A writing exercise
Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic thought Obama’s speech at the Fort Hood memorial was the greatest he had ever written. The full text is on Ambinder's site.
Today, at Ft. Hood. I guarantee: they’ll be teaching this one in rhetoric classes. It was that good. My gloss won’t do it justice. Yes, I’m having a Chris Matthews-chill-running-up-my-leg moment, but sometimes, the man, the moment and the words come together and meet the challenge. Obama had to lead a nation’s grieving; he had to try and address the thorny issues of Islam and terrorism; to be firm; to express the spirit of America, using familiar, comforting tropes in a way that didn’t sound trite.
I thought I would try my hand at speechwriting to emphasize what should have been said. Although my version is less than soaring, it touches upon issues which ought to be have been addressed. My amateurish attempts and an actual video of Obama's Fort Hood address taken by a participant are after the Read More.
First of all, I would like to apologize, as Commander in Chief and on behalf of the entire chain of command, for failing to protect the men who were shot here some days ago. The specific shortcomings which allowed the shooter the opportunity to commit this crime will determined and rectified forthwith. That is the least I can do for those who died.
You men and women of the Armed Forces are expected to risk your lives in the service of our country; to overcome your fears, to bear up against hardship and risk your life and limb to protect the nation you serve. No one will accept the excuse 'I was afraid' from a soldier, though God knows there will be times when fear will be the natural thing for a man to feel. But in return the senior military and political leadership owe you its own kind of courage. Perhaps not the physical bravery expected of you, but courage nonetheless. The courage never to call you to arms unless national interest absolutely demand it; the fortitude to support you unswervingly until your mission -- the mission we gave you -- is completed. We owe you that. The leadership owes you the best equipment, the finest intelligence and the most competent leadership. But above all we owe you our loyalty and the assurance that everyone placed above you and alongside you wearing the uniform of the United States is someone you could trust implicitly with your life. Because there would be times when you would have to.
And in that duty we have failed.
For reasons which brook no excuse, whether from lack of competence or the absence of professional courage, we have allowed a traitor to gain a position of trust in your midst. We gave him high rank. We gave him the prerogatives and honors due to a member of the medical profession and an officer in the Armed Forces. And he used that position to kill the men we are remembering today. We who demand of you the courage to routinely risk your lives in the service of our nation did not ourselves have fortitude to expel a man from the service who by rights should have been gone because we feared criticism. We feared being accused of bigotry. We feared being accused of persecuting a religion. We feared the bad publicity that would come from recognizing the danger signals which have all too tragically culminated in this. It was out of fear that we forbore and men died.
Let me repeat my apology. By command responsibility the onus of this falls on my shoulders. And the duty for correcting the defects falls on me as well. Already there are those who say "this was an ordinary crime"; or that we do not know what motivated this killer to commit the crime he did. We must not add dishonesty to dereliction. We know. If we were not men enough to do our duty then, then at least we should do it now. Let me pledge that from this day forward, no officer in the Armed Forces, no member of law enforcement, no man or woman in authority should ever dare ignore a danger to you, my men -- for you are my men -- out of fear of giving offense. Political correctness should fall distant second to duty, honor and country.
I cannot bring back the dead. But I can prevent others from following in their tragic place. Others will eulogize the fallen. They will recall this young life or that promising future cut short on that day. Let others speak of the nobility of those who died on this post. Let others comfort the parents and loved ones of those who will wait at the door for the knock they once heard and hear nevermore. That is not for me to do.
Rather let my deeds from this day speak more eloquently than tributes or flowers. Let my determination to prevent this from ever happening again be my peroration and my tribute to the fallen. Gesta, non verba is all the Latin I need to know. Deeds, not words. I will return to my duties and you to yours. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
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