SOMETIMES WORDS REALLY DO MATTER (in memory of 9/11)
In their book, “Listen Up, Mr. President” coauthors Helen Tomas and Craig Crawford offer examples of speeches made by presidents in a time of crisis, words that helped to hold the nation together. Few question the importance of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address as he rallied the country to the cause of freedom in the midst of a long and bloody Civil War. But in modern times, there are examples of speeches, too, that touched our hearts. George W. Bush’s address to the nation after 9/11 is one of them:
“…Now come the names, the lists of casualties we are only beginning to read. They are the names of men and women who began their day at a desk or an airport, busy with life. They are the names of people who faced death and in their last moments called home to say, ‘Be brave,’ and ‘I love you.’
…They are the names of passengers who defied their murderers and prevented the murder of others on the ground. They are the names of men and women who wore the uniform of the United States and died at their post. They are the names of rescuers, the ones whom death found running up the stairs and into the fires to help others…”
The writer of that speech was Michael Gerson who, when complimented on the statement, modestly replied, “Sometimes the words really do matter.” (“Listen Up Mr. President,” pg. 139.)
Yes, words matter. They can hurt, they can incite violence and hatred or they can reason, soothe and heal. In a few days, our country will pause again to honor the memory of those who died on 9/11. In honor of these victims and in the upcoming political season, let us chose our rhetoric carefully. Let us listen to the voices of those who would heal our nation and remind us of the best that is in us, not the worst. Those who died for our country in any venue and in any place should not have sacrificed in vain. Let them know by our actions and our decency that America lives.