As for me, this is a thank you note. Bush wasn't the perfect conservative president by any means--his mistakes would fill a lengthy post. But he fought a good fight at a dark time. Days after 9/11 he spoke these words:
Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us. Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.Just words? Apparently not for him. His follow through made many enemies both foreign and domestic. By fulfilling Congress' 1998 wish he enranged the peaceniks, producing a few strange bedfellows in the process. His own party sometimes resisted for good reason. Perhaps even his own dad.
It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives and routines, and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day, and to whom it happened. We'll remember the moment the news came -- where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever.
And I will carry this: It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud memorial to her son. This is my reminder of lives that ended, and a task that does not end. I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.
But as Obama enters the White House tomorrow any bin Laden pronouncement will fall on deaf ears, as they have these past few years. And though he'll try to make hay about withdrawing from Iraq the reduction of forces agreement is already in place, something not possible without the troop surge he opposed. A president may end a war but cannot prevent winners and losers. The economy is job one now, which means things have indeed returned to normal since 9/11.
And in that regard it's hard to imagine Al Gore up there on that pile of rubble with the bullhorn, arm around the fire commander, without seeing him reminding everyone that global warming is the real enemy. Ironically global warming is back on the front burner having replaced terrorism, which polls showed ranked about 2 percent in importance during the presidential election. It didn't happen by magic.
As we celebrate the dream of a man who wished for a country where men aren't judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character we should be able to see the Obama election as a positive step regardless of political ideology. But no doubt Dr. King would have also been gracious in thanking President Bush for putting more people of color into high-ranking cabinet positions than had any previous president.
With that I say Godspeed, Mr. and Mrs. Bush. Thanks for serving. And God bless America as we go forward into the new era.