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November 10, 2001

TWO GOOD things came out of the Sept. 11 atrocity. One was the national unity that appeared overnight in all segments of American society. The other was the effort to help that resulted in the spontaneous outpouring of empathy and generosity toward victims in New York.

In his speech to the nation Thursday evening, which ABC-TV deserves credit for broadcasting, President Bush sought to preserve these two attributes as bulwarks in a war of indefinite duration against an elusive enemy called terrorism.

He reiterated themes he had emphasized since Sept. 11. He echoed his father's plea for volunteerism in the famous and famously mocked "thousand points of light." His civil defense idea makes use of President Clinton's Americorps.

None of this is earth-shattering. All of it is helpful at this hour in the nation's history. Mr. Bush is acting as the leader he campaigned to be, equipping the American people psychologically for the undefined peril. As clever and abrupt as the hijacking and anthrax terrorism have been, the next challenge may be equally unexpected.

Mr. Bush deserves and is getting the support of the American people in this role. The response to the "modern civil defense service" will depend on the definition the administration gives to it. As long as Mr. Bush leads in unifying, the nation will follow.

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