In Commencement Speech, Bush Urges Graduates To Perpetuate 'Culture Of Service'

By SANDRA SOBIERAJ, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - President Bush exhorted the graduating class of 2002 to help him turn a post-Sept. 11 "culture of service" into a lasting part of American life.

"America needs more than taxpayers, spectators and occasional voters. America needs full-time citizens," Bush said Friday, in a commencement address before more than 6,000 Ohio State University graduates.

The president also picked up an honorary doctor of public administration degree during his brief appearance at the ceremonies. He then headed to Houston to appear at a political fund-raiser to raise almost $2-million.

To Ohio State graduates who obeyed an announcer's warning against heckling and greeted Bush with hearty cheers, the president recalled a Tuesday morning last fall that was as brilliantly sunny as the skies over Ohio Stadium.

New York City firefighters inked their Social Security numbers on their arms before rushing into the burning World Trade Center towers so that their bodies might be more easily identified if they didn't come out, he said. Passengers aboard Flight 93 "led the first counterattack in the war on terror" over a Pennsylvania field.

"In these events we relearned something large and important: the achievements that last and count in life come through sacrifice and compassion and service," Bush said. "Some believe this lesson in service is fading as distance grows from the shock of Sept. 11, that the good we have witnessed is shallow and temporary."

It's up to the class of 2002 to prove the skeptics wrong, he said, by reaching out to the lonely, abused, addicted and illiterate.

"You will determine whether our new ethic of responsibility is the break of a wave or the rise of a tide," said Bush, wearing the blue gown of his alma mater, Yale University. "You will make a culture of service a permanent part of American life."

He announced a new clearinghouse feature of his administration's USA Freedom Corps Web site. It will allow Americans to type in their zip code and, via links to more than 20,000 service organizations, instantly identify volunteer opportunities just "minutes away from their homes," said Freedom Corps director John Bridgeland.

On the flight from Washington, Bridgeland told reporters that Bush drew his speech, his second and last commencement address of this season, from writings and teachings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Pope John Paul II, Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Cicero and, finally, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

Bush quoted none of these in his 18 minutes at the microphone as he sought to inspire new grads to give 4,000 hours over their lifetimes in community service.

To the graduates' parents, he quipped: "Many of you have written your last tuition check. It must be nice; I'm still writing them."

The president's twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, 20, will be college juniors in the fall. Aides said they didn't know whether the girls would be with dad at his Texas ranch for the Fathers' Day weekend.

Bush left Ohio Stadium for Texas even before degrees were conferred. At a Houston summer reading camp for Mexican-American children, he planned again to emphasize the kinds of things volunteers could do. He was also raising $1.2 million for Republican Gov. Rick Perry's re-election campaign and another $500,000 for the Texas GOP.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)