Staff and Wire Reports

WOODWARD, Oklahoma -- The town of Woodward rolled out the red, white and blue carpet for Former President George W. Bush who was there to celebrate ‘Let Freedom Ring 2009.'

President Bush was given six standing ovations in his 30-minute speech at the Crystal Beach Park shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday.

The former president was greeted by thunderous applause on as he told thousands of spectators that the U.S. was "the greatest nation on the face of the earth."

Bush mentioned his successor, Barack Obama, just once in passing, thanked members of the military, spoke about the bravery of injured soldiers he'd met and told stories of people in difficult situations helping others.

He also joked with the crowd, telling them it was "nice of you to give a retired guy something to do." The former Texas governor even briefly talked football, saying "all I ask is you take it easy on the Longhorns next year," referring to the heated rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma.

Woodward Mayor Bill Fanning estimated about 6,500 people attended Bush's speech. The former president surprised city leaders by accepting their invitation to speak at festivities celebrating the $25 million renovation of a local park.

City Manager Alan Riffel said it was the first presidential visit to Woodward since the late 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower landed at the airport outside town en route to view drought damage in the area.