Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
President Bush pledges to let freedom ring

Inauguration focuses on foreign policy

By Leigh E. Rich

There’s a 2,080-pound gorilla in the world and it’s called freedom, President George W. Bush intimated in his second inaugural address to the nation Thursday, explaining that the first time “the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, ‘It rang as if it meant something.’

“In our time, it means something still,” Bush emphasized, promising to bring “the force of human freedom” to the world’s other lands and pledging that America will “go forward with complete confidence” in freedom’s “eventual triumph” everywhere.

This theme of liberty and liberation for all dominated Bush’s mid-morning speech, in which he elevated the “moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.”

Repeating the word “freedom” 27 times and “liberty” 14 times in his roughly 17-minute address, Bush spoke in vague terms about his administration’s policy “to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world.”

Unlike the campaign trail last fall, there were no specific mentions of the war in Iraq or the war against terrorism, nor did the 43rd president hint at the potentially mounting threats of Iran and North Korea.

Instead, Bush said, the means for establishing democracy the world over don’t always necessarily require the taking up of arms, and America, he vowed, “will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling” but, rather, “help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.”

It seems, however, that way is some version of American liberty.

In the third paragraph of his 32-paragraph speech, Bush spoke of “years of relative quiet” in the United States that were bookmarked by “the shipwreck of communism” in the 20th century and “a day of fire” and vulnerability on Sept. 11, 2001.

Emphasizing that his “most solemn duty” as president “is to protect this nation and its people from further attacks and emerging threats,” Bush spent the majority of his address on foreign policy issues—transforming his metaphor of the Sept. 11 tragedy as a “day of fire” into a hope of freedom that “millions more will find.”

Referring to efforts and obligations undertaken in the “hard task of securing America”—presumably meaning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—“we have lit a fire as well,” Bush said, “a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”

The president only gave four paragraphs to his domestic agenda, what he deemed “essential work at home” that includes “economic independence,” bringing “the highest standards to our schools,” “reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time” and building “an ownership society” that elevates individual control and responsibility in business, health care and retirement.

“Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self,” Bush emphasized.

The president also called for an end to “all the habits of racism” here at home, “because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.”

Like Pennsylvania Assembly Speaker Isaac Norris back in 1753, who had the original Liberty Bell recast, not everyone was happy Thursday with the way Bush’s new chime for liberty sounded.

“While his second term is an opportunity to bring us together, to lead all Americans and strengthen the country with policies based on our shared values, President Bush has already started to promote his narrow, partisan agenda,” said Democratic Party Chair Terry McAuliffe in a press statement.

That agenda includes, McAuliffe explained, shifting “the tax burden away from the wealthiest to working families and the middle class”; undermining “Social Security for today’s seniors and future generations of retirees by privatizing the system”; and packing the “Supreme Court with right-wing judges who will undermine our basic rights.”

Republicans here in Colorado are more optimistic. U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-7th CD, called Bush’s speech in a press statement “a bold vision for moving our country toward a more secure tomorrow,” though adding that, “as we strive for freedom around the world, we must also look to broaden its definition for the people of America. We must work to better our schools, improve ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance.”

Bush is expected to detail the nuts and bolts of his second administration’s plans regarding these domestic topics in next week’s State of the Union, which also likely will expound upon the America’s role as that force of freedom throughout the world.

For now, the president deemed the questioning of “the global appeal of liberty” and, thus, his agenda, to have come in “an odd time for doubt.”

“All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. … You have seen that life is fragile and evil is real and courage triumphs.”

And he pledged: “Renewed in our strength—tested, but not weary—we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.”

Rich, L. E. (2005, January 21). President Bush pledges to let freedom ring. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 1, 8.

Comments are closed.