Following Sept. 11, anyone would be hard-pressed to argue we are living in a world unchanged. President George W. Bush was clear about our new realities Tuesday night during the annual State of the Union address. But unlike his last address before a joint session of Congress in which he served mainly as consoler in chief, Bush reminded the country that future attacks are still a likely possibility and outlined what Americans can contribute to the war effort.
By stirring our emotions to bolstering our sense of vigilance, Bush outlined a call to service similar to what then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s proposed in 1960 when he announced the creation of the Peace Corps.
Bush’s creation of the USA Freedom Corps seems to carry similar attributes of the Peace Corps and other service-oriented groups. He envisions a service organization that requires two years or 4,000 hours of service either domestically or internationally. The USA Freedom Corps is a great way to help the country at this unique moment in history. Participants will also receive a stipend contribute to college and graduate school tuition.
GW is in an excellent position to take advantage of the USA Freedom Corps because of its students’ track record for answering the call. GW ranks 22nd among national universities that send the most alumni off to serve in the Peace Corps. Certainly GW students will continue in its dedication to service with this new avenue.
Other highlights of the evening included the speech’s bipartisan tone and the important next steps in the nation’s war on terror. In spite of some of the expected quibbles to come surrounding the economy on domestic issues, Bush outlined three countries that actively support terrorism and are now trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction: Iran, Iraq and North Korea. He also castigated the terror networks undermining a struggling peace process in the Middle East.
With regards to the budget, Bush warned of short-term deficit in the federal budget. This announcement was to be expected because of the wartime economy and recession. Although deficits usually have a negative impact on long-term growth, this time they are accompanied by extenuating circumstances of the post-Sept. 11 world. Let’s hope Congress and the president don’t get their hands caught in the cookie jar with pet projects that only fleece the taxpayers. Deficits that hang around longer than needed can send interest rates higher. Thankfully, Bush deplored the accounting practices and corporate ethics that lead to Enron’s woes.