Spoken Word | We’ve Been Here Before: Great Speeches in History To Guide America Through Today’s Tough Times

Module 9 | Prompt


  1. In the past, how have American leaders approached political and global challenges that are similar to today?
  2. How have Russia's global and political views changed since the Reagan/Gorbachev era?
  3. Does Congresswoman Barbara Jordan's 1974 speech on Articles of Impeachment and the U.S. Constitution illuminate the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia's election tampering?
  4. Is America weaker or stronger in its global standing?
  5. Is America's executive leadership less/more skillful or capable than it was in the past?

EQ'uote


January 17, 1961 - Dwight D. Eisenhower (The 34th President of The United States of America):

Dwight Eisenhower addresses the nation at the end of his presidency.

"Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity, and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle with liberty at stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment."

1 "President_ Dwight D Eisenhower 'Farewell Speech'_1961"

 

October 22, 1962 - John F. Kennedy (The 35th President of The United States of America):

President Kennedy addresses the nation concerning the Soviet Union's covert placement of nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at 9 A.M., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this Government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.

[...] Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at 9 A.M., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this Government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.

[...] The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some months.

[...] this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil -- is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.

The 1930's taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word...

[...] The 1930's taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word...Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.

[...] Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful nation which leads a worldwide alliance. We have been determined not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics. But now further action is required, and it is underway; and these actions may only be the beginning.

[...] I have directed the continued and increased close surveillance of Cuba and its military buildup. The foreign ministers of the OAS [Organization of American States], in their communiqué' of October 6, rejected secrecy on such matters in this hemisphere. Should these offensive military preparations continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere, further action will be justified. I have directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites, the hazards to all concerned of continuing this threat will be recognized.

1 "President_ John F Kennedy Addresses The Nation on The Cuban Missile Crisis_1961"

 

July 25, 1974 - Barbara Jordan (Congresswoman of The United States of America):

Speech to The House of Representatives on The Articles of Impeachment

"Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?" "The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men." And that's what we're talking about. In other words, [the jurisdiction comes] from the abuse or violation of some public trust.

[...] We know the nature of impeachment. We've been talking about it awhile now. It is chiefly designed for the President and his high ministers to somehow be called into account. It is designed to "bridle" the Executive if he engages in excesses. "It is designed as a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men." The Framers confided in the Congress the power if need be, to remove the President in order to strike a delicate balance between a President swollen with power and grown tyrannical, and preservation of the independence of the Executive.

[...] The nature of impeachment: a narrowly channeled exception to the separation-of-powers maxim.  The Federal Convention of 1787 said that. It limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors and discounted and opposed the term "maladministration." "It is to be used only for great misdemeanors," so it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And in the Virginia ratification convention: "We do not trust our liberty to a particular branch. We need one branch to check the other.

[...] We were further cautioned today that perhaps these proceedings ought to be delayed because certainly there would be new evidence forthcoming from the President of the United States. There has not even been an obfuscated indication that this committee would receive any additional materials from the President. The committee subpoena is outstanding, and if the President wants to supply that material, the committee sits here. The fact is that on yesterday, the American people waited with great anxiety for eight hours, not knowing whether their President would obey an order of the Supreme Court of the United States.

At this point, I would like to juxtapose a few of the impeachment criteria with some of the actions the President has engaged in. Impeachment criteria: James Madison, from the Virginia ratification convention. "If the President be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there be grounds to believe that he will shelter him, he may be impeached.

[...] At this point, I would like to juxtapose a few of the impeachment criteria with some of the actions the President has engaged in. Impeachment criteria: James Madison, from the Virginia ratification convention. "If the President be connected in any suspicious manner with any person and there be grounds to believe that he will shelter him, he may be impeached.

[...] The Carolina ratification convention impeachment criteria: those are impeachable "who behave amiss or betray their public trust." Beginning shortly after the Watergate break-in and continuing to the present time, the President has engaged in a series of public statements and actions designed to thwart the lawful investigation by government prosecutors. Moreover, the President has made public announcements and assertions bearing on the Watergate case, which the evidence will show he knew to be false. These assertions, false assertions, impeachable, those who misbehave. Those who "behave amiss or betray the public trust."

[...] If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder!

Has the President committed offenses, and planned, and directed, and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate? That's the question. We know that. We know the question. We should now forthwith proceed to answer the question. It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision."

1 "Congresswoman_Barbara Jordan-Speech on the Articles of Impeachment_1974"

 

May 6, 1992 - Mikhail Gorbachev (President of The Soviet Union):

Speech at Westminster College, UK

"In the major centers of world politics the choice, it would seem, has today been made in favor of peace, cooperation, interaction and overall security. And in pushing forward to a new civilization we should under no circumstances again make the intellectual, and consequently the political, error of interpreting victory in the "Cold War" narrowly as a victory for oneself, one's own way of life, one's own values and merits. This was a victory over a scheme for the development of humanity which was becoming slowly congealed and leading us to destruction. It was a shattering of the vicious circle into which we had driven ourselves. This was altogether a victory for common sense, reason, a victory for democracy, a victory for common human values.

[...] What are the characteristics of the world situation today? In thinking over the processes which we ourselves have witnessed, we are forced to conclude that humanity is today at a major turning point. Not only the peoples of the former U.S.S.R., but the whole world is living through this watershed situation. This is not just some ordinary stage of development like many others in world history. This is a turning point on a historic and worldwide scale and signifies the incipient substitution of one paradigm of civilization by another.

[...] These changes, of course, did not start today or yesterday, but it is today, before our eyes and with our participation, that these changes enter their decisive watershed phase, when all spheres of human activity ­production, ...economics, finance, the market, politics, science, culture and the like­become integrated on a worldwide scale. This existing and intensifying integration of the world opens up a broad spectrum of favorable opportunities for the future of mankind.

[...] We have, in fact, already started moving in that direction. But the significance of these changes, while a great source of hope, should not blind us to the dangers­some of which we have already encountered. It would be a supreme tragedy if the world, having overcome the "1946 model," were to find itself once again in a "1914 model." A major international effort will be needed to render irreversible the shift in favor of a democratic world­one which is democratic for the whole of humanity, not just for half of it.

 

May 22, 2011 - Robert Gates (Former United States Secretary of Defense, worked for 8 Presidents):

Speech at the University of Georgia

"The problems we as a nation are grappling with are well-known: steep fiscal imbalances and mounting debt, which could develop into a deep crisis for our nation. At the same time, we face a complex and unpredictable international security environment that includes a major war in Afghanistan, winding up the war in Iraq, revolution throughout the Middle East, new rising powers, nuclear proliferation in Iran and Korea, the continued threat of terrorism, and more.

While the challenges I’ve described are unique to this moment in history, their scale is no greater than others this country has dealt with and successfully overcome. We have battled slavery and intolerance in our own society, and on the global stage prevailed against Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism. We have seen periods of painful economic collapse give way to renewed and unprecedented prosperity. Our progress has sometimes been unsteady, and sometimes too slow. Winston Churchill purportedly said during World War II, “you can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

But our national story has been and still is, the envy of the world. Indeed, the death of Osama Bin Laden after a decade-long manhunt by the United States reminded us earlier this month that, as President Obama said, when faced with tough times “we do not falter. We don’t turn back. We pick ourselves up and we get on with the hard task of keeping our country strong and safe.”

[...] Still, we cannot assume, because things have worked out in the past, that the problems we face will eventually resolve themselves. We need the active involvement of our best, most honest citizens, to make our democracy work – whether as candidates for public office, as civil servants, or as members of our armed forces.

If history – and religion – teach us anything, it is that there will always be evil in the world, people bent on aggression, oppression, satisfying their greed for wealth and power and territory, or determined to impose an ideology based on the subjugation of others and the denial of liberty to men and women.

 

[...] If history – and religion – teach us anything, it is that there will always be evil in the world, people bent on aggression, oppression, satisfying their greed for wealth and power and territory, or determined to impose an ideology based on the subjugation of others and the denial of liberty to men and women.

To this I would add: if America declines to lead in the world, others will not. So to the Notre Dame class of 2011, I would ask the wisest and most honest of you to find a way to serve and to lead our country to new greatness at home and around the globe."

1 "Former U.S. Secretary of Defense_Robert Gates-Commencement Speech University of Georgia_2011"

 


Next Week's Sneak Peek... 

I've got an extensive amount of coursework and research to complete over the next few weeks, which means you get a double dose of Module 9 this week! Make sure to come back for another great review on August 17th.


POSTSCRIPT!

Do uncanny parallels harken to a political Russian formula of the past?

Video via YouTube Sovietico1917

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