Opinion: Bush’s farewell address today joins a long line of goodbyes


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President Bush gives his farewell address to the nation this evening, a little more than four days before he actually leaves the White House to fly back to Texas.

First lady Laura Bush has already packed their large personal library and most of their clothing, and that’s en route there as well. The president’s speech tonight will last about 15 minutes with some defense of his policies, not seeking to refight old battles, aides said, but to look ahead.


The speech at 5 p.m. Pacific time will be before a small live audience, which is unusual for such White House goodbyes but suits Bush’s taste for personal interactions since he first campaigned (unsuccessfully) for public office, a House seat in West Texas, from the back of a pickup truck during his honeymoon.

The remarks on national TV will actually be the final scheduled public event of his eight years in office before Bush has a front-row seat as a mere spectator at the inauguration of Barack Obama midmorning Tuesday.

We hope to have some Bush speech excerpts here later today, and will publish the full text on The Ticket this evening as soon as available. So check back here.

On Friday, as he did as Texas governor, Bush plans a private lunch of appreciation for senior staff before spending one final weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., likely getting in some mountain biking, despite the cold.

Chances are many of the top staff will get handwritten, personalized notes of appreciation; and if the first family follows its previous patterns, some of the patient spouses of staff will likely receive floral bouquets with notes of appreciation.

The David of Camp David was the grandson of President Eisenhower, whose farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961, is generally considered a landmark, with its ominous and prescient warning against the evolving development of a then-new military-industrial complex that, while necessary, could also potentially develop its own dangerous priorities, he said. The full text of the address is here.

We’ve also got a three-minute excerpt video below, in black-and-white because colorful presidencies didn’t come until later in the ‘60s.

(As a non-political bonus for history buffs, we’ve added an Ike speech from 16 years before his farewell, perhaps his most historic speech -- and one of his shortest -- delivered in his general’s voice to Allied troops on June 6, 1944, as they set off to liberate Europe. That one is on the jump below; click the ‘Read more’ line.)

Here also is a link to Ronald Reagan‘s eloquent 3,302 words of goodbye. Bill Clinton’s farewell is here. Bush’s father, the 41st president, chose not to give a closing address. Our blogger buddy Mark Silva has a different take on presidential farewells over at the Swamp.

We had hoped to include video of the historic first presidential farewell address, that by George Washington. But we couldn’t find it. Turns out, with the help of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, the first president wrote the speech over the course of several months in 1796.

But Washington never actually spoke it. He simply sent the text to a Philadelphia newspaper as one of the country’s early op-eds. It’s right here.

In the age’s florid language, Washington speaks of many things, but many words remain timely 213 years later. For instance, he warned against the influence of the evolving political party system, saying it ‘agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one ... against another.’

Maybe we’ll hear a few of those thoughts in coming days. Meanwhile, see videos below.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo (top): George Washington addresses the Constitutional Convention in a painting by Junius Brutus Stearns. Credit: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo (top inset) President Bush speaks from the Oval Office on immigration reform, May 15, 2006. Credit: Eric Draper / White House. Photo (lower inset) President Reagan speaks from the Oval Office on the space shuttle Challenger disaster, Jan. 28, 1986. Credit: White House

Audio of Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower’s address to the troops setting out to invade Europe on June 6, 1944