President Biden gave a speech yesterday in Warsaw, Poland, before heading home. The speech has been hailed by many, comparing it to two of what are considered the greatest speeches of the Cold War by U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. While I have not listened to the speech, I have read the transcript … here are a few parts that caught my eye:
- “A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people’s love for liberty. Brutality will never grind down their will to be free. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness.”
- “Let me say this if you’re able to listen: You, the Russian people, are not our enemy. I’m telling you the truth: This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people.”
- “For generations, Warsaw has stood where liberty has been challenged and liberty has prevailed. In fact, it was here in Warsaw when a young refugee who fled her home country from Czechoslovakia was under Soviet domination, came back to speak and stand in solidarity with dissidence. Her name was Madeleine Korbel Albright. She became one of the most ardent supporters of democracy in the world. She was a friend with whom I served. America’s first woman Secretary of State. She passed away three days ago. She fought her whole life for central democratic principles. And now in the perennial struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are in the front lines.”
- “My message to the people of Ukraine is a message I delivered today to Ukraine’s foreign minister and defense minister, who I believe are here tonight. We stand with you. Period!”
- “President Zelenskyy was democratically elected. He’s Jewish. His father’s family was wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust. And Putin has the audacity, like all autocrats before him, to believe that might will make right.”
- “And earlier today I visited your national stadium, where thousands of Ukrainian refugees are now trying to answer the toughest questions a human can ask. My God, what is going to happen to me? What is going to happen to my family? I saw tears in many of the mothers’ eyes as I embraced them. Their young children, their young children, not sure whether to smile or cry.”
- “I didn’t have to speak the language or understand the language to feel the emotion in their eyes, the way they gripped my hand, little kids hung on to my leg, praying with a desperate hope that all this is temporary. Apprehension that they may be perhaps forever away from their homes. Almost a debilitating sadness that this is happening all over again.”
- “I also want to thank my friend, the great American chef Jose Andres, and his team for help feeding those who are yearning to be free. But helping these refugees is not something Poland or any other nation should carry alone. All the world’s democracies have a responsibility to help. All of them.”
But in keeping with the way this nation is today, the media and others seized on one of President Biden’s last lines …
- “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
He uttered the heartfelt words that so many of us are thinking … one way or another, Putin cannot remain in power for if he does … if he does, it is a near-certainty that the world will see another massive war that will touch every nation, every person on the globe. But immediately people jumped to the conclusion that the president was calling for regime change and that he was willing to be the one to make that happen. NO, people, that is not what he said nor what he meant! A statement was issued by the White House to clarify the president’s remarks …
“The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
I hate it when people try to ‘interpret’ what someone has said. If I say I’m not hungry right now, that’s precisely what I mean. I do not mean I am not feeling well, I do not mean that what you’re offering does not appeal … I simply mean I’m not hungry. Every word President Biden utters is picked apart ad nauseam by those on the right side of the aisle, by the media, and by people who don’t even understand the situation. Sometimes it’s okay to take a person at their word, to take what they say at face value. Why on earth would people let 9 short words colour their view of a 30-minute, 3,097-word speech, one of the best Biden has ever given in my view? Because the free press jumped like a pack of hungry dogs on a bone. I support freedom of the press to the fullest extent, however with freedom comes responsibility — in this case, the responsibility to speak with conscience, not to put words into the mouth of another, not to twist and turn words into something they were not meant to be.
We, as a nation, really need to get over the finger-pointing, the seizing on every word a member of the opposing political party utters, the lies, the hatred, the divisiveness. There is much work to be done, but we cannot do it as long as the nation remains so divided that we cannot even listen to one another.