On Sept. 20, 2001, President Bush delivered an inspirational speech to America that rallied support for the “War on Terror,” which would eventually lead to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush Addresses Sept. 11 Attacks
Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush made a nationally broadcast address a joint session of Congress, delivering one of the defining speeches of his presidency.
Bush’s speech “rallied” the nation in five steps, noted Time magazine. First, he explained what had happened on Sept. 11. He then made an important point for diplomacy, noting that America did not hold all Muslims responsible for the attacks and acknowledging that terrorists were a small and extreme portion of the population.
Bush then discussed the challenges that lay ahead for an America at war with an elusive and unclear enemy. He gave “marching orders” to Americans, advising them to continue their lives as usual and to pray for the victims of Sept. 11 and the members of the U.S. military. Finally, he took responsibility for leading America through one of its darkest moments, saying, “And in our grief and anger, we have found our mission and our moment.”
Bush outlined his plans for a “War on Terror” that would begin with al-Qaida, but would not end there. He proclaimed that America would “pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”
Bush’s speech also marked the night that he unveiled his plans for a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His inspirational speech continued with the now-famous line, “We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.”
His speech was immediately hailed as a success, and his ability to rally support following the Sept. 11 attacks led to America’s temporary defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
American Rhetoric provides the audio and transcript of Bush’s speech.
Background: The attacks of Sept. 11
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, America fell victim to one of the deadliest attacks in the nation’s history. Nineteen Islamic extremists belonging to al-Qaida, the terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden, hijacked four commercial airplanes. Two were flown into the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center, one flew into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and one crashed in a field in Shanksville, Penn., after passengers fought off the hijackers.
Both towers collapsed within hours of being struck. By the end of the day, nearly 3,000 Americans had been killed, and America found itself faced with a harrowing new enemy.
Read the official government report on the Sept. 11 attacks, produced by the bipartisan 9-11 Commission and released in 2004.
Biography: George W. Bush
Sources in this Story
- Time: The Bush Speech: How to Rally a Nation
- The Washington Post: President Bush Addresses the Nation
- Time: Bush Delivered All the Right Notes
- The BBC: America’s Day of Terror
- The White House: Biography of President George W. Bush
George W. Bush was born in New Haven, Conn., on July 6, 1946. He grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas, and received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1968. Before receiving his MBA from Harvard University in 1975, Bush served in the Air National Guard.
Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994, and would go on to become the state’s first four-term governor. He ran for president in 2000 and won one of the closest elections in American history.
Bush’s two-term presidency, which ended in 2009, is most noted for the events surrounding the 9/11 terror attacks, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security.
According to his official White House biography, “He recognized that freedom and hope are the best alternative to the extremist ideology of the terrorists, so he provided unprecedented American support for young democracies and dissidents in the Middle East and beyond. In the more than seven years after September 11, 2001, the United States was not attacked again.”
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