President Bush says America is more unified than ever as the nation celebrates its 226th birthday. In his Fourth of July address, the president said the September 11 terrorist attacks brought the country together in grief and determination.
This is a Fourth of July like no other, the first Independence Day holiday since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Security is tight across the country, but in the small town of Ripley, West Virginia, the mood was upbeat, as the president delivered his Fourth of July address.
Standing in shirtsleeves under a sweltering sky, Mr. Bush told thousands gathered in the Ripley courthouse square that Americans are standing together in the defense of freedom.
"In this 226th year of our independence, we have seen American patriotism is still a living faith," the president said. "We love our country only more when she is threatened."
The crowd cheered as the president touched on patriotic themes and stressed that national unity has grown stronger since September 11.
"Watching the events of that day, no American felt this was an attack on others. It was an attack on all of us, on each and every one of us," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush said America was unified in its grief, and now stands united in its resolve to protect its citizens, and defeat the enemy.
"Once again, history has called America to use our overwhelming power in the defense of freedom. And we will do just that," he promised.
Veterans and uniformed members of the armed services surrounded the president on the stage. Mr. Bush praised their contribution to the nation, saying America's greatest asset in the war on terrorism is its military.
He then went on to offer a special Fourth of July gift to 15,000 immigrants now serving in the U.S. military an offer of expedited citizenship.
"These men and women love our country. They show it in their daily devotion to duty," the president said. "Out of respect for their brave service in this time of war, I have signed an executive order allowing them an immediate opportunity to petition for citizenship in the United States of America."
As he spoke, members of the crowd waved signs depicting the American flag. A federal court judge in California recently ruled that the pledge of the allegiance to the flag should not be recited in schools because it includes the words "under God." The judge argued those words violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
In Ripley, they recited the full oath at the start of their Fourth of July celebration. And the president signaled his strong approval, saying no government authority has the right to tell Americans they cannot pledge allegiance to one nation, under God.