Bush said State Department employees worked to advance the ideals of freedom and can be proud of the results, whether in the Mideast or Asia or Africa.
Previewing a farewell address that he will give later in the day, Bush said: "I'm going to urge our nation to continue to engage the world with confidence - confidence in the transformative power of freedom and liberty."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented Bush with the flags of Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Liberia and Lebanon - countries that she says have joined the "circle of freedom" during the past eight years. Looking back, Rice listed things she said she never expected to witness: Kuwaiti women gaining the right to vote; a democratic provincial council meeting in Kirkuk, Iraq; the king of Saudi Arabia at an interfaith dialogue at the United Nations listening to the Israeli president; and men, women and children across Africa who no longer are dying of AIDS.
Bush also gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq.