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IN THE NEWS - Bush Looks Back at Eight Years as President, and Wishes Obama Well

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

George W. Bush leaves office on Tuesday after eight years as president of the United States. He gave his farewell speech to the American people Thursday night.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation."

He noted that his first speech from the White House was on September eleventh, two thousand one, after the terrorist attacks that day.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did."

The forty-third president has been defending his record during his final days in office, and he did so again in his speech.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind."

He spoke about Iraq and the handling of his war on terror.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "There is a legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil."

President Bush offered best wishes to Barack Obama, who will be the nation's first African-American president. His father was a black exchange student from Kenya; his mother was a white American.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose story reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our nation."

President Bush's farewell address was his last public event planned before the inauguration. He called his final news conference on Monday. He talked about progress in education and other areas, but especially in keeping the country safe. He said the most urgent threat that Barack Obama and other presidents after him will have to deal with is another attack.

The attacks in two thousand one took place during President Bush's first year in office. His presidency began after an election dispute. But after the attacks, nine out of ten Americans approved of the job he was doing, compared lately to about one in four. His presidency comes to a close at a time of economic crisis.

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Look, I inherited a recession and I am ending on a recession. In the meantime, there were fifty-two months of uninterrupted job growth."

The president said one of his greatest "disappointments" was the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Another disappointment, he said, was not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He had warned of the threat of such weapons as he argued for military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

The war in Iraq and the handling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans took attention from one of the president's biggest successes. In two thousand three, he launched a program to fight AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. That program has helped about ten million people.

By tradition, George and Laura Bush will leave Washington immediately after Barack Obama is sworn-in on Tuesday. They will return to their home state of Texas.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. Be a part of VOA's social networking site for the inauguration. Go to voaspecialenglish.com and click on USA Votes. I'm Steve Ember.

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