2002 State of the Union Address

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U.S. President George W. Bush, the 43rd United States President, delivered the 2002 State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002. In front of the United States Congress and special guests, President Bush addressed the country for his first State of the Union address. The speech covered the effects of the September 11 attacks and the president's plans to prevent future terrorist attacks on the United States. President Bush gave a progress report on the War on Terror and his plans to end terrorism and bring all terrorists to justice. The issues inside the United States were also addressed including his plan to strengthening the economy after a recession. The speech was centered on foreign affairs and was well received by both Republicans and Democrats. He said, "In four short months, our nation has comforted the victims, begun to rebuild New York and the Pentagon, rallied a great coalition, captured, arrested, and rid the world of thousands of terrorists, destroyed Afghanistan's terrorist training camps, saved a people from starvation, and freed a country from brutal oppression." [1] He is referring to how the United States freed Afghanistan from Taliban rule. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was destroyed, because it did not respect human rights.

President George W Bush at the podium with Vice President Dick Cheney and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert


President Bush gave the 2002 State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002.[2] The president addressed a joint session of the 107th United States Congress and special guests, as well as the whole country and the international community through his televised speech. State of the Union addresses are mandated by Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution which states that the President of the United States must address Congress regarding issues of the state and specific recommendations for new programs and initiatives. Since 1790, State of the Union addresses have been given once a year. The President addresses a joint session of Congress with the Vice President and Speaker of the House of Representatives on the podium behind him.[3]

The 2002 State of the Union address was the first to be delivered after the September 11th attacks. The speech addressed the attacks on America and his plan of action, as well as his goals for the remainder of his term as President. In this address, President Bush first introduced the term "axis of evil" in referring to the countries of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea and the speech was centered on foreign policy.[4]

Major themes[edit]

September 11 attacks[edit]

President Bush spoke about the September 11 attacks that killed thousands in New York City and Washington, D.C. The Islamist organization al-Qaeda carried out the attack with 19 hijackers that took over four commercial flights and crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Two of the flights made contact with the twin towers of the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. United Flight 93, which was also taken over by terrorists, failed to reach its intended target in Washington, D.C. when passengers on the flight overpowered the terrorists and forced the plane to crash in an open field in rural Pennsylvania.[5]

Axis of evil[edit]

The axis of evil was a term first used by President Bush in this address. The axis of evil is made up of three countries: Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. These countries were cited as countries pursuing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and having terrorist training camps. The president warned, "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world". His goal was to disarm these countries and destroy their terrorist training camps.[6]

War on Terror[edit]

The president declared the War on Terror against any nation harboring terrorists. His goals for the war were to end terrorism and its threat on the United States and to bring all terrorists to justice. In the months before the speech, the President claimed the American troops freed Afghanistan and were allies against terror. The women in Afghanistan were freed and part of the new government and rebuilding of their country. The President felt the war in Afghanistan was just the beginning of the war against terror. He said, "Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning." The two main goals of the war were to shut down training camps and capture terrorists and prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. The American troops were deployed on missions in the Philippines, Bosnia, and the coast of Africa. The President called for increased funding for the war to get precision weapons, replace aircraft, and increase pay raise for soldiers.[2] In 2002, there were 69 casualties in Afghanistan. By 2012, there have been 2,920 casualties in Afghanistan and 4,802 casualties in Iraq.[7]

U.S. Army Special Forces Sergeant Mario Vigil in November 2001, with American and Northern Alliance forces west of Konduz, Afghanistan.

Homeland security[edit]

The September 11 attacks increased the President's desire for a bigger budget for homeland security. The President said, "The next priority of my budget is to do everything possible to protect our citizens and strengthen our nation against the ongoing threat of another attack." The four areas of focus in homeland security were: bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security, and improved intelligence. The President believed homeland security would make America a stronger nation. The funding went to developing defenses against biochemical weapons, better training for police and emergency personnel, and stronger security at borders and airports. The President wanted to prevent another attack from happening and be more prepared if one occurred.[2] The legislation establishing the Department of Homeland Security was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in November 2002. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 brought together 22 separate agencies with the mission to prevent terrorism, reduce vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage of a terrorist attack on the United States.[8]


The American economy went through a recession in 2001 for the first time in a decade. A reporter at CNN wrote, "The most common definition of a recession is two or more quarters of a shrinking economy." The factors defining a recession include declines in employment, industrial production, and income and sales.[9] The unemployment rate jumped to 4.9%, which was the highest rate in the past four years.[10] Experts at NBER, the National Bureau of Economic Research, argue that the economy likely could have avoided the recession if not for the September 11th attacks. The attacks shut down the economy for several days and had a lasting impact on tourism and other businesses.[9] The President was aware of the economic problems entering office and in the speech addressed methods of reviving the economy. The president summed up his plan when he said, "When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs." President Bush's plan addressed the importance of education, affordable energy, expanded trade, and sound economic and fiscal policy to create "good jobs" for the American people. Bush argued that the most effective means of creating jobs was by investing in factories and equipment and speeding up tax relief. He pushed for a stimulus package to be passed by Congress to aid in relief.[2]


The address marked President Bush's first speech in office. Certain words appeared much more frequently then others. The words "Afghanistan" and "war" were each spoken 13 times in the speech, and the word "terrorist" was used 19 times. The word "economy" was spoken 7 different times and Iraq was mentioned twice. One of the most frequently used words in his speech was terror.[11] The speech lasted 48 minutes and applause broke out 76 different times.[2] At the time of the speech, President Bush had an 80% approval rating.[12]

Democratic reaction[edit]

Representative Richard Dick Gephardt (D-MO), the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives at the time, gave the Democratic response to President Bush's 2002 State of the Union address. In his response, the Congressman from Missouri argued the importance of unity among the parties during the difficult times the country was facing. He asserted the Democratic and Republican parties needed to come together to figure out how to win the War on Terror and help the economy out of recession.[13]

Special guests[edit]

The State of the Union addresses are always a joint session of Congress, but there were other people invited to the President's speech. The first guest mentioned was the interim leader of Afghanistan, Chairman Hamid Karzai. Another Afghan leader present was Dr. Sima Samar the Minister of Woman's Affairs (Wikipedia link). Shannon Spann, the wife of CIA officer and Marine Michael Spann, was present and her story mentioned in the president's speech. Flight attendants Hermis Moutardier and Christina Jones were present and commended by the president.[2] There were twenty other citizens invited to the speech on the First Lady's guest list:[14]

Hamid Karzai and George W. Bush in 2002
  • Mr. Conrad Rodriguez
  • Ms. Sarah Sandoval
  • Mrs. Sadoozai Panah
  • Mrs. Shannon Spann
  • Mr. James Hoffa
  • Mr. W. Mitt Romney
  • Mr. James Edmund Shea
  • Mr. William Best
  • Mr. Daniel Cabrera
  • Mr. Nick Calio
  • Mrs. Jenna Welch
  • Mrs. Jan O'Neill
  • Mr. Joe O'Neill,
  • Mrs. Renae Chapman
  • Sergeant First Class Ronnie Raikes
  • Sergeant First Class Michael S. McElhiney
  • Specialist Angela M. Ortega
  • Mayor Anthony Williams
  • Bishop Wilton Gregory
  • Mrs. Rhoda Reeves


  1. ^ http://www.infoplease.com/t/hist/state-of-the-union/215.html
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bush, George. "President Delivers State of the Union Address". The White House. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Woolley, John. "State of the Union Addresses and Messages". The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "Deconstructing George W. Bush: A Critical Analysis of the 2002 State of the Union Address". Foreign Policy In Focus. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "9/11 Attacks". History.com. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Iran and the 'Axis of Evil'". PBS. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "Home and Away: Iraq and Afghanistan War Casualties". CNN. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "Homeland Security Act of 2002". Homeland Security. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Economists call it recession". CNN Money. 26 November 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "U.S. unemployment jumps". CNN Money. 7 September 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "The 2007 State of the Union Address". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  12. ^ "Bush Approval Rating Tracker". BBC News. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Gephardt, Richard (29 January 2002). "The Democratic Response". Online News Hour. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  14. ^ "Guests of the First Lady". The White House. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 

External links[edit]