As President George W Bush bid farewell after eight tumultuous years in the White House, he warned that while America is safer than it was seven years ago, its gravest threat remains another terrorist attack.
"The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country, and there are some guiding principles that should shape our course," he said in a televised speech on Thursday night from the White House East Room, with just 112 hours before President-elect Barack Obama takes over.
"While our Nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack," Bush said referring to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Our enemies are patient, and determined to strike again. America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict."
At the same time, "we must continue to engage the world with confidence and clear purpose. In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism."
"Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led," he said.
Discussing the 9/11 attacks, Bush said, "As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did."
"Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe," he said noting "America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil."
Speaking on the promise of America, Bush said, "Even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead" and added: "I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people."
"This is a Nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom. This is a Nation where citizens show calm in times of danger and compassion in the face of suffering," he noted.
"These virtues give me an unshakable faith in America. We have faced danger and trial, and there is more ahead," he said. But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great Nation will never tire ...never falter ... and never fail.
Bush called the inauguration of Obama, the first black president, a "moment of hope and pride" for America.
"Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose story reflects the enduring promise of our land," he said in wishing the best to Obama, incoming first lady Michelle Obama, and their two daughters.
Acknowledging setbacks Bush said he would have done some things "differently, if given the chance."
"Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks," he said. "There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind.
"I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."
The presidential farewell address is a tradition dating back to George Washington's departure from office in 1797. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, among others, all delivered farewell speeches. But Bush's father, President George HW Bush, did not.
Bush is planning to spend the weekend at Camp David, Maryland, the presidential retreat before his term ends at noon Tuesday with the swearing-in of Obama as the country's 44th president.