Bush 'SOU' Speeches Reflect Shifting Focus President Bush is preparing for his final State of the Union address Monday night. In previous years, the president used the speech to make a case for war, promote tax cuts and call for sweeping changes to Social Security.

Bush 'SOU' Speeches Reflect Shifting Focus

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He gives that speech again tonight, and NPR's Don Gonyea has this review.

DON GONYEA: The new president reached out to both parties, seeking what would be a signature accomplishment of his first term - school reforms known as No Child Left Behind.

INSKEEP: Measuring is the only way to know whether all our children are learning, and I want to know because I refuse to leave any child behind in America.

GONYEA: But one year later, the nation had been jarred and altered by the events of September 11th. The president that year was all about resolve.

INSKEEP: As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.


GONYEA: By the time of that speech, the Taliban government of Afghanistan had been overthrown by the U.S. military, and on that night the president made it known he was broadening his definition of the terrorist threat, putting Iraq, Iran and North Korea on notice with a provocative and now legendary turn of phrase.

INSKEEP: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.

GONYEA: By the following year, the president was focused on Iraq. The invasion would begin in weeks, and Mr. Bush used the speech to state his case, including this line.

INSKEEP: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

GONYEA: Delivering his next State of the Union a year later, President Bush shifted his rhetoric on Iraq. Prior to the war, he'd warned repeatedly and with certainty that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But with the U.S. military having found no WMDs, the president spoke instead of, quote, "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

R: remaking Social Security.

INSKEEP: As we fix Social Security, we also have the responsibility to make the system a better deal for younger workers. And the best way to reach that goal is through voluntary personal retirement accounts.


GONYEA: In 2006, Mr. Bush's State of the Union made energy policy a focal point and made this startling statement for a former oilman.

INSKEEP: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

INSKEEP: And you can hear President Bush's State of the Union speech tonight at 9 Eastern on many NPR stations and at npr.org, where we will also be blogging and fact-checking the president's remarks.

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