January 15th, 2009
05:09 PM ET
14 years ago

Bush: 'There are things I would do differently if given the chance'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/15/art.bushpurse0115.gi.jpg caption="Pres. Bush will make a prime-time address to the nation on Thursday night."]

The White House has released excerpts of President Bush's farewell address to the nation tonight, as prepared for delivery. The president will reflect on Barack Obama's inauguration, the response to 9/11 - and on "setbacks" he's faced over the past eight years. (Excerpts, as released by the White House, after the jump)

Watch the president's speech on CNN tonight at 8 pm.

On the transfer of power:

Five days from now, the world will witness the vitality of American democracy. In a tradition dating back to our founding, the presidency will pass to a successor chosen by you, the American people. Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose story reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole Nation. And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.

On gratitude:

Tonight I am filled with gratitude. I thank the American people for the trust you have given me. I thank you for the prayers that have lifted my spirits. And I thank you for the countless acts of courage, generosity, and grace that I have witnessed these past eight years.

On the response to 9/11:

This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house – September 11, 2001. That morning, terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor.

As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our Nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.

Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our Nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists’ movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them.

There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil day and night to keep us safe – law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

On protecting America through the advance of liberty around the world:

When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism. So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We are standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic born alone in liberty is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.

On the Administration’s accomplishments here at home:

For eight years, we have also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home. Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools. A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes. The addicted and suffering are finding new hope through faith-based programs. Vulnerable human life is better protected. Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled. America’s air, water, and lands are measurably cleaner. And the Federal bench includes wise new members like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

On principled decision-making:

Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.

On future challenges facing America:

The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country, and there are some guiding principles that should shape our course.

While our Nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack. Our enemies are patient, and determined to strike again. America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict. But we have been given solemn responsibilities, and we must meet them. We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.

At the same time, we must continue to engage the world with confidence and clear purpose. In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.

As we address these challenges – and others we cannot foresee tonight – America must maintain our moral clarity. I have often spoken to you about good and evil. This has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise.

On the promise of America:

Even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead.

I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people. This is a Nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom. This is a Nation where citizens show calm in times of danger and compassion in the face of suffering.

These virtues give me an unshakable faith in America. We have faced danger and trial, and there is more ahead. But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great Nation will never tire … never falter … and never fail.

Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Peter TX

    given what? u serious said that? what do u want, another 4yrs or maybe 8yrs? maybe by then we would have all moved to china

    January 15, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. LuciFarr

    What conscience?
    He does not have any conscience.

    January 15, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  3. John Anthony, MN

    Bush should have done just about everything differently.

    January 15, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  4. Patrick

    You did the job you were asked to do, protect our country, you don't need to appologize to anyone. Thank you for your 8 years of service.

    January 15, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  5. Lolita

    I kinda feel bad for bush... but then i look at our nations and how so much has changed in just 8 years and then i feel anger. So he will not get any emotions from me except one of joy that he will not be the leader of our nation.! Goodbye Bush !!!!!!

    January 15, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  6. steve

    This coming from a President whose administration presided over Abu Ghraib and sat by and let people suffer needlessly in the wake of Katrina/Rita's destruction. He may have made some tough decisions, but he also missed some very easy ones. America does not torture. America does not sit and watch one of it's great cities drown. America does not launch preemptive attacks on sovereign nations.

    January 15, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  7. Bea

    why is he trying to defend himself?

    January 15, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  8. Outspoken

    Followed his conscience? What did this dope think "polls" were for?

    January 15, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  9. Francis (not an american, nor anyone important)

    I think he did pretty well considering the cards he was delt......

    lets see what Obama can do.......fix nothing.... want to change..... everything!

    January 15, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. H

    "There are things I would do differently if given the chance" What chance? I don't recall you doing anything at all.

    January 15, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  11. GG NYC


    January 15, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  12. bill

    I mean this sincerely and CNN please post… If George W. Bush had any honor at all, he would kill himself.

    January 15, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. Juan from L.A

    Thank God this man is almost gone!!! Crazy to think some nuts in the right want Palin at some point to be in the oval office. She's scarier than him!

    January 15, 2009 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  14. Paul C

    There is no question that history will judge GW harshly and rightly so. He was an arrogant but lazy president that thought the voices in his head was God and turned many critical areas over to the morally deficient Chaney.
    Unfortunately Iraq and the U.S. will be the poorer for his being in power.

    January 15, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  15. bruce cortez colo

    Just the look or thought of him repulses me and makes me physically ill.

    January 15, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  16. Greg

    So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, good-bye.

    January 15, 2009 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  17. Alicia

    President Bush doesn't have a conscience. How then could he have followed it? It is because of men like him that this country is in the condition it's in. I am soooo happy we are almost done with him and his administration! Yay for 2009!


    January 15, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  18. Thomas Dobies

    Dear Mr. Bush,

    After all we've been through in the past 8 years, I don't believe anything you say. I don't believe you have any remorse or regret about any action or lack of action you've taken. I just shake my head and wonder why anyone voted for you. Please do me a favor, just fade away.


    Thomas Dobies

    January 15, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  19. pam Eugene OR

    No matter how hard President Bush has tried to rewrite history in the last month it will not be kind to him.

    January 15, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  20. Aviate

    I can think of something you should have done differently, Mr. Bush. You should have respected the will of the American voters back in 2000 and let Al Gore become President. The world, the country, and yes, probably even you, would have been a better place if you had.

    January 15, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  21. Republicans = window lickers

    Yeah, the only thing this Retardlican ever followed was the money. This fool doesn't have a conscience to follow. Please go away and resume licking your window.

    January 15, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  22. Lump-in-throat!


    A squandered opportunity never to be had. Good riddance to... you can fill in the blanks.


    January 15, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  23. Bush haters where are you?

    What's this? The Bush haters haven't pounced on this one yet? What's the matter with all you couch potato liberal pinkos? Lost your nerve?

    January 15, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  24. Randy

    Give you a chance? heck you had eight years to run the country and you ran it into the ground I think you did enough to mess it up.

    January 15, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  25. mike

    I think there are things America would do differently if WE had the chance...Hopefully we have learned our lesson about putting a Republican President into office. And enough with the Reagen talk. He wasn't a good president either.

    January 15, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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