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Bush Reassures Anxious Americans During Anti-Terror Speech - 2001-11-09


President Bush is rallying the American people, seeking to ease fears and build resolve almost two months after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. In a nationally broadcast speech from Atlanta, Georgia he vowed to prevail in the war on terrorism while upholding American values of courage, compassion, and resolve.

The president says America is a far different country than it was on September 10 - the day before terrorists struck on American soil.

He says Americans are sadder, yet stronger... and in the face of ongoing threats, determined and courageous.

"Our nation faces a threat to our freedoms, and the stakes could not be higher," the president said. "We are the target of enemies who boast they want to kill all Americans, kill all Jews, and kill all Christians. We have seen that type of hate before, and the only possible response is to confront it and to defeat it."

The president spoke in firm even tones before an Atlanta audience of firefighters, police, postal workers and public health officials. He called them America's "new heroes." But the biggest applause came when he talked about American forces fighting terrorism abroad.

"A lot of people are working really hard to protect America. But in the long run, the best way to defend our homeland - the best way to make sure our children can live in peace - is to take the battle to the enemy and to stop them," Mr. Bush said.

His comments on the military operation were brief. This was not a speech designed to send a message abroad. The president's goal was to reassure a nervous public trying to put life in perspective - to define normalcy at a time of terror alerts and anthrax scares.

"A terrorism alert is not a signal to stop your life," he said. "It is a call to be vigilant - to know that your government is on high alert, and to add your eyes and ears to our efforts to find and stop those who want to do us harm."

Mr. Bush said there is a difference between being alert and being intimidated - and America will not be intimidated.

"Our great national challenge is to hunt down the terrorist and strengthen our protection against future attacks; our great national opportunity is to preserve forever the good that has resulted," President Bush said. "Through this tragedy, we are renewing and reclaiming our strong American values."

The president said he knows many Americans want to do something besides showing the flag or donating money to help the victims of the terrorist attacks. He urged them to be responsible, get involved in their communities and make the United States an even better country.

Mr. Bush closed with words sure to draw a responsive chord across the nation. He talked about the passengers on board the fourth plane hijacked on September 11 - the one that crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers decided to confront the terrorists.

"Courage and optimism led passengers on Flight 93 to rush their murderers to save lives on the ground... led by a young man whose last known words were the Lord's Prayer and 'let's roll,'" Mr. Bush said.

The president said that man expressed the spirit of the nation. Looking out at the audience in Atlanta, the president echoed a hero's final call to action saying "my fellow Americans... let's roll."

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