Wednesday, November 11, 2009

President Obama at Ford Hood - Echoes of Eloquence

President Obama's speech at the memorial service for those killed at Ford Hood seemed to me simple, dignified, and morally firm. He came as the Commander in Chief, and it was his role to comfort the survivors, honor the fallen, and speak of our common resolve. There were deliberate echoes of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, with its own echoes of the Declaration of Independence, of FDR's War Message, and of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.

Is there an echo of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, from the speech near the end of the novel when the son says goodbye to his mother? --

"Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'-I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build-why, I'll be there."

- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 28

Here is the president's echo. President Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President at Memorial Service at Fort Hood,” Fort Hood - III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas. 10 November 2008:

But here is what you must also know: Your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life's work is our security, and the freedom that we all too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- that is their legacy.

And there were echoes of Lincoln at Gettysburg and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's War Message of December 8, 1941:

We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes. We're a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God. We're a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That's who we are as a people.

No comments: