The speech that George W. Bush gave after the attacks on September 11th, 2001 was not only comforting, like the speech given by Ronald Reagan after the Challenger Tragedy, or the impromptu speech given by Robert Kennedy after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., but also blazing with the clear message that America is strong, and that no matter what, we would overcome. While Ronald Reagan made clear the specific audiences he was addressing, George Bush made a bigger point of addressing the entire American nation, from the children of the victims, to the adults whose faith in this country had been so badly shaken. He wanted Americans to keep strong faith in our country, and not to worry about what was going to happen next. Reagan made many points in his speech about the bravery of the fallen astronauts, as well as the importance of the quest into unknown frontiers. Bush and Reagan both really tried to stress the importance of American people standing strong together, believing in our country, and not recoiling in the face of adversity.
Both presidents not only had very strongly worded speeches, but well delivered performances of them as well, (especially Reagan, whose background as an actor always helped his charisma in front of the camera.) Robert Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis calmed down a potentially vicious racial situation, and helped people to stick together despite a great tragedy. President Bush went in sort of a different direction: The American people would stay strong together, and bring down any enemy that threatened our freedom or safety. Robert Kennedy was addressing tension between black people and white people living in the same country, while President Bush was addressing the American citizens in the face of an overwhelming attack from a foreign country. Kennedy’s message was one centering on love, compassion and understanding, while Bush was stressing the importance of freedom, American pride, and most importantly, justice. George Bush really shows that he understands his audience.
He really sparked a flame in the American public that made everyone feel extremely patriotic and protective of his or her country. His words were strong, and his inflection was perfectly appropriate. The repeated use of words like ‘ justice’ and ‘ freedom’ really installed a sense of pride in the audience he was addressing. Those words really needed to be heard in such a fragile time. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., he used very descriptive language and painted a hopeful picture when he said, “ Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” The attacks on 9/11 were the first time America had been targeted on our own native soil since the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the 1940’s. George Bush recognized what a delicate situation it was, and delivered a speech with wonderfully appropriate messages of not only patriotic nationalism, but with a clearly threatening message to any force that dare oppose America. This delicate balance of assuring safety and threatening enemies is what truly makes President George Bush’s 9/11 Address to the Nation one of the greatest speeches of all time.
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