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The Greatest Presidential Speech Of My Generation

The full text of President Bush's address to joint session of Congress:

Washington D.C., September 21st, 2001



BUSH: Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, members of Congress, and

fellow Americans:

In the normal course of events, presidents come to this chamber to report on

the state of the Union. Tonight, no such report is needed. It has already

been delivered by the American people.

We have seen it in the courage of passengers who rushed terrorists to save

others on the ground. Passengers like an exceptional man named Todd Beamer.

And would you please help me welcome his wife Lisa Beamer here tonight?


We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of rescuers working

past exhaustion. We've seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles,

the giving of blood, the saying of prayers in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

We have seen the decency of a loving and giving people who have made the

grief of strangers their own.

My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire world has seen for

itself the state of union, and it is strong.


Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.

Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our

enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.


I thank the Congress for its leadership at such an important time. All of

America was touched on the evening of the tragedy to see Republicans and

Democrats joined together on the steps of this Capitol singing "God Bless


And you did more than sing. You acted, by delivering $40 billion to rebuild

our communities and meet the needs of our military. Speaker Hastert,

Minority Leader Gephardt, Majority Leader Daschle and Senator Lott, I thank

you for your friendship, for your leadership and for your service to our



And on behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its outpouring

of support. America will never forget the sounds of our national anthem

playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris and at Berlin's

Brandenburg Gate.

We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our

embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo.

We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and

Africa and Latin America.

Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who died with our own.

Dozens of Pakistanis, more than 130 Israelis, more than 250 citizens of

India, men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico and Japan, and hundreds

of British citizens.

America has no truer friend than Great Britain.


Once again, we are joined together in a great cause.

I'm so honored the British prime minister had crossed an ocean to show his

unity with America.

Thank you for coming, friend.


On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against

our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years they have

been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have

known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a

peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on

thousands of civilians.

All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a

different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.

Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking, "Who attacked

our country?"

The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely

affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are some of the

murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and

responsible for bombing the USS Cole.

Al Qaeda is to terror what the Mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making

money, its goal is remaking the world and imposing its radical beliefs on

people everywhere.

The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been

rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics; a

fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The

terrorists' directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all

Americans and make no distinctions among military and civilians, including

women and children.

This group and its leader, a person named Osama bin Laden, are linked to

many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian

Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are

recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in

places like Afghanistan where they are trained in the tactics of terror.

They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the

world to plot evil and destruction.

The leadership of Al Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan and supports

the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan we

see Al Qaeda's vision for the world. Afghanistan's people have been

brutalized, many are starving and many have fled. Women are not allowed to

attend school. You can be jailed for owning a television. Religion can be

practiced only as their leaders dictate. A man can be jailed in Afghanistan

if his beard is not long enough.

The United States respects the people of Afghanistan -- after all, we are

currently its largest source of humanitarian aid -- but we condemn the

Taliban regime.


It is not only repressing its own people, it is threatening people

everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists. By aiding

and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder. And tonight

the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban.

Deliver to United States authorities all of the leaders of Al Quaeda who

hide in your land.


Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens you have unjustly

imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers in your

country. Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in

Afghanistan. And hand over every terrorist and every person and their

support structure to appropriate authorities.


Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can

make sure they are no longer operating.

These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion.


The Taliban must act and act immediately.

They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate.

I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We

respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and

by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings

are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah

blaspheme the name of Allah.


The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack

Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not

our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and

every government that supports them.


Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will

not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped

and defeated.


Americans are asking "Why do they hate us?"

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected

government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our

freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble

and disagree with each other. They want to overthrow existing governments in

many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They want to

drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews

out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way

of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful,

retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us

because we stand in their way.

We're not deceived by their pretenses to piety.

We have seen their kind before. They're the heirs of all the murderous

ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their

radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they

follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will

follow that path all the way to where it ends in history's unmarked grave of

discarded lies.


Americans are asking, "How will we fight and win this war?"

We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy,

every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every

financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the destruction

and to the defeat of the global terror network. Now, this war will not be

like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of

territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above

Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single

American was lost in combat.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated

strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign

unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible

on TV and covert operations secret even in success. We will starve

terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place

to place until there is no refuge or no rest.

And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.

Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with

us or you are with the terrorists.


>From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support

terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. Our

nation has been put on notice, we're not immune from attack. We will take

defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans.

Today, dozens of federal departments and agencies, as well as state and

local governments, have responsibilities affecting homeland security. These

efforts must be coordinated at the highest level. So tonight, I announce the

creation of a Cabinet-level position reporting directly to me, the Office of

Homeland Security.

And tonight, I also announce a distinguished American to lead this effort,

to strengthen American security: a military veteran, an effective governor,

a true patriot, a trusted friend, Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge.


He will lead, oversee and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to

safeguard our country against terrorism and respond to any attacks that may


These measures are essential. The only way to defeat terrorism as a threat

to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it where it



Many will be involved in this effort, from FBI agents, to intelligence

operatives, to the reservists we have called to active duty. All deserve our

thanks, and all have our prayers.

And tonight a few miles from the damaged Pentagon, I have a message for our

military: Be ready. I have called the armed forces to alert, and there is a


The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud.


This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just

America's freedom.

This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight

of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

We ask every nation to join us.

We will ask and we will need the help of police forces, intelligence service

and banking systems around the world. The United States is grateful that

many nations and many international organizations have already responded

with sympathy and with support -- nations from Latin America to Asia to

Africa to Europe to the Islamic world.

Perhaps the NATO charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack

on one is an attack on all. The civilized world is rallying to America's

side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities,

their own citizens may be next. Terror unanswered can not only bring down

buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments.

And you know what? We're not going to allow it.


Americans are asking, "What is expected of us?"

I ask you to live your lives and hug your children.

I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and

resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.

I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come


We're in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live

by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words

because of their ethnic background or religious faith.


I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with your

contributions. Those who want to give can go to a central source of

information,, to find the names of groups providing direct

help in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this investigation may

need your cooperation, and I ask you to give it. I ask for your patience

with the delays and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security and

for your patience in what will be a long struggle. I ask your continued

participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a

symbol of American prosperity; they did not touch its source.

America is successful because of the hard work and creativity and enterprise

of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September

11, and they are our strengths today.


And finally, please continue praying for the victims of terror and their

families, for those in uniform and for our great country. Prayer has

comforted us in sorrow and will help strengthen us for the journey ahead.

Tonight I thank my fellow Americans for what you have already done and for

what you will do.

And ladies and gentlemen of the Congress, I thank you, their

representatives, for what you have already done and for what we will do

together. Tonight we face new and sudden national challenges.

We will come together to improve air safety, to dramatically expand the

number of air marshals on domestic flights and take new measures to prevent


We will come together to promote stability and keep our airlines flying with

direct assistance during this emergency.


We will come together to give law enforcement the additional tools it needs

to track down terror here at home.


We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to know

the plans of terrorists before they act and to find them before they strike.


We will come together to take active steps that strengthen America's economy

and put our people back to work.

Tonight, we welcome two leaders who embody the extraordinary spirit of all

New Yorkers, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolf Giuliani.


As a symbol of America's resolve, my administration will work with Congress

and these two leaders to show the world that we will rebuild New York City.


After all that has just passed, all the lives taken and all the

possibilities and hopes that died with them, it is natural to wonder if

America's future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of terror. I know

there are struggles ahead and dangers to face. But this country will define

our times, not be defined by them.

As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will

not be an age of terror. This will be an age of liberty here and across the



Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our

grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment.

Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom, the great

achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us.

Our nation, this generation, will lift the dark threat of violence from our

people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts,

by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.


It is my hope that in the months and years ahead life will return almost to

normal. We'll go back to our lives and routines and that is good. Even grief

recedes with time and grace.

But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that

day and to whom it happened. We will remember the moment the news came,

where we were and what we were doing.

Some will remember an image of a fire or story or rescue. Some will carry

memories of a face and a voice gone forever.

And I will carry this. It is the police shield of a man named George Howard

who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others.

It was given to me by his mom, Arlene (ph), as a proud memorial to her son.

It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end.


I will not forget the wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I

will not yield, I will not rest, I will not relent in waging this struggle

for freedom and security for the American people.

The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain.

Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know

that God is not neutral between them.


Fellow citizens, we'll meet violence with patient justice, assured of the

rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come.

In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom and may he watch over

the United States of America.

Thank you.






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