citizens: For eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your President. The
first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence – a time set
apart. Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to
share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of
our Nation.
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.


Tonight I am filled with gratitude – to Vice
President Cheney and members of the Administration; to Laura, who brought joy to
this house and love to my life; to our wonderful daughters, Barbara and Jenna;
to my parents, whose examples have provided strength for a lifetime. And above
all, 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
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. I remember standing in
the rubble of the World Trade Center three days later, surrounded by rescuers
who had been working around the clock. I remember talking to brave souls who
charged through smoke-filled corridors at the Pentagon and to husbands and wives
whose loved ones became heroes aboard Flight 93. I remember Arlene Howard, who
gave me her fallen son’s police shield as a reminder of all that was lost. And I
still carry his badge.
As the years passed, most Americans were able to
return to life much as it had been before Nine-Eleven. 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. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where
the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young
democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq
has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab
democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United
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.
Our Nation is blessed to have citizens who
volunteer to defend us in this time of danger. I have cherished meeting these
selfless patriots and their families. America owes you a debt of gratitude. And
to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight: There has been no higher
honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.
The battles waged by our
troops are part of a broader struggle between two dramatically different
systems. Under one, a small band of fanatics demands total obedience to an
oppressive ideology, condemns women to subservience, and marks unbelievers for
murder. The other system is based on the conviction that freedom is the
universal gift of Almighty God and that liberty and justice light the path to
This is the belief that gave birth to our Nation. And in the long run,
advancing this belief is the only practical way to protect our citizens. 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.
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.
When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we
rose to meet them. Facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive
measures to safeguard our economy. These are very tough times for hardworking
families, but the toll would be far worse if we had not acted. All Americans are
in this together. And together, with determination and hard work, we will
restore our economy to the path of growth. We will show the world once again the
resilience of America’s free enterprise system.

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.
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. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is
wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is
eternally right. This Nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth.
We must always be willing to act in their defense and to advance the cause of
President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "I like the dreams of the
future better than the history of the past." As I leave the house he occupied
two centuries ago, I share that optimism. America is a young country, full of
vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And 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. We see examples of America’s character all around us. And
Laura and I have invited some of them to join us in the White House this
We see America’s character in Dr. Tony Recasner, a principal who
opened a new charter school from the ruins of Hurricane Katrina. We see it in
Julio Medina, a former inmate who leads a faith-based program to help prisoners
returning to society. We see it in Staff Sergeant Aubrey McDade, who charged
into an ambush in Iraq and rescued three of his fellow Marines.
We see
America’s character in Bill Krissoff, a surgeon from California. His son Nathan,
a Marine, gave his life in Iraq. When I met Dr. Krissoff and his family, he
delivered some surprising news: He told me he wanted to join the Navy Medical
Corps in honor of his son. This good man was 60 years old – 18 years above the
age limit. But his petition for a waiver was granted, and for the past year he
has trained in battlefield medicine. Lieutenant Commander Krissoff could not be
here tonight, because he will soon deploy to Iraq, where he will help save
America’s wounded warriors and uphold the legacy of his fallen son.
citizens like these, we see the best of our country – resilient and hopeful,
caring and strong. 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.
It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve
as your President. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I
have been inspired by the greatness of our country and uplifted by the goodness
of our people. I have been blessed to represent this Nation we love. And I will
always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other: citizen
of the United States of America.
And so, my fellow Americans, for the final
time: Good night. May God bless this house and our next President. And may God
bless you and our wonderful country.


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