CHICAGO -- President George W. Bush addressed the members of the National Restaurant Association Hotel Motel Show May 22.
The president spoke mostly about the war in Iraq, emphasizing there is now "constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East."
NRA spokeswoman Sue Hensley said a small group knew the president would be coming, but "nothing was official until the White House press staff announced he was coming." The NRA informed the public of the president's intentions May 20.
When NRA officials introduced the president, the estimated 4,000 invited attendees gave him a standing ovation. In addition to the War on Terror, Bush talked about immigration pushing proposed reforms in the comprehensive immigration bill before the U.S. Congress.
As part of his immigration plan, the president said the United States will secure the Mexico border by deploying thousands of new Border Patrol agents and giving those agents the best technology available to do their job.
"Secondly: You can't secure our border with thousands trying to sneak in, and therefore, this country needs a temporary worker program that will allow foreign workers to enter our country legally on a temporary basis to meet the needs of our economy and take the pressure off our border," he said. "We must create a reliable system for verifying documents and work eligibility so we can better enforce our immigration laws at the workplace."
He said restaurants are the largest employers of emigrants.
"You (restaurateurs) give people, including emigrants, their first jobs," the president said. "We must find a rational legal ground."
President Bush addresses members of the National Restaurant Association May 22. (Photos provided by the White House)
He said the economy is strong and growing, touting a national unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. "And the restaurant industry plays a vital role in this prosperity," Bush said.
When, after his speech, a woman yelled, "Where are the weapons of mass destruction," her comment drew jeers from the crowd. The president then fielded questions from the crowd and received some compliments for help he has given the restaurant industry.
One man asked what advice the president had for his daughter as she attempts to "make it in this world." After giving examples of U.S. servicemen and Hurricane Katrina volunteers, the president said the daughter should simply help others.
NRA president Steven C. Anderson said Bush doesn't normally receive such a warm welcome. "It's good for him to see this side of America," Anderson said.
The NRA Show is the U.S. foodservice industry's largest trade show. It draws 73,000 and 2,100 exhibitors.