The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 20th

Bush Reiterates Themes In Winston-Salem Speech

"At home you can fight evil with acts of goodness," Bush said, appearing on stage with dozens of police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel -- all people Bush frequently points to as the epitome of community service.

About 6,000 people, some waving miniature American flags and others shaking red, white and blue pompoms, crowded into the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum to hear Bush talk about his proposed public service program, the U.S.A. Freedom Corps.

The program, which Bush announced Tuesday night for the first time, is based on several public-service groups, including the newly created Citizen Corps and established public service groups like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.

Bush said he has three goals for the U.S.A. Freedom Corps: expand AmeriCorps by 200,000 volunteers, use volunteers to help a community prepare for or handle an emergency and encourage Peace Corps volunteers to "go into the Islamic world to spread the message of economic development."

"It sounds like I'm making a pitch -- and I am," Bush said. "This is the right thing to do for America."

He also reiterated his Tuesday night request that Americans dedicate either two years or 4,000 hours to community service, pointing to volunteer firefighters as an example. "They understand that in order to make the community safe, they must stand up and ask, 'How can I help?'"

An energetic Bush peppered his speech with jokes ranging from following his mother's advice to mocking terrorists for thinking daytime television reflected America -- much to the audience's delight.

But the president, as in his State of the Union Address, only briefly addressed some of the issues, like the recession, that recently have clouded his term.

Bush briefly mentioned the nation's ailing economy, pointing to job creation and tax cuts as the cure. "Tax relief is an important way to battle recession," he said. "Those people who want to do away with tax relief don't know what they're talking about."

Although Bush called on corporate America to open its books for inspection, he again avoided mentioning the bankrupt Texas energy giant Enron, which was a major campaign donor for Bush and other Republicans.

When Enron collapsed and its stock value plummeted, thousands of workers lost their retirement funds. Enron executives allegedly sold their stock holdings weeks earlier while their value still was high.

Bush also discussed the war on terrorism, celebrating the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan but mentioning that the war is not over.

Bush again warned the governments of North Korea, Iran and Iraq -- countries he called the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union Address -- to halt any involvement with terrorism or programs developing weapons of mass destruction.

"You too are on our radar screen," he said. "Nations that feel they can harbor and support terrorists are just as guilty as the terrorists," he said. "Our mission is to make the world free from terror, and this mighty nation will not tarry and will not fail in our love for freedom."

But Bush, touring with Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, reassured the audience that America will be protected from future attack.

"We'll do everything we can to secure the homeland," he said, pointing to his budget, which provides increased funding for bioterrorism vaccines and emergency planning. "My most important job is the security of America and Americans."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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