President visits Panhandle

âEUR~ThereâEUR(TM)s more to do,âEUR(TM) Bush tells crowd in Hedgesville

âEUR~ThereâEUR(TM)s more to do,âEUR(TM) Bush tells crowd in Hedgesville

August 18, 2004|By CANDICE BOSELY

In a speech heavily focused on domestic security and the war, President Bush told a crowd of at least 7,500 in Hedgesville Tuesday night that his re-election would make America and the world a better and safer place.

His speech was punctuated by cheers and chants of "four more years." One man on the edge of the crowd occasionally yelled "That's right, George!"

A cheer spread through the crowd when the president's motorcade drove up to Hedgesville High School's Mumaw Stadium.

Bush walked down an aisle in the bleachers shaking hands. He picked up an infant wearing pink, held her for a moment and then kissed her cheek.

Hedgesville High School Principal Don Dellinger presented the president with a school jersey that, on the back, read "President George W. Bush."


Bush did not take it with him.

Bush recognized those sitting behind him on stage ? including Dellinger, Board of Education President Bill Queen and Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon.

Bush began his speech by thanking everyone for coming and commenting on the character of the area.

"It's such an honor to be back in what they call the Mountain State. What a beautiful place," he said. "You know, some of 'em think you can find the heart and soul in Hollywood. I think you find it right here."

He apologized for his wife's absence.

"I'm gonna give you some reasons to put me back in. Perhaps the most important one of all is so that Laura is the first lady for four more years," he said.

Later he was serious when he said: "When it comes to electing a president, America must put somebody in the White House who can get the job done."

Bush listed his accomplishments over the past four years, but said the job is not complete.

"We got more work to do to make this country a hopeful place. We got more work to do to make sure that our schools work. We got more to do to keep us safe.

We've got more to do to spread freedom and we've got more to do to make the world a peaceful place."

Bush spoke about improving the country's schools, strengthening Medicare, reforming medical liability and improving the economy after the recession.

"This economy is strong and it's getting stronger. And the reason why is 'cause we got great workers in America. We've got great farmers in America. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in America," he said.

Obstacles were overcome by "a well-timed tax relief," he said.

War on terrorism

After highlighting domestic issues, Bush focused much of the rest of his 45-minute speech on the war on terrorism and related topics.

"We have more to do to wage and win the war against terror. Now the future depends on our willingness to lead in the world. If America shows uncertainty and weakness in this decade the world will drift toward tragedy," he said. "This isn't going to happen on my watch."

He spoke of the swift action taken by America after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And he spoke of Saddam Hussein.

Hussein harbored terrorists, subsidized families of suicide bombers, invaded neighboring countries, murdered tens of thousands of his own citizens, and pursued and used weapons of mass destruction, Bush said.

Bush approached Congress and the United Nations about going to war because the other option was to trust "a madman," he said of Hussein.

"Given that choice, I will defend our country every time," he said.

Afghanistan is now a rising Democracy, an ally and a place where young girls are going to school, Bush said.

"Because we acted, America and the world are safer," he said.

"One of the lessons of Sept. 11 is that this nation must deal with threats before they fully materialize," he said to another loud cheer.

The crowd booed only once, when Bush said "my opponent and his running mate" voted against funding for troops that included money for body armor, equipment, health benefits, hazard pay, ammunition, fuel and spare parts.

"Freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman," he said.

He ended his speech by again referring to West Virginia.

"When I campaigned around your state in 2000, I said that if you gave me the high honor of serving as your president I would uphold the honor and the dignity of the office in which I have been elected," he said. "And with your help I will do so for four more years. God Bless. On to victory."

Bush stepped off the podium and made his way through the front rows of the crowd. People held cameras and camera cell phones above their heads, aimed toward the president.

He autographed signs and hats before leaving.

A group of Kerry supporters set up across from the high school on W.Va. 9, holding signs in support of the Democratic presidential nominee. Organizers said Monday the counter- event was called "The Long Wave Goodbye."

Several officials with the local Democratic party have said they are trying to organize a visit from Kerry.

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