Former President George W. Bush was greeted by thunderous applause on the Fourth of July as he told thousands of spectators in a rural Oklahoma rodeo arena that the U.S. was “the greatest nation on the face of the earth.”
Bush was given six standing ovations as he spoke in GOP-friendly Woodward, a town of about 12,000 residents in northwestern Oklahoma.
About 9,200 tickets were sold for the event -- the biggest crowd for Bush since he left office in January.
Bush spoke of the bravery of injured troops he had met as president, and thanked members of the military for their service. He told the crowd it was nice of them “to give a retired guy something to do.”
The former president has turned up in a handful of out-of-the-way places since he left office, and he surprised city leaders in Woodward by accepting their invitation to speak at festivities celebrating the $25-million renovation of a local park.
Woodward is friendly territory for Bush, who visited the town two decades ago while campaigning for his father’s presidential bid.
Oklahoma hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and was the only state in 2008 in which every county voted for the GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
In 2004, Bush won 80.9% of the vote in Woodward County as he defeated Democratic challenger John F. Kerry.
Bush’s principles ring true in Oklahoma, said Kris Day, who owns the Cowboy’s Tack Shop with her husband, Neal.
“We’re conservative,” she said. “We don’t spend money we don’t have.”
It was reportedly the first presidential visit to Woodward since the 1950s, when Dwight D. Eisenhower landed at the airport outside town en route to view local drought damage.