Tuesday marked the beginning of a new chapter in America. We once again showed the world why America is a beacon of freedom, shinning a light of democracy for the entire world to take note. After nearly two years of political campaigning, more than a billion dollars spent, heated debates and millions upon millions of Americans investing their time, energy and attention to the process like never before, we arrived at a crossroads Tuesday which shows, unlike any other event in our young nation’s history, what makes us so special: the successful-and, even more importantly, peaceful-transition of power. No shots were fired, no one was hurt and one president handed his power over to another.
Just as impressive as Tuesday was for its peaceful transition of the most powerful office in the world is who we elected. America took a giant leap forward in electing our nation’s first African-American president, showing the world that, in our country, Thomas Jefferson was correct when he stated in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”
As President Barack Obama recited the words of Article Two, Section One of the Constitution, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” President George W. Bush officially became a part of history, riding into a metaphorical west Texas sunset. As we encounter these changing times it becomes appropriate to look back upon the past eight years, casting aside our political affiliation and knee-jerk reactions and allowing the facts to take center stage instead of built-up anger.
The administration of Bush has seen America through harsh times, and we as a nation should be grateful. Bush never intended to become a war president. No president does-they simply are presented with a situation and must deal with it.
Coming into his new administration, Bush planned to become a domestic president. Working, upon being sworn into office, to reform America’s educational system through the No Child Left Behind Act, Bush worked with members of both sides of Congress from our own Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) to liberal stalwarts Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). These bipartisan members of Congress and the leadership of Bush reformed our educational process to include annual testing for students so that our teachers and administrators could properly track the progress made by children in our classrooms. These men came together as one to say that it would no longer be acceptable to simply pass along students from one grade to the next as though they are herding cattle from one station to the next.
September 11, 2001 changed the course of the Bush presidency. America was attacked on our own soil by madmen bent on seeing our nation’s demise and destruction. Three thousand of our fellow Americans perished on this day which has come to rival Pearl Harbor. This was the day that defined the Bush presidency.
Rallying our nation from the shock we all endured, Bush climbed atop a fire truck on his visit to ground zero, declaring, “I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” With these words America was at war. By taking the battle to the terrorists in Afghanistan, Bush decided he would rather fight the enemy in their back yard instead of ours.
It is notable that America has remained safe since that horrific day and we have yet to experience another attack on our soil since. Democracy now reigns supreme in a land that used to oppress women and willingly harbor known terrorists. While the job is not done in Afghanistan, there is great hope that one day the Afghans will be able to stand on their own two feet without the help of America and our allies.
Bush decided the fight against terrorism could not stop there. Iraq came next. Take yourself back to the build up to the Iraq War. Saddam Hussein was in complete control of Iraq, torturing his citizens, fostering instability throughout the region and believed by numerous intelligence sources to possess weapons of mass destruction-the same ones he previously used on his own people. Knowing full well the danger of such a man, Bush took action and led a coalition of countries in the removal of Saddam.
While the takeover was swift and successful, much has been made of the troubles that followed. Bush realized changes needed to be made in order to successfully foster and grow democracy, and so changes were made. He put Gen. David Petraeus in charge of “The Surge,” and the successes were astonishing. Iraq has since made successful strides towards becoming safer and more prosperous, and the factions of the country have started to come together. Hope was restored and a beautiful future is likely through even more hard work and cooperation between the Iraqis. Remember, even our own country faced serious growing pains when we were a young nation.
These are just a few examples of the work Bush did. Much more can be said of his two terrific appointments to the Supreme Court, his tax cuts for families and his attempt to avoid the disasters of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-in 2001 Bush warned of their potential dangers as “government-sponsored enterprises” because they did not face the same regulations as other financial institutions.
History will be the greatest judge of the work President Bush did as our nation’s 43rd president. Given time to reflect and to allow Bush’s actions and decisions to play out, America will begin to realize the tremendous job that was done while facing extraordinary challenges these past eight years, and what his leadership meant to our nation and the world.
Chris BerryChairmanMiami University College Republicansberrycj@muohio.edu