Essay Quiz on President Bush’s 2005 Inaugural Speech


I suggest this activity for advanced placement high school civics and government classes, or possibly English classes.


Time: 75 minutes


Write an essay in which you discuss the following four statements by President George W. Bush.  The first three statements come from his 2005 inaugural address. The last statement comes from a 2002 commencement speech at Ohio State University.


Your essay should explain what you think the president is “getting at” as a moral, ethical or philosophical principle. You may discuss religious precepts but if you do you should discuss more than one system of faith. You should also discuss ethical precepts from a secular perspective. Finally, you should discuss how these precepts could be implemented as public policy, by Congress and state legislatures, and how any such implementation could run into constitutional questions about liberty.


(1) “In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service and mercy and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth.”

(2)  “Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself, and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country but to its character.”

(3)  “In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character -- on integrity and tolerance toward others and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self.”

(4)  “A person without responsibility for others is a person who is truly alone.”


You may also include in your analysis a consideration of the following paraphrase by Andrew J. Bachevich from the Winter 2005 Wilson Quarterly, “The Real World War IV, from p. 44—of a mid 1979 speech by Jimmy Carter:


“Either Americans could persist in pursuing a ‘mistaken idea of freedom’ based on ‘fragmentation and self-interest’ and inevitably ‘ending in chaos and immobility,’ or they could opt for ‘ture freedom,’ which Carter later described as ‘the path of common purpose and restoration of American values.’ … The hollowing out of American democracy required a genuinely democratic response. ‘There is no simple way to avoid sacrifice,’ he insisted, calling on citizens as ‘an act of patriotism’ to lower thermostats, observe the highway speed limits, use carpools, and ‘park your car one extra day per week.’”



Points for scoring essay:

(1)   organization and logical flow of arguments

(2)   originality of points made

(3)   grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph structure


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