In his last State of the Union address, President Bush stood before Congress and delivered a message telling America to hang tough amidst its recession woes and protracted Iraq war.
Facing an all-time low approval rating and a hostile Democratic-led Congress eagerly awaiting his departure from the White House next year, Bush petitioned for support on a number of issues during his last months in office.
After urging Congress to expedite the passage of a $150-billion House-endorsed plan to resuscitate the economy, Bush acknowledged the problems of inflated gas and food prices, rising unemployment and the troubled financial and housing markets.
"We can all see that growth is slowing," the President said as he spoke of tax rebates for families and incentives for businesses to invest in new factories and equipment.
He asserted that higher taxes do not pave the road to recovery.
"Most Americans think their taxes are high enough," Bush said. "With all the other pressures on their finances, American families should not have to worry about the Federal Government taking a bigger bit out of their paychecks."
Standing ovations met the President's words on taxes.
"There is only one way to eliminate this uncertainty: make the tax relief permanent," Bush added. "And members of Congress should know: if any bill raising taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it."
Home Sweet Home
Bush further touched on the housing situation.
"On housing, we must trust Americans with the responsibility of home ownership and empower them to weather turbulent times in the housing market," Bush said before speaking of the HOPE NOW alliance his administration organized to help homeowners avoid foreclosures.
A Healthy America
Healthcare reform was another topic Bush brought to the table.
"To build a future of quality health care, we must trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions and empower them with better information and better options," Bush declared. "We share a common goal: making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding customer choice, not government control."
The Learning Curve
Higher accountability and greater support for students falling behind were at the top of the President's list while talking education.
"On education, we must trust students to learn if given the chance and empower parents to demand results from our schools," the President said. "We must also do more to help children who do not measure up."
Bush went on to speak about programs made to ensure that underprivileged students don't lag behind.
Unbinding Free Trade
Bush wanted to make sure that the U.S. economy would not give up any ground to the ever-expanding global markets.
"On trade, we must trust American workers to compete in the world and empower them by opening up new markets overseas," Bush said. "Trade brings better jobs, better choices, and better prices; yet for some Americans, trade can mean losing a job, and the federal government has a responsibility to help."
He went on to urge Congress to reauthorize and reform trade adjustment assistance.
Bush also headed a plan for the U.S. to become more independent by tapping into its own national resources.
"To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology," the President proclaimed. "Our security, our prosperity and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil."
Investment in research and new technologies to use alternative fuels were at the top of Bush's plan to energy independence.
Addressing Stem Cells
The moral debate about stem cell research was also brought to the forefront.
"In November, we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells," the President declared. "This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life."
He wrapped up this topic by making a request to Congress.
"So I call on the Congress to pass legislation that bans unethical practices such as the buying, selling, patenting or cloning of human life," the President concluded.
No More Renegade Judges
Bush also showed zero tolerance for judges who open the Constitution up for new liberal interpretations.
"On matters of justice, we must trust in the wisdom of our Founders and empower judges who understand that the Constitution means what it says," asserted Bush. "I have submitted judicial nominees who will rule by the letter of the law, not the whim of the gavel."
Letting Faith Shine through
Faith-based organizations were said by the President to greatly assist those in need across the nation.
"In communities across our land, we must trust in the good heart of the American people and empower them to serve their neighbors in need," the President said. "Faith-based groups are bringing hope to pockets of despair, with newfound support from the federal government."
The Immigration Situation
Illegal immigration and border security were also a hot topic in the State of the Union.
"America needs to secure our borders - and with your help, my administration is taking steps to do so," said Bush. "We are increasing worksite enforcement; we are deploying fences and advanced technologies to stop illegal crossings; we have effectively ended the policy of 'catch and release' at the border, and by the end of this year, we will have doubled the number of border patrol agents."
Reforming Entitlement Programs
Bush stated the need for change in this nation's entitlement programs.
"Every member in this chamber knows that spending on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is growing faster than we can afford," the President asserted. "And we all know the painful choices ahead if America stays on this path: massive tax increases, sudden and drastic cuts in benefits or crippling deficits."
He went on to lay out his reformation package.
Revisiting Foreign Policy
The President also spoke on our nation's role in championing freedom abroad by dealing with terrorism on a global scale.
"Since September 11, we have taken the fight to these terrorists and extremists," Bush declared. "We will stay on the offense, we will keep up the pressure and we will deliver justice to the enemies of America."
The U.S. presence in Afghanistan was another topic Bush brought up with the American people.
"In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country," the President said. "Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al-Qaeda is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built and people are looking to the future with new hope."
Back to Iraq
The effectiveness of U.S. troop surges in Iraq were the focal point of Bush's oratory on Iraq.
"When we met last year, many said containing the violence was impossible," the President said. "A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down and sectarian killings are down."
He gave the credit to our troops and commanders overseas.
The President also stood behind his unwavering policy of keeping a strong presence in Iraq.
"We have unfinished business before us, and the American people expect to get it done," Bush argued, saying that accelerated troop withdrawals could erase the gains U.S. soldiers made in Iraq over the past year.
Middle Eastern Policy
Bush continued to share his belief that a Palestinian state would bring about peace.
"Palestinians have elected a president who recognizes that confronting terror is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and at peace with Israel," the president claimed. "Israelis have leaders who recognize that a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state will be a source of lasting security."
Without acknowledging the terrorist element within the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority, Bush renewed his vows to combat terrorism in the Iranian government, the Lebanese-based Hezbollah organization, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
No More Homeland Insecurity?
The President would not relent on his programs to ensure a safe America.
"Protecting our nation from the dangers of a new century requires more than good intelligence and a strong military," Bush said. "It also requires changing the conditions that breed resentment and allow extremists to prey on despair."
The ability to monitor terrorist communications was a key to Bush's plan to eradicate the enemy from our native soil.
Humanitarian Relief Abroad
Bush outlined America's involvement in ensuring that the rights and quality of life in troubled nations are upheld.
"America is opposing genocide in Sudan and supporting freedom in countries from Cuba and Zimbabwe to Belarus and Burma," the President declared.
He went on to describe what the U.S. is doing globally to fight poverty, hunger and disease.
Caring for Our Vets
Taking care of those who served to protect our nation was the final issue in the State of the Union address.
"Over the past seven years, we have increased funding for veterans by more than 95 percent," Bush said. "As we increase funding, we must also reform our veterans system to meet the needs of a new war and a new generation."
Endings and Beginnings
Even though Monday night marked the end of the Bush era of State of the Unions, it came at the beginning of one of this nation's most intense and uncertain presidential election years.
Will the next State of the Union be followed by a Democratic or Republican response? Only the upcoming election will tell.