There's no doubt the high point in President Bush's State of the Union speech Wednesday night was the emotional embrace between the American mother of a Marine killed in Iraq and the Iraqi voting-rights activist whose father was murdered by former dictator Saddam Hussein.
The moment symbolized the sacrifices that Americans and Iraqis have made together in the war to bring freedom to that troubled, terrorist-plagued nation. Despite Sunday's 60-percent or better turnout to elect leaders to write a constitution for a free, democratic Iraq, more sacrifices will have to be made, Bush said, before a U.S. troop draw-down can begin.
Winning that war will be a tough slog - as will reforming and saving Social Security along the lines Bush is recommending. Personal accounts aren't likely to be enough to save the popular program; there will have to be more changes and sacrifices along the way.
Although he listed other issues he wants Congress to deal with, including tax reform and energy policy, it is clear that domestically he is staking his legacy on Social Security - and abroad on winning the war in Iraq and spreading freedom to other oppressed nations.
To drive that point home, he forthrightly warned Syria and Iran not to stand in the way of freedom's march.
The president spoke boldly and confidently, just like you'd expect from a leader who recently won a re-election mandate. But the path to freedom and security will not be easy. It will require difficult decisions from the president and sacrifices from the citizenry.
Military people and their families have already sacrificed a great deal, but how will the broad spectrum of Americans respond to the need for sacrifice? The answer to that question will also have a lot to do with Bush's legacy.
Democratic leaders served notice they won't make it easy for him. They're lukewarm on the freedom issue and claim that the president is manufacturing the Social Security crisis. Yet, that's not what they said when President Bill Clinton made "Save Social Security first" his battle cry in his 1996 re-election campaign and in a State of the Union speech. Why was it in crisis then, but not now? In truth, the crisis has deepened with time.
Patriotic Americans must keep in mind over the next several years that our children and grandchildren need this generation to be strong and courageous to protect their future. Let's not let them down.
We're fortunate to have a president who is showing the way.
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