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Bush restates support for marriage amend., vows commitment to building ‘culture of life’

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush assessed the current status of the nation as “confident and strong,” but looking ahead, he outlined clear steps America must take to ensure a positive future for upcoming generations during his annual State of the Union address at the Capitol in Washington Feb. 2.

One great responsibility Americans have to their children and grandchildren, Bush said, is to “honor and pass along the values that sustain a free society.”

“So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children,” the president said. “Government is not the source of these values, but government should never undermine them.”

Bush called marriage a “sacred institution” and the foundation of society and said it must not be redefined by “activist judges.”

“For the good of families, children and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage,” he said.

In last year’s State of the Union address, Bush stopped short of calling for such an amendment. But he subsequently backed an amendment and re-iterated his support for it during his reelection campaign.

The president also said a “society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable” and the United States must strive to build a culture of life.

“To build a culture of life, we must … ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others,” Bush said to applause. “We should all be able to agree on some clear standards. I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought and sold as a commodity. America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive and always ethical.”

Alluding to the filibusters some Democrats have employed to stop votes on the president’s judicial nominations, Bush said “every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote.” Additionally, “judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded Bush’s stance on issues important to evangelicals.

“I thought the president’s comments made it very clear that he remains committed to defending traditional marriage through a constitutional amendment,” Land told Baptist Press. “He remains committed to strict constructionist judges, which means that if his nominees are confirmed we will eventually have Roe v. Wade overturned and the judiciary’s assault on representative government turned aside.”

Land said Bush’s statement on building a culture of life was “absolutely eloquent and to the point,” and he was glad Bush emphasized the need for scientific advances to serve human dignity.

“Do we want to assault human dignity by saying that some human beings aren’t as important as other human beings? That’s what embryonic stem cell research and cloning for experimentation do,” Land said.

One new initiative Bush announced during his address was a strengthened effort to reach the nation’s troubled youth who have turned to gangs and violence, and the president said the leader of the nationwide effort will be his wife, Laura.

“Our government will continue to support faith-based and community groups that bring hope to harsh places,” the president said, calling specifically on pastors. “Now we need to focus on giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy or gangs or jail. Tonight I propose a three-year initiative to help organizations keep young people out of gangs and show young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence.”

Another major responsibility Bush said Americans have to future generations is to leave them a country that is “safe from danger and protected by peace.”

“We will pass along to our children all the freedoms we enjoy — and chief among them is freedom from fear,” he said.

The president turned to the war on terror and reiterated that though America is the target of those who want to kill many and intimidate all, the United States will stay on the offensive until the fight is won.

“The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror and replace hatred with hope is the force of human freedom,” Bush said.

Evidence that the fight for freedom will succeed could be seen Jan. 30 when Iraqis showed the world that they value their own liberty and turned out in large numbers to vote despite repeated threats from insurgents.

Bush recognized Safia Taleb al-Suhail whose father was killed 11 years ago by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Al-Suhail was seated beside the first lady and stood to wave her purple finger as proof that she had voted in Iraq’s first free election in 50 years.

“We are in Iraq to achieve a result: a country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors and able to defend itself,” the president said. “And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned.”

America has said farewell to some valuable men and women who died on the battlefield in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bush said, and the nation will honor their memories forever. He then recognized the parents of Marine Corps Sgt. Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas, who was killed during the assault on Fallujah in November. The Marine’s mother stood and embraced Al-Sahail, drawing emotion from the president and the longest applause of the night from Congress.

A third great responsibility Bush said Americans have to those who follow is to be good stewards of the economy. Social Security reform is highest on the president’s current economic agenda, and he made the case for why the system is in jeopardy.

“Social Security was a great moral success of the 20th century, and we must honor its purposes in this new century,” he said. “The system, however, on its current path, is headed toward bankruptcy. … Social Security was created decades ago for a very different era. … Our society has changed in ways the founders of Social Security could not have foreseen.”

Bush said he is open to examining all possible solutions to the problem and he admits none of them will be easy. One idea he put forth was voluntary personal retirement accounts that would be phased in to allow younger workers to set aside part of the money they currently pay into the system and use it in the future as their own.

“The president is making a correct and moral argument on Social Security,” Land said. “We cannot mortgage our grandchildren’s future by deciding that we’re not going to do anything.”

Land said he is grateful that Bush laid out certain “ground rules.” The president said the Social Security tax must not be raised and he promised those 55 and over that their benefits would not change.

“To see a ship heading straight for an iceberg and to not sound the alarm and say, ‘We need to change course,’ is immoral,” he told BP.

Other economic issues the president addressed were: a budget that will cut the deficit in half by 2009; education standards that will prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century; an entrepreneurial climate that encourages the growth of small businesses; a comprehensive healthcare agenda that will make healthcare affordable; energy legislation that will make America less dependent on foreign sources; a tax code that is easy to understand; and an immigration system that welcomes hardworking people who want to provide for their families.

“In these four years, Americans have seen the unfolding of large events,” Bush said in closing. “We have known times of sorrow and hours of uncertainty and days of victory. In all this history, even when we have disagreed, we have seen threads of purpose that unite us. The attack on freedom in our world has reaffirmed our confidence in freedom’s power to change the world. We are all part of a great venture: to extend the promise of freedom in our country, to renew the values that sustain our liberty and to spread the peace that freedom brings.

“… The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable, yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom,” Bush said.
With reporting by Michael Foust.

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  • Erin Curry