Chicago, IL.–This morning, President George W. Bush spoke before a crowd of National Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show attendees and Chicago-area dignitaries. Much of the President’s 20-minute speech centered on the recent Iraqi election and its impact on the U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. “The day [the terrorists] feared has arrived,” said the President. “They cannot stop the advance of freedom.”

Though the President hailed the arrival of democracy in Iraqi as a turning point, calling it a “decisive moment for liberty,” he also told the gathered that more violence in the region should be expected. “The path of freedom is one of struggle and sacrifice,” he said.

The President also outlined the five key goals of his administration’s strategy on an issue of particular importance to the restaurant industry–immigration reform strategy. His plans included: securing the border; creating a comprehensive temporary worker program; strengthening the current employee verification system; addressing the legal status of illegal immigrants currently residing the United States—without granting amnesty; and maintaining the U.S.’s reputation as a “melting pot.” Audience greeted the President’s call for “a practical and lawful way to businesses to hire the workers they need,” with cheers and applause.

Questions from the audience addressed such issues as healthcare, tax cuts, the nation’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil, strained relations with Venezuela, public unease with the government, and the environment. The President spoke in favor of making current tax permanent, saying, “The best way to reduce deficit is to keep pro-growth policies in place.” He also backed association healthcare plans and promoted healthcare savings accounts. “Small businesses are being penalized,” he told the crowd of restaurateurs and hospitality executives and summarized his administration’s plan for helping the segment keep healthcare costs affordable. He called for the creation of a common language in healthcare and lowering costs by promoting the wider use of information technology within the healthcare system. Ultimately, said the President, he would like to provide each American with an electronic medical card, “with the guarantee of privacy, of course.”