President George W. Bush reaches out to shake the hands of Jose Maria Aznar, left, former Prime Minister of Spain, and Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center, after speaking Tuesday, June 5, 2007, to democracy advocates in Prague. (White House photo by Eric Draper).
George W. Bush gave a remarkable speech on June 5, in a remarkable location. He spoke at the Conference on Democracy and Security at the
He came, he saw, he humbled himself. Never before has the president of
America gone out of his way to pay tribute to a gathering of dissidents. . . . What had brought President Bush to make this pilgrimage to Prague, en route to the G-8 summit?
The answer echoed through the noble vision outlined in his speech -- a speech that several seasoned observers of presidential oratory who attended the conference judged to be among the best that Mr. Bush has ever given.
Gateway Pundit was there, and wrote that Bush “rocked the
The next morning, Bush met informally with reporters to talk about his speech, and had this exchange with them:
Q Can I go back to your democracy speech?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Did you like it?
Q I loved it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Say that in your stories.
Q I'll say it anywhere. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: What did he say?
Q I'll say it anywhere.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. How about in print? (Laughter.)
Q Oh, well --
THE PRESIDENT: That may be taking it too far. (Laughter.)
And indeed it was. Neither the New York Times, the Washington Post nor the Los Angeles Times printed any excerpts from the speech, nor noted its power in their news stories, which is a shame (on them), because the speech was in fact extraordinarily eloquent. It needs to be read in its entirety, but here is a brief excerpt:
This conference was conceived by three of the great advocates for freedom in our time: Jose Maria Aznar, Vaclav Havel, and Natan Sharansky. I thank them for the invitation to address this inspiring assembly, and for showing the world that an individual with moral clarity and courage can change the course of history. . . .
The communists had an imperial ideology that claimed to know the directions of history. But in the end, it was overpowered by ordinary people who wanted to live their lives, and worship their God, and speak the truth to their children. The communists had the harsh rule of Brezhnev, and Honecker, and Ceausescu. But in the end, it was no match for the vision of Walesa and Havel, the defiance of Sakharov and Sharansky, the resolve of Reagan and Thatcher, and fearless witness of John Paul. From this experience, a clear lesson has emerged: Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed, but freedom cannot be denied. . . .
For some, [9/11] called for a narrow response. In truth, 9/11 was evidence of a much broader danger -- an international movement of violent Islamic extremists that threatens free people everywhere. The extremists' ambition is to build a totalitarian empire that spans all current and former Muslim lands, including parts of
Europe. Their strategy to achieve that goal is to frighten the world into surrender through a ruthless campaign of terrorist murder. . . .
Yet this battle is more than a military conflict. Like the Cold War, it's an ideological struggle between two fundamentally different visions of humanity. . . The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs -- it is the universal appeal of freedom. Freedom is the design of our Maker, and the longing of every soul. Freedom is the best way to unleash the creativity and economic potential of a nation. Freedom is the only ordering of a society that leads to justice. And human freedom is the only way to achieve human rights.
. . . [E]very time people are given a choice, they choose freedom. We saw that when the people of Latin America turned dictatorships into democracies, and the people of South Africa replaced apartheid with a free society, and the people of Indonesia ended their long authoritarian rule. We saw it when Ukrainians in orange scarves demanded that their ballots be counted. We saw it when millions of Afghans and Iraqis defied the terrorists to elect free governments. At a polling station in
Baghdad, I was struck by the words of an Iraqi -- he had one leg -- and he told a reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to." Was democracy -- I ask the critics, was democracy imposed on that man? Was freedom a value he did not share? The truth is that the only ones who have to impose their values are the extremists and the radicals and the tyrants. (Applause.)
And that is why the communists crushed the Prague Spring, and threw an innocent playwright in jail, and trembled at the sight of a Polish Pope. History shows that ultimately, freedom conquers fear. And given a chance, freedom will conquer fear in every nation on Earth. (Applause.)
. . . Freedom is the dream and the right of every person in every nation in every age. (Applause.) The
United States of America believes deeply in that message. It was the inspiration for our founding, when we declared that "all men are created equal." It was the conviction that led us to help liberate this continent, and stand with the captive nations through their long struggle. It is the truth that guides our nation to oppose radicals and extremists and terror and tyranny in the world today. And it is the reason I have such great confidence in the men and women in this room. . . . With unbreakable faith in the power of liberty, you will inspire your people, you will lead your nations, and you will change the world.
Senator Joe Lieberman also spoke at the
What is happening in the Middle East today is not simply a battle between the
United States and its enemies in one particular country, but a much larger struggle between freedom and fear, in which Iraq happens to be the central front. . . .
We have been blessed throughout American history with leaders who have recognized these powerful truths. A generation ago, it was Ronald Reagan and Senator Scoop Jackson who came to the side of the dissidents in their fight against Soviet totalitarianism. Today, as well, we are fortunate to have a president, George W. Bush, who has given voice to the cause of freedom fighters from
Iraq to North Korea to Cuba to Iran and beyond.
Based on Bush’s speech this week, here is my conclusion (which will probably guarantee I’ll never eat lunch in this town again): George W. Bush is the most eloquent president since John F. Kennedy.
Not the best communicator (that was Reagan). Not the most articulate (that was Clinton). Not the most grammatical (that was everyone else). But the most eloquent.
In speech after speech, he has set forth an inspiring vision of