14 december 2005
A valuable history lesson from GWB
President Bush this week delivered his third and fourth speech in the run-up to the Iraqi elections that will take place tomorrow. It is recommended reading (for (my commentary on) the first two speeches, see here and here).
The most striking part of the two last speeches was his comparison between the present, witnessing the birth of a new Iraq and the past that witnessed the birth of a new nation, the United States:
A few blocks from here stands Independence Hall, where our Declaration of Independence was signed and our Constitution was debated. From the perspective of more than two centuries, the success of America's democratic experiment seems almost inevitable. At the time, however, that success didn't seem so obvious or assured.
The eight years from the end of the Revolutionary War to the election of a constitutional government were a time of disorder and upheaval. There were uprisings, with mobs attacking courthouses and government buildings. There was a planned military coup that was defused only by the personal intervention of General Washington. In 1783, Congress was chased from this city by angry veterans demanding back-pay, and they stayed on the run for six months. There were tensions between the mercantile North and the agricultural South that threatened to break apart our young republic. And there were British loyalists who were opposed to independence and had to be reconciled with America's new democracy.
Our founders faced many difficult challenges -- they made mistakes, they learned from their experiences, and they adjusted their approach. Our nation's first effort at governing -- a governing charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed. It took years of debate and compromise before we ratified our Constitution and inaugurated our first president. It took a four-year civil war, and a century of struggle after that, before the promise of our Declaration was extended to all Americans.Sounds familiar today? This comparison is exemplary for the tone of Bush’s four speeches: mistakes were made, but progress was made, there will be setbacks, but if we do not waver, we will prevail. It is a honest, but positive and optimistic assessment of past and future, made by a man, who, flawed as he, like you and me, may be, has a vision based on the value of freedom. And I think he has got that one right. Keep the faith.