updated 1/12/2009 5:03:41 PM ET 2009-01-12T22:03:41

President George W. Bush will give a farewell address to the U.S. Thursday night, billed by the administration as a chance to reflect on his tenure and welcome Barack Obama without fighting old battles one last time.

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Bush will deliver the speech, expected to run 10 to 15 minutes, from the ornate East Room of the White House. He will have a small audience of people in the room, chosen for their stories of personal courage.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Monday that Bush will "uphold the tradition of presidents using farewell addresses to look forward — by sharing his thoughts on greatest challenges facing the U.S. country, and on what it will take to meet them."

The president also will defend his record, Perino said, but will show graciousness toward Obama and not attempt to revisit the old battles of his presidency.

Bush will speak in prime television viewing time, although no specific time has been set. The White House has requested airtime from the major television networks.

Perino said the speech will be the last scheduled public event for Bush as president until he appears on the North Portico to greet Obama on Inauguration Day, which is Jan. 20. Bush held his final news conference on Monday.

The White House says the ritual of a farewell address dates to the time of George Washington. Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan delivered goodbye speeches from the White House; Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford gave a final State of the Union address to Congress, Perino said.

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