Freitag, 23. Januar 2009

Welcome Home

George Bush beendete seinen Weg als Präsident dort, wo er vor acht Jahren begann: Auf dem Centennial Plaza in seiner Heimatstadt Midland. Schon damals sagte Bush, dass das Leben in Washington zeitlich begrenzt sei und dass er Texas nicht für immer verlassen würde. Außerdem versprach er, die Werte West-Texas' mit nach Washington zu nehmen und dort nach diesen Werten zu handeln.

Nun also kehrte der "favorite son" zurück und es empfingen ihn weitaus mehr Menschen, als die 15000, die ihn vor acht Jahren verabschiedet hatten. Die geschätzten 25000 Texaner auf dem Centennial Plaza wurden bis zu Bushs Ankunft von Künstlern wie Lee Greenwood unterhalten. Bevor die Air Force One in Midland landete, flog sie einmal im Tiefflug über den Centennial Plaza. Als George Bush und seine Frau Laura endlich kamen, kannte der Jubel keine Grenzen mehr. Auch während Bushs Rede riefen immer wieder Leute "we love you" oder "we're proud of you". Es war nicht zu übersehen, dass hier Menschen vor Bush standen, die die ganzen acht Jahre hindurch stolz auf ihn waren und ihn unterstützt haben.

Welche Traurigkeit und Melancholie Bush vielleicht bis dahin auch gefühlt haben mag an diesem Tag, an dem er aufhörte, Präsident zu sein - als er wieder unter den Menschen war, die seine Mentalität teilen und ihn verstehen, war das alles sicher wie weggeblasen.

Auch nach seinem letzten Flug an Bord der Air Force One nach Waco, Texas, wurde Bush von Unterstützern begrüßt und sagte ein paar Worte.

Die schönen Tage, wo man Reden von George W. Bush einfach auf der Homepage des Weißen Hauses abrufen konnte, sind leider vorbei. Pünktlich zur Amtsübergabe letzten Dienstag wechselte auch die Homepage des Weißen Hauses von der Homepage der Bush-Administration zur Homepage der Obama-Administration. Mit der Hilfe von verschiedenen Internetseiten und dem Mitschreiben von Youtube-Videos ist es dem Blog dennoch gelungen, die Rede von George Bush bei seiner Willkommensparty in Texas in schriftliche Form zu bringen:

BUSH: You know, they ask me: “How do you feel after this momentous day?” I am grateful and I am thankful. I am grateful that you all came out to welcome us home. (Applause) And I am thankful that I had the honor of being President of the United States for eight years (Applause).

I want to thank the governor and the attorney general for joining us today and all the state officials. I thank Representative Tom Craddick for joining us and Nadine. I thank the mighty congressman from this district, Michael Conaway, for flying down from Washington. (Applause)

I thank my friend, the Gatlin Boys, West Texas raised. (Applause) Rodney Atkins. I appreciate Rodney coming, and Lee Greenwood. It's awfully kind of these entertainers to come and keep you busy while we were winging our way home. (Applause).

Today was a great day for America, and a good man took the oath of office and we all offer our prayers for his success. (Applause) Today's also a great day for the Bush family. We are back in the state of Texas, and we are here to stay. (Applause)

You know, I tell people the days have been long, but the years are short. It just seemed like yesterday that you honored us with a sendoff from this plaza to Washington, D.C. What has changed is the weather. (Laughter) That day, I said that Laura and I were on a great journey, and now we're back. And what a trip it has been. We saw some of the most trying days in America's history, and some of the very best of our citizens.

This guy who went to Sam Houston Elementary School spent the night in Buckingham Palace. (Laughter) This (inaudible) product got to go all over the world with this Lee High School graduate. (Applause) We came face to face with kings, presidents, popes, and a son-in- law. (Laughter)

The presidency was a joyous experience, but as great as it was, nothing compares with Texas' sunset. And so tonight, I have the privilege of saying six words that I have been waiting to say for a while: "It is good to be home." (Applause)

Being in Midland brings back a lot of memories. Over on Ohio Street there was picked out more than a half century ago a little house that was bought by George and Barbara Bush. It is incredible to think that that little house on Ohio Street was the home to two presidents of the United States and a Governor of the state of Florida. (Applause)

They told me the house is becoming a boyhood museum, a George W. Bush boyhood home. I've never quite figured why they didn't call it the George H. W. Bush home that George W. got to live in. (Laughter)

But mother, who just left us, along with dad--they're heading west--they were in Washington today for the inauguration and flew down on the airplane with us, she said when she heard about the museum, "You better go clean your room." (Laughter)

I will always be grateful for the unconditional love of my parents. There is no doubt that that unconditional love gave me the, I guess you would say, "courage," to run for president of the United States. And to my mother and my father, I can't tell you how much I love you. (Applause)

And Midland is also the site of the most important meeting of my life, far more meaningful than any meeting in the Oval Office. (Laughter) That happened in O'Neill's backyard at a barbecue, where I met a hometown girl named Laura Welch. I fell in love with her that day. I convinced her to marry me a couple of months later, and I have felt blessed ever since. (Applause) She filled the White House with warmth and my life with joy, and history will show that she was a fabulous first lady. (Applause)

I had a lot of other sources of strength during my eight years. I am blessed with a great family. Little Barbara is traveling with us today, and little Jenna, they brought such joy and happiness to the White House, and I love them dearly as well. (Applause) My brothers and sisters--all three of my brothers were born here in Midland, Texas, by the way, (Applause) and they were great pals during this experience.

I was blessed with a fantastic administration. I want to thank my friend Dick Cheney, who was a great vice president. (Applause) And those who served in my cabinet, some of whom honored me by flying down on the airplane today--Margaret Spelling, Secretary of Education, Alberto Gonzalez, Attorney General. (Applause)

I want to thank a fabulous staff of people. I was truly blessed to have people work with me, people who came to Washington, D.C. not to serve George Bush, not to serve a political party, but they came because they wanted to serve the United States of America, and they did a fabulous job, and I will be forever grateful. (Applause)

I am grateful to the prayers of the American people. I have been sustained and strengthened and comforted by an almighty god during eight years as your president. (Applause) And I was sustained by my buddies and my friends. You know, I tell people all the time the great things about my Texas friends is they were friends before politics, they were friends during politics, they will be my friends after politics, and most of them didn't care what happened during politics! (Applause)

It brought us a lot of comfort to know we had support from people in a place we call home. It really did. As a reminder of my feelings toward my friends, people I grew up with, I had four paintings in the Oval Office of the great state of Texas. They were there from day one. And the message was clear -- Laura and I may have left Texas, but Texas never left us. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. (Applause)

The values that Laura and I learned here in west Texas have guided us throughout our lives and have guided us during in Washington. This is the place where people treat each other with decency and respect, where neighbors look out for neighbors, and where character counts an awful lot.

West Texas is a place of tremendous optimism, and you got to know that even during some of the most difficult days of my presidency, I was always optimistic about our future. I had great faith in the American people, and faith in some fundamental truths.

Every day, I followed a set of clear principles, principles that I learned from my family and principles I learned from growing up out here in west Texas and throughout this state. Individuals must be responsible for the actions they take in life. Our nation thrives when government trusts people with decision about their own money and their own lives. The strong have an obligation to defend the weak. Freedom is a universal gift of an almighty god, and America should use its influence to be a force for good in the world. Through it all, I stayed true to those convictions.

And we took on big issues. I always felt it was important to tackle the tough issues today and not try to pass them on to future presidents and future generations. (Applause) I never took an opinion poll to tell me what to think. (Applause) And I'm coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment. (Applause)

We lifted standards and achievements in public schools and the achievement gap between white students and minority students is closing for the good of the United States of America. (Applause) Seniors now have a prescription drug benefit in Medicare. We cut taxes for everybody who pays taxes in the United States of America. (Applause)

We empowered armies of compassion to help citizens all across our country. We saved millions from HIV-AIDS and malaria. We appointed good judges like Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. (Applause)

And after our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, a day that changed me forever, we took the fight to the terrorists around the world. We removed threatening regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and liberated 50 million people from the clutches of terrorism. (Applause) We worked to extend freedom and human liberty as the alternatives to tyranny and terror. No matter whether or not you agree with my decisions or not, one thing you have to agree with is that we have not been attacked in the last seven years. (Applause)

This is a tribute to all who toil day and night to keep us safe, especially the men and women who wear our nation's uniform. (Applause) I can't tell you how great it has been to stand before our troops and meet their families, or to go to Walter Reed and have a soldier look you in the face and say "Mr. President, I’d do it all over again. Let me get healed so I can go back and defend the United States of America." (Applause) There is nothing I will miss more than being the commander in chief of such an unbelievable group of men and women. (Applause)

There were some good days, and there were some tough days. But every day it was an honor to be your president.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’re proud of you!

BUSH: I gave it my all.


BUSH: Listen- -sometimes what I did wasn't popular.


BUSH: But that's OK. I always did what I thought was right. (Applause)

In my last commencement speech as the president, I went to Texas A&M University. (Applause)

I said popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind. (Laughter) Character and conscience are as sturdy as our oaks. History will be the judge of my decisions, but when I walked out of the Oval Office this morning, I left with the same values that I took to Washington eight years ago. (Applause) And when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I am not going to regret what I see—(Applause) except maybe some gray hair. (Laughter)

And now that we're back home, we have a few things to figure out, like what exactly we're going to do. (Laughter) Fortunately, we got a place to live. I delegated that decision to Laura. She bought a fine place in Dallas, I think. (Laughter) I haven't seen it yet. You might call that the first faith-based initiative of the post- presidency. (Laughter)

But to help me come up with ideas, I have been learning about what my predecessors have done after leaving office. Theodore Roosevelt took a safari to Africa and explored the Amazon. Dwight Eisenhower learned to place his own phone calls. (Laughter) And president number 41 decided he was going to jump out of an airplane -- twice. (Laughter) My dad is America's only skydiving former president, and that's a title he's going to keep. (Laughter and applause) Tomorrow I'm planning on having a relaxing morning in Crawford.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You deserve it!

BUSH: I'm going to get up, and I'm going to make Laura coffee, (Laughter) skim the newspaper, call some friends, read a book, feed the dogs, go fishing, and take a walk. By that time, I figure it will be eight in the morning. (Laughter) That's what happens when you're a Type A personality. (Laughter)

I told Laura I was excited about her cooking again -- kind of. (Laughter) She told me she was excited about me mowing the lawn and taking out the trash. It's my new domestic agenda. (Laughter) We're going to spend some time catching up with our family. I want you to hear something interesting: I'm the first former president to be able to share the post-presidency with both my parents. (Applause) And I'm going to take advantage of every minute of it. (Applause)

I've got some bigger ideas. I plan on keeping busy, and so does Laura. We may be retired, but we're not tired out. I'm going to write a book. I want people to be able to understand what it was like in the Oval Office when I had to make some of the tough decisions that I was called upon to make.

You know, history tends to take a little time for people to remember what happened and to have an objective accounting of what took place, and I would like to be a part of making that real history of this administration come to life. (Applause)

I might even give a few speeches. They are going to put a presidential center at Laura's alma mater, Southern Methodist University in Dallas. It is going to be a policy institute, a place to promote the ideals of freedom and personal responsibility.

You know, there hadn't been one of these places built in the heartland of America, and I'm glad to be putting mine right here in Texas. (Applause)

I want you to know that I will forever be optimistic about our country. You see, I was privileged, privileged to see the character and the courage of the American people. You'd be amazed to see what I have seen.

You know, I will never forget going to a little town in Kansas that got destroyed by a tornado. And these people said "nothing's going to keep us down." I went back a year later to give a high school graduation speech, and these folks picked themselves up and rebuilt their community.

I told a story the other night when I gave my farewell address in the East Room of the White House about a guy I met named Bill Christoff (ph). I wanna share it right quick if you didn't hear the story.

One of the things I did was spend time meeting with the families of the fallen. I want you to know that the comforter in chief was always the person who got comforted in those meetings. The strength of the families of our troops is just unbelievable. They’re love of their children were great. So I met this guy, he said “I wanna join the military to honor my son”. I looked at him and I said “How old are you?” He said “I’m sixty years old”. I said ,well I didn’t quite put it this way, “I thought you’re a little (long) than the tooth. (Laughter) Like me.” He’s an orthopedic surgeon. It turnes out it is possible to grant a waiver to someone who’s got a skill set like that. He said his son was a Marine who died in Iraq.

And so I got back to Washington and sure enough the waiver came through. Lieutenant Commander Bill Christoff, United States Navy, deploys to Iraq next week to honor his fallen son. (Applause)

That is a part of the story I have seen. We are a fabulous country. We are a great nation, because the people of this country are caring and decent and courageous and strong and compassionate. One former president one time said it was bittersweet to leave Washington. You know, I guess I understand it from his perspective but for me there’s nothing to be bitter about. Today is some kind of sweet. We are glad to be home. We thank you for your kindness. We thank you for your prayers. Thanks for coming out. And God bless you.


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