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May 19, 2004

How the character of our culture is judged

Excerpt from commencement address by President Bush at Concordia University, Wisconsin, May 14:

A person shows his or her character in kindness and charity. And what is true in our lives is also true in the life of our nation. You can fairly judge the character of society by how it treats the weak, the vulnerable, the most easily forgotten. Our own country, at its best, strives to be compassionate, and this isn't easy. Compassion is not merely a vague feeling of empathy, it is a demanding virtue. It involves action and effort, and deep conviction -- a conviction as old as Scripture and present at the founding of our country. We believe that everyone has a place and a purpose in this world, that every life matters, that no insignificant person was ever born.

America rejects the ethic of sink or swim. America rejects social Darwinism, because strength is not the same as worth. Our greatest failures as a nation have come when we lost sight of our compassionate ideals -- in slavery, in segregation, and in every wrong that has denied the value and dignity of life. Our greatest strength as a nation is that we bravely face our flaws and do our best to make things right. Our greatest successes as a nation have come when we broadened the circle of protection and inclusion. And this work is not finished. We will press on until every person shares in the promise of our country.

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