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The State of the Union Address

President Bush delivered his first State of the Union address on January 29 to Congress and the American people. Although he put fighting terrorism and protecting the nation from attacks at the top of his agenda, the President touched on several issues important to women and their families.

Mentioning that only a few months ago women and girls in Afghanistan were “captives in their own homes” and were not allowed to work or go to school, the President pointed out that, “Today women are free” and participate in the new interim government. He introduced and welcomed to the House chamber the new Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Sima Samar, as his special guest.

During his 48-minute speech, the President highlighted issues that would be addressed in the budget that he plans to send to Congress next week, including education, health care coverage, and Social Security.

He called for improvements in Head Start and early childhood learning programs, and he highlighted the need to focus more closely on how colleges train teachers. “We must upgrade our teacher colleges and teacher training and launch a major recruiting drive with a great goal for America: a quality teacher in every classroom,” he said.

He urged Congress to pass a patients’ bill of rights, and “to give uninsured workers credits to help buy health coverage, …and to give seniors a sound and modern Medicare system that includes coverage for prescription drugs.” He emphasized the need to create more jobs to revitalize the economy, stated his support for “extending unemployment benefits and direct assistance for health care coverage,” and called for accelerated tax cuts as part of an economic stimulus plan.

The President also touched on retirement security, indicating his support for allowing Social Security to include private investment accounts “for younger workers who choose them.” He also asked Congress to provide protections for 401(k) and pension plans, so that employees who work for companies that fail will not lose their life savings.

In his remarks, the President announced the creation of a new USA Freedom Corps, and he called on all Americans to “commit at least two years, 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime, to the service of your neighbors and your nation.” The Freedom Corps includes an expansion of three existing volunteer programs: AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Peace Corps.

Additionally, President Bush upheld “respect for women” as part of “the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”

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