The September 11th attack
Bush urges Americans to volunteer
|||Text of President Bush's speech|
By Laura Meckler
ATLANTA President Bush last night called on Americans to defy acts of terror by strengthening their communities, comforting their neighbors and remaining vigilant in the face of further threats.
In a prime-time address, he assured the nation that the United States would ultimately prevail in its war against terrorism. Still, he conceded that the government does not know who is behind the anthrax-by-mail attacks and said the war abroad is only just beginning.
The "great national challenge," he said, is to turn fear into action by mentoring a child, participating in a neighborhood crime watch or volunteering at a hospital.
"One way to defeat terrorism is to show the world the true values of America," he told an enthusiastic crowd of 5,000, who interrupted him with applause more than 25 times in his 32-minute speech. "Out of evil can come great good."
Bush spoke of the passengers who fought with hijackers on Sept. 11, crashing their plane into a Pennsylvania field before it could reach a populated area. He recalled 32-year-old Todd Beamer, whose last words heard over a cell phone were, "Let's roll," as the passengers charged the terrorists.
"We will no doubt face new challenges," Bush said, concluding his address. "But we have our marching orders. My fellow Americans, let's roll." The audience responded with thunderous cheers.
Bush was flanked by dozens of uniformed firefighters, police officers and soldiers, and he urged Americans to consider these "careers of service."
Bush won standing ovations as he praised each of these groups, but the warm crowd also took to its feet for a group not often in the spotlight: postal workers, who have been hit hardest by the anthrax attacks. Bush called them "public servants who never enlisted to fight a war, but find themselves on the front lines of a battle nonetheless."
Bush spoke in Atlanta, home to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been at the forefront of the fight against the anthrax outbreak. Yesterday, CDC officials announced that 32,000 people had been prescribed antibiotics to ward off anthrax, including 5,000 who really needed them and must take a full 60-day course of treatment.
Before his speech, Bush stopped by the CDC to thank scientists who have been working around the clock, calling them "part of a vast army trying to fight off terrorism in America."
The speech was short on new initiatives.
He announced that the national service groups created by former President Clinton, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, would provide more than 20,000 government-subsidized volunteers to help police, fire and public health departments and "free up" the professionals for work on the front lines of homeland defense.
Bush also created a task force on citizen preparedness, which will have 40 days to give him recommendations on helping Americans protect their homes, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces from future attacks.
And he asked states to help develop a modern civil defense service, modeled after volunteer firefighter programs.
Bush called on Congress to approve his economic stimulus package, but he said another initiative that had been in the works, dubbed Communities of Character, was no longer needed because after Sept. 11, Americans renewed their sense of citizenship, character and service without prodding from Washington.
The president made reference to a pair of alerts that the government has issued warning of unspecified future attacks. He said these alerts are a call for Americans to "be vigilant" and keep eyes and ears open but "not a signal to stop your life."
"There is a difference between being alert and being intimidated, and this great nation will never be intimidated," he said.
But Bush suggested the United States could do a better job projecting its values abroad. "Too many have the wrong idea of Americans as shallow, materialistic consumers who care only about getting rich and getting ahead," he said. "This isn't the America that I know."