I wrote before the speech yesterday. That story is accessible here.
The video and transcript of President Obama’s speech are both now accessible here. In my opinion, his speech, yesterday, was of far more than normal importance, and how the body politic deals with the abundant messages, long term, is of great importance to our country.
Two aspects of yesterdays speech were of greatest interest to me.
1. The encouragement to look forward, not backward: to truly put 9-11-01 in the past, where it belongs.
9-11-01 has been drilled into our individual and collective psyche, whether left or right or in-between or having no specific opinion at all.
Reminders of our rear-view-mirror view are not hard to find.
For just a single example: not long ago I was in the Hennepin (MN) Government Center, Minneapolis, the seat of Minnesota’s largest county. In the atrium area was an immense American flag with no signage about why the flag was there.
(click to enlarge)
I decided to ask about the flag. The first person, a receptionist answering the phone, had no idea why the flag was there; the person to which I was first referred had no idea either. The third person I talked to said the flag had been there for years, and had been put up in the wake of 9-11-01: “they had to do something“, she said.
I’m still trying to flesh out the entire story of that flag; but my point is, that the reason that flag exists has nothing to do with anything other than the shock of an event that happened almost a dozen years ago…and most likely the vast majority of people who see it have no notion whatsoever about its personal story. It may as well be hanging at half-staff….
I witnessed essentially the same backward looking devotion to 9-11-01 four years ago at the International Peace Garden in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota-Manitoba. That story is here.
When do we let go, and move on from 9-11-01? That was, I think, one of the Presidents prime messages to everyone, yesterday.
2. The significance of the protestor at the speech:
My spouse had told me someone was protesting at the Presidents speech, and later I saw the entire incident involving the protestor, Medea Benjamin. I’ve met Medea Benjamin, in September, 2008. She wouldn’t remember me. But she would if she looked up her name at the Registry of the United States Peace Foundation website where the entries are listed alphabetically, and checked Dick Bernard here (my entry is right after hers).
Memo to self: I need to gussy my bio up a bit! She and I approach the business of changing opinions a bit differently, but we’re in the same trade.
Consider becoming a Founding Member of the Peace Foundation yourself. I’ve been a Founding Member since 2006. Very few people I know who should be supporting this Foundation have taken the time to join.
But I digress: Medea is a career protestor; her reputation is built on protesting. That is what she does, her job, her role. I’ve known others like her.
The odds that the Secret Service and the President were unaware of her presence yesterday, or of what she would probably do during the speech, are infinitesimally small.
She may not have known, but I feel the Secret Service certainly did. She’s hardly a stranger in protests.
I’m pretty sure I saw one of her colleagues with her in a TV cut yesterday; she’s another activist who used to be in the Foreign Service.
Obviously I don’t know, and no one likely will ever know for certain, but my guess is that Medea was a useful part of the Presidents speech yesterday. Indeed, rather than ignoring or criticizing her, or even looking annoyed, he acknowledged her argument.
The anti-war left should be grateful. The President didn’t have to either allow or (in effect) participate in her performance. He’s made the same point she has before yesterday.
(Back in the 1990s, I recall being in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, and witnessing one of those ‘made for TV’ demonstrations, where everyone in the ‘performance’ knew the rules, and the objective – to get on the evening news. The police were there, and the protestors, and the coordinator/spokespeople for the protest, and the paddy wagon, and a few media, and everyone was calm and well behaved. But at a certain appointed time, the demonstration took place and the protestors were arrested and hauled away.
Succintly, in my opinion, what people saw on television an hour or so later that day was simply street theatre, made for television.
And that time it was an important issue, too.)
And finally: one of my e-list noted that Ms Benjamin has a new book out, on Drone Warfare. Here’s the link if you’re interested.
But the issues raised by President Obama are very important. Do watch the speech or print out the transcript, and go to work.