Rendez-vous with Destiny
by Michael Brenner on 19 Jan 2022 0 Comment

Presidential speeches are typically bland – bland to the point of insipidness. We are treated to the hollow, mock sermon of the Inaugural Address and the tedious monotony of the annual State of the Nation. Whatever that state might be at the outset, at the conclusion it is unavoidably one of drowsy apathy. Admittedly, we recently were subjected to quite the opposite in the form of Donald Trump’s outpouring of snarls, growls and primal screams. We can only hope that it is the exception to the norm of hum-drum platitude.


It was not always so. Our history is studded with the indelible oratory of Lincoln, of Teddy Roosevelt, of FDR and of John Kennedy. The last is memorable for its conviction, its exhortation and its phrase-making. There was little in the content that deviated from the prevailing sentiments of that Cold War time. 


That was to come in the far more significant (albeit forgotten) address at American University on the challenge of nuclear weapons in June 1963. Still, it reminds us that how you deliver a message can have a dramatic effect on an audience independent of what exactly is said. That is what is so lacking these days. Conviction exists only in the perverse minds of the country’s demagogic Right. Rhetorical force is limited – capable only of moving us to tears of boredom. As for memorable words, none stand out – unless your blood is stirred by such dramatic lines as: “change you can believe in.”


It is an instructive exercise to imagine what a Kennedy Inaugural address could be like nowadays or at any point since America’s triumph in the Cold War with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Here’s a draft.


We observe today a celebration of freedom – symbolizing a beginning as well as an end. Our triumph over the forces of tyranny signifies not just liberation but renewal. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new cohort of Americans – unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Be it in China, in Russia, in Belarus, in Iran, in Venezuela, in Cuba, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Nicaragua, OR in Saudi Arabia, in Qatar, in the UAE, in Ukraine, in Colombia, in Honduras, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Kurdistan, in Turkey, in Israel.


Let every nation know that we shall do whatever we might manage at a reasonable cost, and a casualty sensitive army permits to support most any friend, oppose most any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.


To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the protection due loyal and faithful vassals. To those newly independent states of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of alien control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by another insidious form of servitude. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view – just most of the time, and especially on those things that really count. Above all, we shall always hope to find them strongly defending their own freedom – and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought security by riding the back of the bear or the dragon ended up inside.


Rest assured, at the very least you have our fulsome best wishes as you try your luck at some facsimile of democracy.


To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge – to convert our good words into good deeds – in yet another alliance for progress – to assist free men and free governments to resist the deceptive lure of false populism. Hope for a better tomorrow cannot become the prey of malign powers hiding their malevolent intentions behind the mask of benevolence. Let every other power know that this Hemisphere remains committed to maintaining the ring fence around our community and to enforce the No Trespass warning sign written into the OAS Covenant. 


Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our weapons are sufficient beyond doubt – whether arms, economic sanctions, money, or righteous denunciation – can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed. Our goal: a rule-based international order; our means: whatever is required.  


In your hands, my fellow citizens, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. Now the trumpet summons us again – to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, against menacing forces known, forces concealed, forces we dare not underestimate. So, millennials, get those buds out of your ears, sort out your gender issues and steel yourselves for a rendez-vous with Destiny.


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