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Inside Politics

Bush trip mixes stumping with scholarship

Freedom is 'gift of the almighty'

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CNN's Ed Henry on Bush's visit to Capitol Hill Republicans.
George W. Bush
Republican Party

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday blended campaigning and campus tradition, delivering the commencement address to the 2004 graduating class of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge before flying on to New Orleans to for a "Victory 2004" Republican National Committee fund-raiser.

"We're at war with enemies that have many destructive ambitions," Bush said.

"They want to spread their idea of hatred by forcing America to retreat in weakness and in fear. Yet they're finding that America is not the running kind. We make a commitment and we see it through."

The president said that establishing a "peaceful and democratic Iraq" is a "historic opportunity ... to make America and the world more secure." He pledged to make that happen "whatever it takes."

"And the world can be certain we will never abandon our belief that freedom is the gift of the Almighty to every man and woman in this world," he said.

'Moral character'

Before making remarks on the war, Bush urged the soon-to-be graduates to base their lives on "moral character."

"The only way to live an honorable life is to believe in honor for your sake and for the sake of the country," he said. "I hope you will always strive to be men and women of conviction and character."

He remarked on the what he sees as the importance of service in life.

"We make a life by what we live," he said.

Bush saluted a World War II veteran who was three credits shy of graduation when he quit school to go to war and on Friday was finally receiving a degree.

The president is the third member of his family, following both his parents, to deliver a commencement address at LSU: The former President Bush was the speaker in 2001, and former first lady Barbara Bush stood at the podium in 1993.

Bush's first advice to the graduates, in fact, was to "listen to your mother."

"I had little choice," Bush said. "My mom speaks her mind. But I found out that when I paid attention, I benefited. That's how it still works."

The president joked about Vice President "Dick Cheney's wild parties" and an acknowledgment of his own less-than-stellar academic career.

Remarking on those who, perhaps, spent more time having fun than studying, Bush said that they, "too, can leave today with high hopes."

"I speak with some authority here," he said. "I've seen how things can work out pretty well for a 'C' student."

Bush received an honorary doctorate from university president William Jenkins.

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