WASHINGTON — The Sept. 11 attacks moved Americans to grief and horror — and moved our nation to war. They revealed the cruelty of our enemies, clarified grave threats to our country and demonstrated the character and decency of our people. At a moment of great testing, the spirit of men and women in New York City, at the Pentagon and aboard Flight 93 became the spirit of our country. Tonight in New York, I will be speaking of what our nation has lost, what we have discovered about ourselves and what lies ahead.
The terrible illumination of these events has also brought new clarity to America's role in the world. In great tragedy, we have also seen great opportunities. We must have the wisdom and courage to seize these opportunities.
America's greatest opportunity is to create a balance of world power that favors human freedom. We will use our position of unparalleled strength and influence to build an atmosphere of international order and openness in which progress and liberty can flourish in many nations. A peaceful world of growing freedom serves American long-term interests, reflects enduring American ideals and unites America's allies. We defend this peace by opposing and preventing violence by terrorists and outlaw regimes. We preserve this peace by building good relations among the world's great powers and we extend this peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.
The defense of peace is a difficult struggle of uncertain duration. America, along with our allies, is relentlessly pursuing terrorist networks in every part of the world to disrupt their planning, training and financing. With our allies, we must also confront the growing threat of regimes that support terror, seek chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and build ballistic missiles. On this issue, the consequences of inaction could be catastrophic. We must deny terrorists and their allies the destructive means to match their hatred.
At the same time, we have the best opportunity in generations to build a world where great powers cooperate in peace instead of continually prepare for war. The 20th century, in particular, was dominated by a series of destructive national rivalries that left battlefields and graveyards across the earth. Competition between great nations is inevitable, but armed conflict in our world is not. Sept. 11 revealed more clearly than ever that the world's great powers stand on the same side of a divide — united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos, and moving toward common values.
The United States, Japan and our Pacific friends, our NATO allies and now all of Europe share a deep commitment to human freedom. Russia is now a nation in hopeful transition, a country reaching for a better future based on democracy and the free market and an important partner in the war on terror. Chinese leaders are discovering that economic freedom is the only source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only source of national greatness. America will continue to encourage the advancement of democracy and economic openness in both Russia and China because these shared commitments bring true friendship and peace.
Common interests and values among the great powers are also the basis for promoting peace and security around the globe. In the past, great-power rivals took sides in difficult regional problems, making divisions deeper and solutions more complicated and elusive. Today, from the Middle East to South Asia, we are gathering broad international coalitions to increase the pressure for peace. America needs partners to preserve the peace, and we will work with every nation that shares this noble goal.
As we preserve the peace, America also has an opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom and progress to nations that lack them. We seek a just peace where repression, resentment and poverty are replaced with the hope of democracy, development, free markets and free trade.
More than ever, we know that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose a great danger to the peace of the world. Poverty does not transform poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, corruption and repression are a toxic combination in many societies, leading to weak governments that are unable to enforce order or patrol their borders and are vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels.
America is confronting global poverty. Free trade and free markets have proved their ability to lift whole societies out of poverty — so the United States is working with the entire global trading community to build a world that trades in freedom and therefore grows in prosperity. Through the Millennium Challenge Account, the United States will deliver greater development assistance to poor nations that govern justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom. And we will continue to lead the world in efforts to reduce the terrible toll of AIDS and other infectious diseases.
America will also take the side of brave men and women who advocate human rights and democratic values, from Africa to Latin America, Asia and the Islamic world. In our diplomatic efforts, development aid, international broadcasting and educational assistance, the United States will promote moderation, tolerance and the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity — the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, and respect for women, private property, free speech and equal justice.
Terrorism has not only challenged the world, it has clarified some fundamental values. Every nation now faces a choice between lawful change and chaotic violence; between joyless conformity and an open, creative society; and between the celebration of death in suicide and murder and the defense of life and its dignity.
Many governments are being forced to reexamine their own tolerance for fanaticism and their sponsorship of hateful propaganda. Even free nations have been forced to reexamine the nature of their commitment to freedom — to determine if this commitment is a reflection of convention and culture or the universal demand of conscience and morality.
America's people and its government are responding decisively to the challenges of our changed world. We are committed to defending our society against current and emerging threats. And we are determined to stand for the values that gave our nation its birth. We believe that freedom and respect for human rights are owed to every human being, in every culture. We believe that the deliberate murder of innocent civilians and the oppression of women are everywhere and always wrong. And we refuse to ignore or appease the aggression and brutality of evil men.
Throughout history, freedom has been threatened by war and terror; it has been challenged by the clashing wills of powerful states and the designs of tyrants; and it has been tested by widespread poverty and disease. What has changed since Sept. 11 is our nation's appreciation of the urgency of these issues — and the new opportunities we have for progress. Today, humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to further freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes. The United States welcomes its responsibility to lead in this great mission.
George W. Bush is the 43rd president.