The nature of devastating crisis, and national emergency is that it makes people crave a hero; they need someone to look to for assurance, confidence, and authority. The degree to which a leader successful completes this expectation, defines the legacy that they will leave behind. If a leader is unsuccessful, he can be remembered resentfully as inadequate. If, however, a leader is successful, his citizens are loyal in their dedication to him and his memory.
Naturally presidents look to past presidents and other great leaders for inspiration, guidance, and even policy when they are making decisions. It is no surprise, then, that when a situation or crisis arises today, that current presidents would look to similar situations of the past. In the wake of the devastating attacks of September 11th, 2001, many Americans made the comparison between those terrorist attacks, and surprise attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The assumption can thus be made that President George W. Bush likewise made the comparison, and turned to the great legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his response to the attack of Pearl harbor in addition to the wider World War, as he searched for the words, and manner by which to console, comfort, and introduce the nation to war. In fact, the very striking similarity of the situations, and the implications of them, lead to a similarity of action and word.
DISCLAIMER: Here are some of the similarities we saw through the analysis of several of Bush's radio addresses, and statements to the nation. It is possible that certain comparable situations call for a comparable response, and that the nature of the similarity is due to the likeness of the situations. It is also possible that the parallels of the two attacks caused Bush to seek guidance from the success of FDR.
Analyze at your own risk:
9/15/01- radio address
On the war on terrorism
"This will be a different kind of conflict against a different kind of enemy"
"This war is a new kind of war. It is different from all other wars of the past..."
On perseverance in the war on terrorism
"You will be asked for your patience; for the conflict will not be short. You will be asked for resolve; for, the conflict will not be easy. You will be asked for your strength, because the course to victory may be long"
On perseverance in WWII
"It will not only be a long war, it will be a hard war. That is the basis on which we now lay our plans."
On the duty of the cause
"Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world."
On the duty of the cause
"We defend and we build a way of life, not for America alone, but for all mankind. Ours is a high duty, a noble task"
On punishment of the terrorists
9/11/01- Barksdale Air force Base address
"Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."
On punishment of the Japanese and Axis Powers
"I do not think any American has any doubt of our ability to administer proper punishment to the perpetrators of these crimes."
Prayer for the victims and the nation
9/11/01-address to the Nation
"Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve....And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.'"
Prayer for Europe and those suffering in the midst of WWII
"Day and night I pray for the restoration of peace in this mad world of ours. It is not necessary that I, the President ask the American people to pray in behalf of such a cause-for I know you are praying with me."
Just as crisis irrevocably tied the image of Roosevelt as a hero to the American people, it will be interesting to observe the way in which Bush's handling of similar crisis situation does or does not create an enduring links between him and the American people.
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