A popular president makes a popular State of the Union speech as nation battles terrorism

Wednesday, January 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Angela Cipriano is a lifelong Democrat who voted for Al Gore. But the New York City teacher joined in the accolades for President Bush following his State of the Union address.

Cipriano, who volunteers twice weekly at a restaurant serving free food to workers at the World Trade Center site, said she especially liked what Bush said Tuesday night about fighting terrorism.

``It's about time we stand up and defend our freedom of our country and all the countries around us, and say, 'This is it. We've had enough and we're not going to take it anymore,''' she said.

Many Americans responded to Bush's speech with the enthusiastic support that the president has enjoyed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His vows to fight terrorism, keep America safe and vanquish the recession found a receptive audience.

Amy Littel, 23, watched the speech curled up on the couch of her parents' suburban Phoenix home as her 2 1/2-month-old son, Decklan, slept soundly nearby. Littel's husband, Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Littel, has yet to meet the little boy with his daddy's dark hair and dark eyes.

Justin Littel was deployed to Afghanistan shortly after Sept. 11 and remained there until this month, when he was transferred to an undisclosed location overseas. Despite her husband's long absence, Amy Littel supports both the war against terrorism and the nation's commander in chief.

``I'm glad to hear it's not over, that we're going to show, once and for all, that terrorists can't get away with what they've been getting away with for decades,'' she said. ``He's speaking directly to the families of the military and the victims of the World Trade Center, but he's also talking to every American out there. He's very strong behind his belief that we're going to fight this _ that they're not going to win.''

The president's speech was comforting to Alice Atoui, 38, a bartender at a pub at Boston's Logan International Airport. ``Security is the top of my list, working at an airport,'' she said.

The speech also made her feel part of something bigger.

``You're not walking alone,'' Atoui said. ``It's like you've got people to hold your hand as you step forward.''

Not everyone lavished praise. In a cramped Indiana University dorm room, five students criticized what they called the president's ``Reaganomics'' and questioned his motives for the war on terrorism. His strong language about Iraq especially raised eyebrows.

``It was scary the way he was talking about that,'' said Rahsaan Bartet, 19, a freshman from Indianapolis.

But even in that tough audience, Bush got points for rallying Americans in a time of crisis.

``I think it was good,'' said Dale Kleinschmidt, 20, a junior economics major from Dallas. ``In a pep talk sense, it was good to give the American people a sense of confidence. Like there's a return to normalcy.''

In Santa Ana, Calif., Maribel Ochoa, 21, nodded in agreement as she watched her first State of the Union address. She has been struggling financially since her hours as a hotel telephone operator were cut, and she listened intently to what the president said about terrorism and the economy.

Bush's plan for economic revival was short on detail, she said, but at least he recognized that many Americans are hurting financially.

``I know he's not thinking 'I'm going to build a factory in Santa Ana so Maribel can get a job.' But I do think he's thinking about all the people who need jobs,'' she said.


Contributing to this story were AP writers Pauline Arrillaga in Phoenix; Tara Burghart in New York City; Chelsea Carter in Santa Ana, Calif.; Rex Huppke in Indianapolis; and Robert O'Neill in Boston.