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. Basil Taha

    What a waste of time. This so called president is nothing more than an idiot, who destroyed this country. Good, just leave and i hope we will never hear from you again.

    January 15, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  2. Billy

    Thank god finally you are returning to your life. Live your life and never come back.Bye bye....

    January 15, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  3. sick n tired

    Well Georgie boy fortunately (for america) you don't get a "do over",but thanks for playing and buh-bye! Oh and hindsight is always 20/20!

    January 15, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |


    January 15, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  5. Tim

    Obama will follow the popular will of the people.

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

    I'm sick of the media slandering Bush. He did some things horribly wrong and he made some excellent decisions.

    For those of you so quick to judge, I hope you hold Obama to the same subjective standard you have used to raze Bush. If not, your lack of integrity is the definition of what's wrong with this country, not George W. Bush.

    January 15, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  7. bill

    Do what differently? Like concede to Gore in 2000? Just Imagine....

    January 15, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  8. Viet Vet


    My biggest complaint- -All the brave people whose lives were terminated by your actions or inactions- -you, the decider, the commander guy, yes sir! The wanna be dictator. The lives of the Iraqi people who you snuffed out without cause. You are on par with Saddam and should be treated as such. But that won't happen.
    Too bad, you may have murdered more.

    January 15, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  9. pb

    George Bush – You have no conscience – only a huge, huge ego. You have hurt so many common people. You can't admit you are wrong about anything. Please go away and leave Americans to heal. You have no idea of why you are so hated because in your little mind, you are fabulous.

    January 15, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  10. webdog

    Good riddance!

    January 15, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  11. Lilac in Toronto, Canada

    If he had a conscience, he would have followed. he ruled recklessly without mercy and fair judgement. The power makes you haughty, that is what we saw in his ruling.

    Too late, too bad.

    January 15, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  12. Ron C Clair

    Love him or hate him – I've always thought that while I didn't always agree with the ground he stood on, I admired the way he stood on it!

    January 15, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  13. Peter (CA)

    Although I can agree in spirit with some of the things the President is saying here, I cannot agree with much of anything he claims are accomplishments here at home.
    Educational standards have led to teaching to a test instead of teaching real skills and knowledge. The drug benefit has been a benefit to the drug companies, not to seniors. The air, water, and land most certainly are not cleaner than when Clinton was in office and Bush has recently pushed through signing statements allowing for more strip mining, even next to national parks.
    The other topics are worded in a very obtuse manner. There are no "real" improvements-just the usual smoke and mirrors that we have seen for the last 8 years.

    January 15, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  14. Tim

    Poke em in the eyes George.

    January 15, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  15. Shane


    January 15, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. Rula Lenska

    A man, who we realize 8 years later, who was not up to the job.

    January 15, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  17. Scottyrw

    I'm sorry, but I can't go along with anything Mr. Bush is saying in this speach. I agree with freedom and democracy, but I don't feel Bush strived for either while in office. I think his group had a plan to control and divide the country as a power play for their party and certain indiduals. All the plans during the eight years where for gains of friends and groups instead of for the country, equality or freedom. That is why nothing that they did ever worked.

    January 15, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  18. bob

    He did a great job for the country. Only a democrat can hate what he did for stupid vested reasons.

    January 15, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  19. JOANN


    January 15, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  20. peggyledbetter

    Given the chance to do what? You have been in office for 8 long years, your time is up Mr. President!

    January 15, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  21. brandon

    Isn't it Tuesday already?

    January 15, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. LM75

    Bush is arrogant, hardheaded and not too bright. Probably worst president in past 100 years.

    January 15, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  23. republicans hate america

    just because you are stubborn and stand by your convictions no matter what does not make it right and I am so sick and tired of you right wing losers that respect this criminal because of it. Does that mean that a guy who thinks rape is ok is respected by you morons?

    January 15, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  24. grumpy

    Why even comment on this made for Bush haters tease ! You all need an attitude adjustment or some upbringing or something ! 90 % of you mouthy fools haven't done spit for this country !!

    January 15, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  25. Sue

    How could this criminal bastard read that speech of lies with a straight face? How could he say 'murdering the innocent is an unacceptable way to advance an ideology?' YOU DISGUSTING FOOL, WHAT DO YOU CALL A MILLION DEAD IRAQIS KILLED IN ORDER TO ADVANCE YOUR IDEOLOGY OF DEMOCRACY???? Is he even incapable of seeing his hypocrisy? How could he say Afghanistan is safe? Since you pulled the troops to send them to your ill-advised war in Iraq, there has been an unbelievable Taliban resurgence. You say girls can go to school? THEY ARE THROWING ACID IN THEIR FACES. You think Iraq is a friendly ally? You installed a puppet government, and the citizenry of Iraq DESPISES you. Did you see the joy in Iraq when shoes were thrown in your face? How can you say that if countries have democracy, they will not vote for terror? ARE YOU THAT INSIPID, THAT YOU FAILED TO KEEP UP WITH INTERNATIONAL NEWS, EVEN DURING YOUR OWN TENURE AS PRESIDENT? DO YOU REMEMBER THE PALESTINIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS? THEY VOTED FOR HAMAS.

    I just can't. I can't even write anymore. I can't even think of what he has done to this country without feeling absolutely sick. Please, please someone handcuff this bottom-feeding criminal, and cart him off to Guantanamo.

    January 15, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
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