monday were evidence of the changes in America since Sept. 11.

President Bush visited Alabama briefly Monday on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Riley, but his visit was markedly different from one just a year ago.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Bush arrived at the Birmingham International Airport just after 9 a.m.

He disembarked from Air Force One along with Riley as well as U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby and U.S. Reps. Bob Aderholt and Spencer Bachus.

This visit to Birmingham was different from the president’s last.

Bush’s June 2001 visit had a casual atmosphere, with hundreds present at the airport to welcome him.

Changes in security, however, called for fewer than 10 people to greet the president at the airport this time.

The president’s motorcade immediately left the airport for the Alys Stephens Center on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

President Bush spoke to some 1,000 invited Alabama dignitaries, business owners and residents about the state of the economy.

He was greeted at the ASC by Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, Attorney General Bill Pryor and Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid, among other dignitaries.

"I’m proud to be back in Alabama," Bush said to a standing ovation. "It’s a great state. It’s produced some wonderful Americans, starting with my National Security Adviser – born and raised in Birmingham – Condoleeza Rice.

He went on to name Secretary of State Colin Powell’s wife, also from Birmingham.

During the course of the speech, Bush praised those who have been compassionate to their neighbors including one Birmingham man who is active in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.

"Our society can and will change," he said, "one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time."

Bush then traveled to the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center for Riley’s fund-raiser reception and luncheon.

More than 2,700 Republican supporters gathered at the luncheon – for $1,000 per plate or $50,000 per handshake and photo.

Also present at the luncheon – and hoping to get a political boost from Bush’s visit – were Alabama’s Republican nominees: State Auditor-nominee Beth Chapman, State Treasurer-nominee Kay Ivey, Secretary of State-nominee Dave Thomas, State Agriculture Commissioner-nominee Dr. J. Lee Alley and Lieutenant Governor-nominee Bill Armistead.

According to media reports, President Bush’s work with fund-raising for Republicans across the country has been "extremely successful," at times raising more than $4 million.

Alabama Republican Party officials had predicted this fundraiser would top previous Alabama events of this nature and possibly break Bush’s own fundraising record.

Bush departed Birmingham aboard Air Force One at about 1 p.m. Monday.

Riley faces incumbent Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in the November general election.