West Point, N.Y. President Bush told West Point graduates Saturday that they must protect and preserve American freedom at a time when terrorism puts it in jeopardy. "We will lift this dark threat from our country and the world," he said at the U.S. Military Academy.
Bush gave an update on the campaign against terrorism and offered his rationale for taking the fight beyond Afghanistan.
He said those who attacked at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 are waiting to strike again. Such threats must be met aggressively and proactively, and with great force, the president said.
"If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long," Bush said. "America has no empire to extend, no utopia to establish. In defending the peace, we face a threat with no precedent.
"We know the terrorists have more money, more men and more planes. ... This war will take many turns we cannot predict. But I am sure wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for power, but for freedom."
Protecting freedom, Bush said, requires loyal Americans to take the fight to the enemy, "disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge."
"In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act," Bush said. "We will not leave the safety of America, and the peace of the planet, at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants."
The speech was his second graduation address this year. He gave general remarks to cadets at Virginia Military Institute in April, also an update on the terrorism fight.
Bush told cadets that the United States also has a duty to preserve peace and freedom through good relations with other world powers. "Building this just peace is America's opportunity and America's duty. From this moment on, it is your challenge as well," he said.
"You will face times of calm, and times of crisis," Bush said. "And every test will find you prepared, for you are the men and women of West Point."
He reminded the cadets that they follow in the tradition of great generals - Dwight D Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton and Omar Bradley - as well as anonymous second lieutenants who "saved a civilization" by fighting and dying in battle.
"You graduate from this academy in a time of war, taking your place in an American military that is powerful and is honorable," Bush said. "This nation respects and trusts our military, and we are confident in your victories to come."
Bush's other commencement address, to be delivered June 14 at Ohio State University, will deal with volunteerism and other ways to serve beyond the military, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
In his weekly radio address, broadcast after the commencement address, Bush said West Point grads will "provide the ultimate service to our nation as we fight and win the war on terror" - putting themselves on the line willingly so that other Americans can live in freedom.
"Americans serve others because their conscience demands it, because their faith teaches it, because they are grateful to their country and because service brings rewards much deeper than material success," Bush said. "Government does not create this idealism, but we can do a better job of supporting and encouraging an ethic of service in America."