America is a great force for freedom and prosperity. Yet our greatness
is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we
treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful
In recent years, America has become a more hopeful nation. Violent
crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the
1970's. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past
decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are
fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three
decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been
falling for a dozen years in a row.
These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation, a revolution of
conscience in which a rising generation is finding that a life of
personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment. Government has
played a role. Wise policies such as welfare reform, drug education
and support for abstinence and adoption have made a difference in the
character of our country. And everyone here tonight, Democrat and
Republican, has a right to be proud of this record.
Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about
the direction of our culture and the health of our most basic
institutions. They are concerned about unethical conduct by public
officials and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine
marriage. They worry about children in our society, who need direction
and love; and about fellow citizens still displaced by natural
disaster; and about suffering caused by treatable disease.
As we look at these challenges, we must never give in to the belief
that America is in decline or that our culture is doomed to
unravel. The American people know better than that. We have proven the
pessimists wrong before, and we will do it again.
A hopeful society depends on courts that deliver equal justice under
the law. The Supreme Court now has two superb new members on its
bench, Chief Justice John
Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. I thank the Senate for
confirming both of them. I will continue to nominate men and women
who understand that judges must be servants of the law, and not
legislate from the bench.
Today marks the official retirement of a very special American. For 24
years of faithful service to our nation, the United States is grateful
to Justice Sandra Day
A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not
cut ethical corners and that recognize the matchless value of every
life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most
egregious abuses of medical research, human cloning in all its forms,
creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal
hybrids, and buying, selling or patenting human embryos. Human life is
a gift from our creator, and that gift should never be discarded,
devalued or put up for sale.
A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public
trust. Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to
strengthen the ethical standards of Washington, and I support your
efforts. Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public
responsibility, and that is a pledge we must never forget, never
dismiss and never betray.
As we renew the promise of our institutions, let us also show the
character of America in our compassion and care for one another.
A hopeful society gives special attention to children who lack
direction and love. Through the Helping America's Youth Initiative, we
are encouraging caring adults to get involved in the life of a child,
and this good work is being led by our first lady, Laura Bush. This
year, we will add resources to encourage young people to stay in
school so more of America's youth can raise their sights and achieve
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of
suffering and emergency and stays at it until they are back on their
feet. So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the
people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris and
repairing highways and rebuilding stronger levees. We're providing
business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate
needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the
storm arrived. In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow
citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country.
The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every
child and job skills that bring upward mobility and more opportunities
to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let
us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice,
equal in hope and rich in opportunity.
A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like H.I.V./AIDS which
can be prevented and treated and defeated. More than a million
Americans live with H.I.V., and half of all AIDS cases occur among
African-Americans. I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan
White Act and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting
lists for AIDS medicine in America. We will also lead a nationwide
effort, working closely with African-American churches and faith-based
groups, to deliver rapid H.I.V. tests to millions, end the stigma of
AIDS and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in
Fellow citizens, we've been called to leadership in a period of
consequence. We've entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing
to invite. We see great changes in science and commerce that will
influence all our lives. Sometimes it can seem that history is turning
in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore.
Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and
every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln
could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued
slavery. Martin Luther King
could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma and achieved only half a
victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the
permanent division of Europe and been complicit in the oppression of
others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must
decide will we turn back or finish well?
Before history is written down in books, it is written in
courage. Like Americans before us, we will show that courage and we
will finish well. We will lead freedom's advance. We will compete and
excel in the global economy. We will renew the defining moral
commitments of this land. And so we move forward—optimistic
about our country, faithful to its cause and confident of victories to
May God bless America.