Mr. Bush’s 2004 Acceptance Speech
What will a Republican victory mean for the future of the United States?
October 29, 2003
My fellow Republicans,
Four years ago, at our national convention in Philadelphia, I stated that gaining the office of President of the United States was not my ambition, but rather the opportunity of a lifetime. Today, I am standing before you grateful and inspired in accepting your re-nomination to lead America on the road to just and moral renewal.
We are gathered here in New York City, whose place in history as a center of American ingenuity has long been secured. It has been our symbol of freedom and the entry port for many new citizens, who chose to come to America in search of liberty and a better life.
Three years ago, this city also became the symbol of our national resolve to stand undeterred even in the face of unprecedented evil.
This city and our nation rose from death and destruction of the kind of war never fought before on our soil. And I am gratified to report that we have met this challenge with great courage and determination.
In his first inaugural speech, another wartime president — Dwight D. Eisenhower — stated: "We sense with all our faculties that forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history. We are called as a people to give testimony in the sight of the world to our faith that the future shall belong to the free."
Of course, President Eisenhower spoke of a different enemy then. Yet, his conviction is as valid as ever — and today we must re-affirm it as a nation.
Just over two months from now, the American people will judge us for what we have accomplished in the last four years. And I am certain they will show their unbent trust in our firm commitment to finish our task.
My friends, this Republic was irresponsibly unprepared for the gruesome attacks three years ago. Worse, our armed forced had been hollowed out by years and years of liberal neglect. The capability and morale of our intelligence services were diminished by unchecked liberal vilification.
And so, the enemy entered our land undetected — and brutally attacked our values in anticipation of a feeble response.
But, my fellow Americans, when I competed for this office four years ago, I promised a new type of leadership, a leadership built on vigor — and our nation's most sacred values. I promised to make decisions with care and with conviction, but not with polls.
As a result, my fellow Republicans, today America is stronger than ever before. Our leadership in this war has been decisive, swift and comprehensive. We have reinvigorated our military.
We have restructured, modernized and returned pride to our intelligence services so that they may master the challenges of the future.
We are reducing the living and breathing space of our enemies inch by inch, square mile by square mile, country by country. And we are defeating those who harbor them. We have lived for far too long in a world of denial. The American people were led to believe that victory would come overnight. It will be gradual, it will be costly, and it will be painful — but our victory will be inevitable.
As Ronald Reagan once said: "We were meant to be masters of destiny, not victims of fate." My fellow Republicans, over the last four years, we have renewed this holy pledge.
We point with great pride and without apologies at the achievements of our armed forces in America's war against evil. Italy's great painter Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have said: "He who does not value life, does not deserve it." By that standard, we have already accomplished a lot.
We have removed an oppressive regime in Afghanistan — and laid the foundations for a prosperous democracy. And we have toppled one of the great tyrants of the 20th and 21st century in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his slaughterers no longer hold court over their defenseless people.
In our military campaigns, we have not only succeeded in our mission with minimal losses of life on our side, but we also exemplified humanity in containing the human costs of war in the lands of our enemies.
And make no mistake about it, we are there to stay to help and assist the Iraqi people to build a model of democracy that will set them free — and make them the envy of their neighbors.
My fellow Republicans, our unwavering course of action has not been without opposition at home and abroad. Let me remind my critics of the words of Robert F. Kennedy, who once noted: "Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
We stand up for the American ideals, we act to improve the lot of the oppressed, we strike out against injustice committed against our fellow citizens and citizens around the world.
And yes, we send forth a ripple of hope and we are confident that it will build into a current that will result in a safer and better tomorrow here in America — and elsewhere around the world.
And yet, we have not gone this road alone. We have built strong alliances to prosecute the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq — and we have shaped a multilateral consensus at the United Nations. On that basis, we can count on others in our efforts to design and construct a new physical and democratic infrastructure in the Middle East.
By the same token, my friends, coalition-building must be a means — and not an end — to American foreign policy. As the American journalist Walter Lippmann recognized half a century ago: "A great power like the United States gains no advantage and loses prestige by offering, indeed peddling, its alliance to all and sundry. An alliance should be hard diplomatic currency, valuable and hard to get — and not inflationary paper."
My fellow Republicans, America is not only stronger because we have begun to rebuild our defenses against domestic and external enemies. America is also stronger today because we have rebuilt our nation's economy to guarantee that the 21st century too will be America's century.
When we arrived in Washington, our economy was in recession, our fellow citizens were losing their jobs and our nation had lived beyond its means. Our people were overtaxed and underserved — and our role in the global economy was lacking vision and leadership.
Today, we are proud to report that our economy is growing and that new jobs are being created. However, growth today is unlike the unbalanced prosperity of the late 1990s.
Instead, our measures to introduce the largest tax cuts in the nation's history have allowed for short-term stimulus and long-term incentives that will propel America to unparalleled levels of affluence.
Once again, our vision has had its detractors at home and abroad. Democrats still live by the words of Henry Louis Mencken, who once contemptuously remarked: "Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages."
This, my fellow Republicans, is the Democratic definition of progress, but it is nothing more than irresponsible spending largesse.
A growing and balanced economy ensures more than anything else rising standards of living for all Americans. Hence, our growth-oriented economic policy is more equitable than the policy of selective, unaffordable handouts promoted by our opponents.
Justice Clarence Thomas put it best when he said: "Government cannot make us equal: It can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law." Under my administration, we have fully incorporated this principle into our policies — and into our actions.
We have introduced a new prescription drug plan into Congress to help the elderly. We are making sure that prudent, growth-oriented fiscal policies will protect Medicare and Social Security. We have made good on our promise on education — and today America is firmly committed "to leave no child behind." But we have done all of that while respecting the limits of government.
Finally, my friends, we made good on our commitment to restore the integrity of the Oval Office. As we are accountable for our actions, we also hold those accountable who act on our behalf. But the true test of character — in the words of our fellow Republican J.C. Watts — is to do "what's right when nobody's looking."
Leadership, security and integrity have been the maxims of my first term in office. These principles will also guide us in the next four years.
The world expects no less — and the American people deserve no less. I stand ready to serve them on our nation's important journey.
Thank you and God bless America.