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President outlines goals, challenges in address

By Staff
Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our nation an active force for good in the world, the state of our union is confident and strong.
– President George W. Bush
Last Wednesday's State of the Union address, made before a joint session of Congress and to millions of Americans throughout the country, was perhaps the finest speech President George W. Bush has ever given. It was certainly the best State of the Union I've heard since the days of Ronald Reagan.
It was also one of the most emotional.
During his 53 min. speech, the president touched on many of the major themes he has championed during his first term. This list is at the core of his agenda for the next four years as well, and includes many areas which have received a great deal of attention: making the tax cuts permanent; developing and implementing a comprehensive energy policy which relies on increased production and alternative fuel sources; modernizing an out-of-date immigration system and making health care more affordable while providing greater access and options for better coverage for American families.
The president also talked at length about the successes we have witnessed around the world with democratic elections in the Palestinian territories, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and most significantly, Iraq.
He paid tribute to the men and women of our armed forces who have sacrificed so much in the defense of our homeland and in securing freedom for millions of Iraqi men, women and children. During the president's address, many members of Congress-myself included-raised their index fingers which had been dipped in purple ink in a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the newly-freed Iraqi people. It was a strong sign of the change in that country from the color of red-spilled by the regime of Saddam Hussein-to the hue of purple, marking the fingers of those casting their first free vote.
In the most poignant and moving moment of the night, the mother of Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood, recently killed in action in Iraq, and Safia Taleb al-Suhail, an Iraqi woman whose family suffered at the hands of Hussein's regime and who cast her first vote in this election, joined in a tearful embrace.
It was a powerful scene: one mother, whose son had given his life in Iraq, embracing another for whose freedom his life had been given. It was difficult to find a dry eye in the House chamber at that point, and even the president was visibly moved by the embrace.
In all, it was a powerful speech delivered with great authority, and it was an evening many of us will not soon forget.
Questions about Social Security reform
While the president touched on a whole host of important topics in his address, clearly nothing has provoked the national conversation more than his proposal to reform Social Security and make it solvent for future generations.
Here are the facts: Today, more than 45 million Americans receive Social Security benefits and millions more are nearing retirement.
Without hesitation the president said clearly: For everyone American who is 55 or older, do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change in any way.