February 10, 2004
WASHINGTON – President Bush, speaking before the joint session of Congress last night, termed Iraq, Iran and North Korea an “axis of evil” and warned of the reality of terrorist networks and dangerous nations’ development of weapons.
Giving his first State of the Union Address to America, the president devoted a large portion of his speech to supporting the ongoing war against terrorism. “Our nation is at war, our economy is in recession and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers,” he said. “Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.”
Describing terrorists as being “spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning,” the president made it a point to emphasize to Americans the presence of thousands of terrorists, many of whom are likely affiliated with Al Qaeda. He elaborated on the threat posed by hostile nations’ weapons capabilities, particularly Iraq and its “weapons of mass destruction.” Speaking with a sense of urgency, he vowed that America and its allies would not be intimidated.
Mr. Bush outlined “two great objectives” in the war on terrorism: capturing terrorists, foiling their plots and dismantling their training camps; and disarming nations that would threaten other countries with their weapons. He said that the war was costing over $30 million daily, but also said that “the price of indifference would be catastrophic.”
The president also briefly covered a number of domestic issues including such topics as the budget, the economy, volunteerism and erasing old rivalries.
Mr. Bush talked about three goals of his intended budget. His first objective was winning the war against terrorism; secondly, ensuring national and homeland security; and lastly, bringing the country out of the recession. He accentuated security as the United States’ top priority and told people straightforwardly, “We will win this war, we’ll protect our homeland and we will revive our economy.”
The first of the goals focused on such aspects as the cost of aircrafts, equipment and weapons. The president next described four areas on which the plan for homeland security would focus: “bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security and improved intelligence.” The president addressed the last goal of economic security, more complex than the others, in the majority of the remainder of his speech, beginning with employment.
Mr. Bush focused on job creation efforts in his discussion of economic recovery. Linking education and tax policy reform to the fight against unemployment, he reminded the nation that “good jobs begin with good schools.” The president also underlined permanent tax cuts as a necessary measure for the benefit of the financially troubled.
The president did not give more than a couple brief moments to health care, though he made an appeal to Congress for modernization of the Medicare system. He also spoke on why it was important for the government to “enact a patients’ bill of rights [and] give uninsured workers credits to help buy health insurance.”
September 11, 2001 was a tragic day, the president said solemnly, but it was also a turning point – a catalyst for change. “For too long, our culture has said, ‘If it feels good, do it,’” he told the nation. “Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: ‘Let’s roll.’”
Envisioning America as a new, more altruistic culture, Mr. Bush called Americans to serving both neighbors and nation. He introduced the U.S.A. Freedom Corps, a newly formed organization dedicated to volunteerism, rebuilding communities and, as he put it, “extending American compassion throughout the world.”
The president also talked about what he called “erasing old rivalries,” in which he explained how countries that were once enemies could come to work with one another as allies. Instead of violence, he said, countries could work towards improving trade and economy; allies would fight for freedom rather than terror.
“Our cause is just, and it continues,” Mr. Bush had said near the beginning of his speech. Closing with an emotional yet resolute rhetoric, the president reminded people of tragedy – as well as overcoming it. He talked about friends, allies and fighting the common enemy; he reiterated the need for swift, decisive action against terror campaigns and tyrants. “Evil is real, and it must be opposed.”
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