Bush marks day that transformed presidency
President to address nation from Ellis Island
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One year ago, President Bush found his voice, comforting a nation heartbroken by horrific terrorist attacks and vowing not to rest until he brought "justice to our enemies."
Tonight, Bush addresses the nation once more about that fateful day in a speech that promises to mix remembrance and resolve.
The speech, scheduled to start at 9:01 p.m., will be broadcast from Ellis Island, with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Bush will wind up there after a day visiting each of the three sites where hijacked jets crashed on September 11, 2001 after tearing through picture-perfect blue skies like missiles: the Pentagon outside Washington, a rural field in Pennsylvania and the World Trade Center in New York, the city that suffered the worst devastation.
The Ellis Island setting, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, will remind "America again of our moral calling, our higher purpose as the beacon of liberty and freedom for people around the world."
Bush was widely praised in the days after the attack for expressing with unusual eloquence the nation's grief, anger and newfound sense of patriotism. The attacks transformed his presidency, moving it well beyond one colored by a disputed election to one, as indicated by polls, largely supported by the American people. He is seen, as several experts have said, as a wartime president.
His speech tonight, pundits predict, will touch on American values and pay homage to those who lost their lives in the attacks.
Political observers say they also expect the president to emphasize his point that the war on terrorism will be long and that the United States must not waver in confronting its enemies.
"I think what we'll see tonight is a high-purpose speech, a mountaintop speech," said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think tank. "It's not going to be a speech that breaks new ground. He's not going to announce new policies, but it will be remind us of having to be at the barricades."
In one sense, Bush has upstaged himself tonight because so much attention is already focused on his scheduled speech Thursday to the United Nations about Iraq. In that speech, Bush is expected to make the case for a regime change in Iraq, arguing that Saddam Hussein poses a threat to world peace and is developing weapons of mass destruction.
The president also faces a challenge tonight because his post 9/11 speeches, both scripted and off-the-cuff, were hailed, significant for a man who generally had not been perceived as a gifted orator. He has set the bar high for himself when it comes to topping those comments.
Consider his populist comments at Ground Zero, three days after the attacks. With his arms draped around a New York City firefighter, Bush responded to someone in the crowd who called out that he couldn't be heard. "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon," the president declared to hearty cheers.
A few days later, Bush struck a more presidential tone in an address to Congress during which he outlined the challenge the country faced.
"Freedom and fear are at war," Bush said. "I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield. I will not rest."
Tonight, Bush is expected to redouble that pledge as the nation remembers its losses and faces a future marked by seemingly endless terrorist threats.
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