U.S. President George Bush delivered his farewell address to the nation Thursday night. Mr. Bush used the occasion to reflect on the past and look toward the future.
This has been a week of "lasts" for President Bush - the last press conference, the last cabinet meeting, and the last broadcast speech to the nation. "Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation," he said.
He reflected on his first national address from the White House, a speech to a country reeling in shock, grief and anger from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "As the years passed, many Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did."
Once again, as he has often done during his final days in office, the president defended his record and was nostalgic. "There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind," he said.
Most recent past presidents, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, chose to deliver a farewell address from the Oval Office. But President Bush opted to speak from the East Room of the White House Thursday night, in front of an audience that included members of the military, firefighters and educators whose stories he said touched him during his eight years in office.
"In citizens like these, we see the best of our country -- resilient and hopeful, caring and strong," he said.
With only five days left until Inauguration Day, Mr. Bush reflected on the peaceful transfer of power that will occur when Barack Obama takes the oath of office and becomes the first African American President of the United States.
"Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose story reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our nation," he said.
In recent days, the president has said he is ready to return to Texas and life as a private citizen. But aides say they detect a bit of wistfulness in his voice.
Ken Walsh, the veteran White House correspondent for U.S. News and World Report magazine, says there is certain poignancy when a president prepares to leave the spotlight.
"And there is always a sense of not only 'what I could have done as president," but also, a sense of 'am I being given the credit for what I did? Am I being treated too negatively?,'" he said.
The speech was the president's last public event until next Tuesday -- when he welcomes Barack Obama to the White House and the two travel to Capitol Hill for the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.