You can read the whole speech here. These are just bits I really liked:
Some of the changes in the Middle East have been dramatic, and we see the results in this chamber. Five years ago, Afghanistan was ruled by the brutal Taliban regime, and its seat in this body was contested. Now this seat is held by the freely elected government of Afghanistan, which is represented today by President Karzai. Five years ago, Iraq’s seat in this body was held by a dictator who killed his citizens, invaded his neighbors, and showed his contempt for the world by defying more than a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions. Now Iraq’s seat is held by a democratic government that embodies the aspirations of the Iraq people, who’s represented today by President Talabani. With these changes, more than 50 million people have been given a voice in this chamber for the first time in decades.
Some of the changes in the Middle East are happening gradually, but they are real. Algeria has held its first competitive presidential election, and the military remained neutral. The United Arab Emirates recently announced that half of the seats in its Federal National Council will be chosen by elections. Kuwait held elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time. Citizens have voted in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, in parliamentary elections in Jordan and Bahrain, and in multiparty presidential elections in Yemen and Egypt. These are important steps, and the governments should continue to move forward with other reforms that show they trust their people. Every nation that travels the road to freedom moves at a different pace, and the democracies they build will reflect their own culture and traditions. But the destination is the same: A free society where people live at peace with each other and at peace with the world.
Some have argued that the democratic changes we’re seeing in the Middle East are destabilizing the region. This argument rests on a false assumption, that the Middle East was stable to begin with. The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage. For decades, millions of men and women in the region have been trapped in oppression and hopelessness. And these conditions left a generation disillusioned, and made this region a breeding ground for extremism.
Imagine what it’s like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You’re 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government. While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country’s shortcomings. And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom. For many across the broader Middle East, this is the dismal choice presented every day.
Every civilized nation, including those in the Muslim world, must support those in the region who are offering a more hopeful alternative. We know that when people have a voice in their future, they are less likely to blow themselves up in suicide attacks. We know that when leaders are accountable to their people, they are more likely to seek national greatness in the achievements of their citizens, rather than in terror and conquest. So we must stand with democratic leaders and moderate reformers across the broader Middle East. We must give them voice to the hopes of decent men and women who want for their children the same things we want for ours. We must seek stability through a free and just Middle East where the extremists are marginalized by millions of citizens in control of their own destinies. (Bolded emphasis mine.)
After this fiercely opinionated introduction (and I agree with his opinions), the President directly addresses the people of some of countries that are suffering under dictatorships of fanatically imposed hatred and ignorance. Again, a few of my favorites:
To the people of Iran: The United States respects you; we your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization. You deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential. The greatest obstacle to this future is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation’s resources to fund terrorism, and fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons. The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran’s pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We’re working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom — and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.
To the people of Syria: Your land is home to a great people with a proud tradition of learning and commerce. Today your rulers have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism. In your midst, Hamas and Hezbollah are working to destabilize the region, and your government is turning your country into a tool of Iran. This is increasing your country’s isolation from the world. Your government must choose a better way forward by ending its support for terror, and living in peace with your neighbors, and opening the way to a better life for you and your families.
As always, though, I worry that Bush is preaching to the converted. What I hope is that, while the American Left disdains these words, and the American public ignores them, people struggling under government imposed slavery in other countries, through their underground news sources, get to hear and be inspired by these words. Natan Sharansky claims that, during the dark days of the Soviet Union, some of the greatest support those imprisoned in that country received was the moral support of those in the West who refused to give up on them.
The only thing I don’t like about the President’s speech is the fact that he suddenly turned into a lip flapper when he got to the bit about Israel and the Palestinians. I don’t know what kind of behind-the-scenes machinations are going on, but he said absolutely nothing meaningful at all on the subject, chosing instead to rely on the usual pap about two peaceful states, Democratic elections (and wasn’t electing Hamas a great outcome?), and Abbas’ good intentions. This is the same kind of vapid garbage that has seen us through two meaningless intifadahs, thousands of deaths, and every increasing corruption and anarchy in the Palestinian terroritories.