Presidential Words Matter: George W. Bush at the National Cathedral
This week we focus on leadership and comfort in a time of national tragedy, crisis and mourning.
On September 14th 2001 - President George W. Bush spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington at a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service.
Just 72 hours earlier - more than 3,000 Americans had been killed during the most lethal terrorist attack in US history.
The country was still shut down - commercial air travel was grounded. The dead were still being counted. But the president talked of unity. The tragedy whose full toll had yet to be reckoned, could have torn the country apart, but instead it had united the American people and their leadership.
He expressed both empathy for those who lost family, friends and loved ones and a steady resolve that they shall not have died in vain.
In the interest of full disclosure - I joined President Bush’s White House staff less than three months after this speech. I was a Democrat from New York who had worked at both ABC and NBC News. Not the most likely candidate to serve in the West Wing under a Republican President from Texas.
In the weeks, months and years that followed this speech - the President, his advisors and his Administration myself included - make some serious and consequential mistakes.
We will spend the rest of our lives trying to rectify those errors and atone for those failings.
But in the immediate aftermath of that national tragedy- President Bush provided leadership and resolve as well as a few things that the American people desperately needed - comfort, empathy and hope.