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 history 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 years.
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 9/11. 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.
History, no doubt, will prove that George W. Bush was one of the greatest leaders of our time. Although many on the left, and the pundits creating the polls will cast him as "unfavorable", they have something to learn, and learn they will over the next four years. America, for the most part, has something to learn over the next few years as we move forward!
May we all be thankful for the courageous leader we had in George W. Bush, our 43rd President.
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