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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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