Bush to Americans: Acted for U.S. 'best interests'
WASHINGTON (BP)--President Bush told Americans in his final speech from the White House he had "always acted with the best interests of our country in mind" during his administration's tumultuous eight years.
Speaking Jan. 15 to a national television audience and guests in the White House's East Room, Bush acknowledged he had "experienced setbacks" like those of the previous 42 presidents.
"There are things I would do differently if given the chance," he said. "I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."
Bush's job performance ratings have been heavily unfavorable during much of his second term. He has received heavy criticism for the Iraq war, the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina and the recent economic downturn, but he did not cite during his address anything specific he would change.
Much of the early portion of his 14-minute speech was dedicated to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and his administration's response.
"As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11," Bush said. "But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe."
He named the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq among actions taken to protect the country after the attacks.
"There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions," Bush said. "But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil."
That accomplishment is a tribute to the military, law enforcement and others who worked hard to keep Americans safe, the president said.
Bush told Americans "the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack." He said the United States must lead in the effort to expand freedom globally. To not do so "would only invite danger" from outside threats, he said.
The president thanked Americans for their prayers "that have lifted my spirits" and for their "countless acts of courage, generosity and grace that I have witnessed these past eight years." The character of citizens who are showing compassion to others gives him "an unshakable faith in America," Bush said.
He told the men and women of the Armed Forces, "There has been no higher honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief."
Bush said of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama only five days later, "Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose history reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press the speech again showed Bush "is a good and decent man of deep personal faith, a dedicated patriot and a public servant who always attempted to do what he believed was the right thing for our country."
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode