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Emory Professors Comment
on President Bush's Atlanta Speech
During his five-hour visit to Atlanta on Thursday, President Bush spoke at
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then gave a nationally televised
speech before a crowd of 5,000 at the Georgia World Congress Center. Political
scientist Robert Pastor and law professor Richard Freer give their reactions.
President Bush provided a necessary reminder to Americans, according to Robert
Pastor, Goodrich C. White Professor of International Relations at Emory.
"Two months since the atrocity, the America's spirit needed an injection--a
reminder of why we are at war, and why we need to prevail. President Bush provided
the rallying words in Atlanta. He and his administration will need to do more
of that while at the same time elaborating a convincing and effective strategy
for defeating Osama bin Ladin and the Taliban."
Richard D. Freer, senior vice president for academic affairs and associate
professor in Emory Law School, outlines what he thinks were Bush's three goals
and praises his performance.
"I cannot help thinking that President Bush is a much better orator than
people expected. He was confident; he was poised; he was clear. What we're seeing
is something we haven't seen in a long time: a war-time president. It seems
to me he's on his game. We have come to have such low expectations of politicians.
There used to be a sense that this guy can't put a sentence together; he really
has put together some really good speeches.
Several people said to me 'I was so upset with what was going on a year ago,
but I'm glad Bush is president now.'
It seems to me there were three things the president was trying to do: First
was to reassure the country, to raise our spirits by showing that he is determined
to carry on this fight. And that this fight is just; we were attacked; we are
the victims here.
Second, he gave us an honest assessment. He's being very straightforward about
what we do not know. He's trying to avoid cynicism by telling us we don't know
where these terrorists are, how long the war will go on, where other terrorists
are and where anthrax is coming from. We have realistic expectations. This world
of ours is into instant gratification resolution. We're programmed by TV shows,
sitcoms where everything's resolved in 26 minutes. This won't be so easy. The
wars most young people can remember were short wars. Desert Storm was short
stuff. We're conditioned by short wars. This is not going to be short stuff,
and the country has to be ready for that.
One other point about honest assessment. It occurred to me that the line of
the night was when he said we're at the beginning of our efforts in Afghanistan.
And Afghanistan is the beginning of our efforts in the world. That seems to
be a signal that we may be going to Iraq. We may be going elsewhere. I thought
it was not only poetic but significant.
The third thing was in some ways the most extraordinary. He made the point
that there is a spirit born anew in the aftermath of Sept. 11, that this tragedy
has exposed and brought out something in the national character. He emphasized
that it's a good thing and that what we need to do is unharness this natural
energy. There's something about this spirit of courage and optimism that is
inspiring: Every American has a role in this. He made it clear; he included
a call to volunteerism. He urged us to use our common sense, be the eyes and
ears of the community, but ultimately repudiate these terrorists by living our
lives. It was a great message of teamwork. I liked the phrase 'courage and optimism.'
That played into his tag line at the end.
There's nothing new there except the hint at going beyond Afghantistan. This
sense of sprit he talks about, we all see this and feel this. We all have a
new sense of civility. I swear, even on I-85, people are nicer. I think there's
a sense when you've been attacked from the outside that people are nicer to
each other. The message of his speech was palpable and very effective--We all
have a role to play. We help our neighbor, our community and live our lives.
I was very encouraged by that."
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