Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oratorical envy

I know very little about domestic British politics, and the little I do know suggests that I wouldn't be a fan of Labour if I lived there. That said, there should be no doubt about my continued admiration for Tony Blair's ability to clearly explain the importance and severity of the problem that the West now faces. I will also admit a little envy at his talents, as there are few among even President Bush's most ardent supporters who don't find his locution lacking at times.

The latest example of Blair's skill was seen yesterday at a Labour Party conference, a clip of which can be found here. Listening to that excerpt reminded me how much I enjoyed his address to Congress a few years ago. I went and found the transcript online, and it lived up to my recollection:

"There is a myth that though we love freedom, others don't; that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture; that freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values, or Western values; that Afghan women were content under the lash of the Taliban; that Saddam was somehow beloved by his people; that Milosevic was Serbia's savior.

Members of Congress, ours are not Western values, they are the universal values of the human spirit. And anywhere...

Anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.

The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack. And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea. And that idea is liberty."
The part of the speech that I liked the best at the time, though, and again today was the end:

"And I know it's hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to, but always wanted to go...

I know out there there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, 'Why me? And why us? And why America?'

And the only answer is, 'Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.'

And our job, my nation that watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you.

You are not going to be alone. We will be with you in this fight for liberty.

We will be with you in this fight for liberty. And if our spirit is right and our courage firm, the world will be with us." (emphasis added)
I like that part so much because it correctly captures and then addresses the American reluctance to engagement that characterizes many of us and much of our history. I know my friends from Europe and elsewhere find that tough to believe, but I also think that many of them have spent little time with the great bulk of America that lives outside New York and Washington. America correctly feels burdened, and struggles to understand why others don't see that.

And the answer is that such is the hand we were dealt. Life is unfair, its burdens falling unevenly, its calls to leadership going out to certain peoples at certain times. Tony Blair gets it. I hope that the next leader that Britain chooses does so as well.

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