NEW YORK CITY (BP)–During a “moment of great opportunity in the cause of freedom,” President Bush told the United Nations that “peace is the responsibility of every nation and every generation,” and “the advance of freedom and security is the calling of our time.”
The American president addressed international leaders Sept. 14 while balancing the hardships at home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the challenges in Iraq as the United States assists the long-oppressed people in building a democracy.
“We meet at a time of great challenge for America and the world,” Bush said. “At this moment, men and women along my country’s Gulf Coast are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters in American history…. We have witnessed the awesome power of nature — and the greater power of human compassion. Americans have responded to their neighbors in need, and so have many of the nations represented in this chamber.”
More than 115 countries and nearly a dozen international organizations have offered assistance to the United States during this time of need, Bush said in offering thanks before transitioning into the issues that have become prominent during his presidency.
“In this young century, the far corners of the world are linked more closely than ever before and no nation can remain isolated and indifferent to the struggles of others,” Bush said. “When a country or a region is filled with despair and resentment and vulnerable to violent and aggressive ideologies, the threat passes easily across oceans and borders and could threaten the security of any peaceful country.”
No safety can be found in dismissing the hardship and oppression of others, he said, and sometimes security requires confronting threats directly.
“Either hope will spread or violence will spread — and we must take the side of hope,” Bush said, adding that the “targeting and deliberate killing by terrorists of civilians and non-combatants cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance.”
The president explained that the war against terrorists will not be won by force of arms alone because they must also be defeated in the battle of ideas.
“We must change the conditions that allow terrorists to flourish and recruit, by spreading the hope of freedom to millions who’ve never known it,” he said. “We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists. We must defend and extend a vision of human dignity and opportunity and prosperity — a vision far stronger than the dark appeal of resentment and murder.”
Bush addressed the need to help nations struggling with poverty, AIDS and other diseases and called on strong nations to tear down the walls that separate the developed and developing worlds, ensuring that all people have the same opportunities to “pursue their dreams, provide for their families and live lives of dignity and self-reliance.”
He announced that the United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to the free flow of goods and services, provided other nations do the same to help those countries with the largest burden of debt.
“Our agenda for freer trade is part of our agenda for a freer world, where people can live and worship and raise their children as they choose,” Bush said. “In the long run, the best way to protect the religious freedom and the rights of women and minorities is through institutions of self-rule, which allow people to assert and defend their own rights. All who stand for human rights must also stand for human freedom.”
The United Nations, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, has a vital role to play in nurturing freedom’s progress, he said, and “every free nation has a responsibility in advancing the cause of freedom.”
Democracy is broader than a free election, Bush noted, and it takes different forms in different cultures.
“Yet all free societies have certain things in common. Democratic nations uphold the rule of law, impose limits on the power of the state, treat women and minorities as full citizens,” the president said. “Democratic nations protect private property, free speech and religious expression. Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative gifts of their people. And democratic nations contribute to peace and stability because they seek national greatness in the achievements of their citizens, not the conquest of their neighbors.”
As the citizens of Iraq complete their journey toward a stable democracy, their success will inspire other nations in the Middle East to grow in peace, hope and liberty, Bush said, “and all of us will live in a safer world.”
“In each era of history, the human spirit has been challenged by the forces of darkness and chaos. Some challenges are the acts of nature; others are the works of men,” he said. “This organization was convened to meet these challenges by harnessing the best instincts of humankind — the strength of the world united in common purpose.
“With courage and conscience, we will meet our responsibilities to protect the lives and rights of others. And when we do, we will help fulfill the promise of the United Nations and ensure that every human being enjoys the peace and the freedom and the dignity our Creator intended for all.”