Lesson 6: When George Bush Was Eloquent On Osama bin Laden
On September 21st, 2001, then President George W. Bush gave a speech to a joint session of Congress in which he spoke about justice, and addressed frankly what the American people were feeling. That speech has been recalled and referenced in recent days; Peter Bergen, in Time, noted its unusual eloquence. We don’t remember the last American president for his way with words but many of his words have come to define not only the macro ideas ordinary Americans imagine drive our foreign policy (whatever your view on it, the phrase “war on terror” has stuck). His words defined our conceptions—and misconceptions—of what we are fighting against (“axis of evil”).
What we were fighting against, exactly, was not clear then, but what we were fighting for was never in doubt. Talking about what we fight for was a particular strength of the President’s; it has been a particular strength of American presidents, period. War draws out the poetry.
Here is an excerpt from that speech:
These terrorists kill not merely to end lives but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us because we stand in their way. We're not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.
President Obama would never use a phrase like “pretenses to piety;” it lacks his rigorous, cosmopolitan respectfulness. But “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies” is a beautiful phrase. It is the apotheosis of faint-praise-damage done well. With it, a President promised his people and his government that the thing we were fighting was not only false but doomed, too. “Unmarked grave of lies” takes “dustbin of history” and dresses it in lyricism, cutting cliché at the bone. Professing to know what history will bring rang true to that President’s celebrated Christian clarity; it was what many wanted at the time.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.
- Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
- The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
- Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.
- Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
- The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
- Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.
- In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
- This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
- Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.