• 63°

President does well in first public address

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
In his longest address to date as president, George W. Bush came before Congress and the American people last week in a nationally televised speech to discuss his budget priorities as well as the goals for the first year of his administration.
While some of the pundits continue to underestimate him, President Bush clearly hit a home run with the vast majority of Americans, according to all the polls taken after the speech.
Looking confident, yet with just the right dose of humility and humor, the new president laid out an agenda that, even to his detractors, was hard not to like.
The president said education was his top concern but later, he went through a laundry list of other priorities, from reforming Social Security and Medicare, to shoring up our national defense, to making an aggressive push for his $1.6 trillion tax reduction.
There was thunderous applause on one side of the aisle when the president made this statement. On the other side, where mostly members of the opposition party sat, there was a noticeable silence.
But for the most part, the president received a warm welcome from members of both parties.
Continuing with the theme of bipartisanship, the president once again reached out with an olive branch. 
"Let us agree to bridge old divides," Mr. Bush said.  "But let us also agree that our good will must be dedicated to great goals.  Bipartisanship is more than minding our manners, it is doing our duty."
With his address, this makes the fourth president I have watched up close as a your member of Congress. Make no mistake, even though I've heard some great speeches over the years, it is still quite a thrill to be in the House chamber when the Sergeant at Arms enters and says, with a booming voice, "Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States." 
While few people could deliver a speech better than former presidents Reagan and Clinton, President George W. Bush is by no means a lightweight. 
Much like President Reagan, he inserted self-deprecating humor when it was appropriate (such as when he introduced Philadelphia Mayor John Street, one of his special guests who was in the First Lady's box).
The day after the speech, the president pulled a page out of the Clinton playbook by hopping on Air Force One and jetting off to the heartland of America to sell his programs. 
Early reviews in Nebraska and Arkansas, two of the president's first stops, were positive.  It seems throughout the heartland, the American people are going to give our new president every opportunity to succeed.
An address to the nation
Was the president's speech last Tuesday his first State of the Union address or simply an address to the nation from the House chamber?
It seems many national news correspondents didn't get it right.
The United States Constitution mandates that the president shall, "from time to time give to the Congress information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." 
It has become a tradition for the president to give this formal address, known to us as the State of the Union address, once a year, usually during the first few weeks of January. 
However, when a new president is inaugurated, such as was the case this year, the tradition is often times forgone. 
This year's State of the Union address was, in fact, delivered in writing by former President Clinton during the waning days of his presidency.
The address last week by President George W. Bush was simply an opportunity for the new president to personally address both houses of Congress, as well as lay out his vision for the future to the American people. 
Just in case you are ever a contestant on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" now you know.  This is one answer to a trivia question where you won't need a lifeline!
Until next week, take care and God Bless.