In a nation that has grown more divided than united over the last nine years, former President Geroge W. Bush delivered a speech the country needed to hear.
In his 16-minute speech at the "Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World" event in New York City, the former president condemned white supremacy and reiterated what makes America great and what makes one an American. Being an American is not based on one's ethnicity or where they may be from, but one is an American if they hold onto America's ideals and values established by the Founders and great moral leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.
George W. Bush stated:
Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
He went on to say that white supremacy was "blasphemy against the American creed." At a time when white supremacists are drawing headlines, and racial divisions in the country grow wider, these types of statements are beneficial to the country as a whole. George W. Bush drove the point home that anyone can be "fully and equally American" and that it is our job to pass these views on to our children.
This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.
President 43 also addressed how important it is that schools double-down on their efforts to teach students how to respect people in society. In what many perceive as a veiled shot at President Trump, George W. Bush said "young people need positive role models" and that those who lead need to set a positive tone as "public life sets a national tone."
We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.
To conclude his speech, George W. Bush offered this piece of advice:
It is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation.
Watch the full speech below.