Bush’s State of the Union Address: Paving the Road to Freedom

Lucas Morel

February 1, 2005

In his State of the Union Address, President Bush stuck by his Second Inaugural Address theme of freedom, and showed Congress, the American people, and the world that his presidency is devoted to making freedom a greater reality at home and abroad. He outlined domestic and foreign policies that demonstrate his intention to make gains for freedom a permanent fixture on the political landscape not only for the present generation but also for generations to come.

Bush showed a conviction about his principles and his hopes for the nation by daring to suggest that reform is needed of that grand Democratic behemoth, Social Security. In addition, he emphasized the need to cultivate a “dynamic” economy for the sake of continued prosperity for the present and rising generation. And he linked new energy policies to the jobs to be produced by this approach and, by implication, the increased security that would result from less dependence on “foreign energy.”

At bottom, this president believes freedom must mean something to be of any value in this fast-changing, increasingly connected, and some times turbulent world. It must mean something for the high school kid with the opportunity to learn but who previously was passed along. It must mean something for the thirty-something employee wondering about his retirement, or the small business owner willing to risk his own time and resources to try a new venture. It must mean something to our military who risk life and limb to defend Americans across the country by helping foreign people secure their freedom across the globe.

Simply put, “The advance of freedom will lead to peace.” Remember that naïve chant of the ’60s: “All we are saying, is give peace a chance”? It’s time to forget it. The President suggests—nay, insists—that those serious about peace must give freedom a chance to produce a peace worthy of the humanity God has placed on this earth. Peace is good, but not if bought at the price of tyranny. Democracy, representing “a higher standard of freedom,” is better.

Of course, the world has seen poor examples of democracy, even some that gave rise to despots. Bush acknowledged as much when he closed his address with due deference to the unsearchable ways of the Almighty: “The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable—yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom.” Undaunted by the turbulence of history, he stays a course that is bound for freedom, and one he is convinced is traced, however curved, by the finger of God.

And so the President asks us to notice the elections taking place in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the Palestinian Territories. To observe the reforms “taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain.” Freedom is taking root in politically barren lands, and the President thinks with our help it can blossom.

Which is why the President declared the need and duty of today’s generation of Americans to stand with “the allies of freedom” in foreign lands. Where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” President Bush affirms that to support freedom anywhere is to advance freedom everywhere. “We are witnessing landmark events in the history of liberty,” the President remarked. And he expressed his confidence that “in the coming years, we will add to that story.”

But what about the “Democratic Response”? Democratic, indeed. If that party bothered to listen, it would have known better than to issue one—for the President already gave it. His state of the union address was a democratic response to those who would make government less free, whether at home or abroad. Americans really do live in a country “where the biggest dreams are born.” With God’s help, they may yet witness similar dreams come to life for more people throughout the world.

Lucas E. Morel is associate professor of politics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and is an adjunct fellow at the Ashbrook Center.