Tuesday, November 2

A letter to President Bush

As I write this, I find myself in the early hours of Election Day 2004, the first presidential election in which I am eligible to vote. When I turned 18 nearly two years ago, I said I couldn't wait till the day I could cast my vote for George W. Bush's re-election. That day has arrived.

Every argument has been made, every clever turn of phrase has been coined, so I don't presume to break new ground here. I'm just expressing thoughts I've carried these last four years to a president who'll likely never read them, but to whom I am forever grateful.

Dear Mr. President,

Thanks. I mean it.

I've often thought about what I'd say to you if I ever met you in person. I haven't had that privilege yet, and it's a good thing because I still haven't figured out what I'd say to you.

Words are important to me (I'm a mass communication major). From what some people say about you, I ought to dislike you because you struggle to express yourself clearly.

I'd beg to differ with that. What you're trying to communicate is always clear, no matter how you say it. That's a far cry from most politicians.

I remember you saying four years ago that if we elected you, "I will restore honor and dignity to the office to which I am elected, so help me God." You said it with such conviction, and you did it.

Your predecessor was in office by the time I started to become interested in politics. Thank you, President Bush, for showing me the honor and dignity that belong in the Oval Office. You restored my troubled faith in that hallowed office.

I remember your convention speech from four years ago-how you delivered it with such vigor. "They have not led; we will" was your tagline. They hadn't, and you did.

I remember your inaugural remarks that came as our nation was still tender from strife and our faith in our system was shaken. You said this:

'After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: ``We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?'''

How fitting.

I saw you in person a few months later, as you traversed the country building support for your tax cuts. What a memorable day that was.

Then, just a few months later, terrorists attacked us. And you responded. I remember the fear, the anxiety, that gripped me- that gripped all of us that day. You certainly never dreamed history would call your name this way.

But you rose to the challenge. I watched you so closely that week- watched for insight into your character, and watched for cues that I might follow your lead. I saw how trustworthy you were.

In you, in those days, I saw a man who was real. I so clearly recall seeing you informally addressing reporters at the White House just days after the attacks- you were choked up as you said:

"I am a loving guy, and I am also someone, however, who has got a job to do. This country will not relent until we have saved ourselves and others from the terrible tragedy that came upon America."

That meant so much for me to hear. And then, the next day, you had what I will always remember as your finest moment. Standing upon a shattered FDNY rig and addressing rescue workers through a bullhorn, you responded to one who yelled "We can't hear you." Without missing a beat, your voice rose and you said "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!" Oh, how much those words meant to a scared 16-year-old sitting on his couch in Louisiana.

That same day, you comforted us all at the National Cathedral:

"Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.

War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.

Our purpose as a nation is firm, yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there's a searching and an honesty. At St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, on Tuesday, a woman said, "I pray to God to give us a sign that he's still here."

Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing.

God's signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own, yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral are known and heard and understood.

There are prayers that help us last through the day or endure the night. There are prayers of friends and strangers that give us strength for the journey, and there are prayers that yield our will to a will greater than our own.

This world He created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance and love have no end, and the Lord of life holds all who die and all who mourn."

Then, less than a week later, you gave a speech that inspires me to this day. September 20, 2001- the date is forever etched in my memory. I've reread and listened to that speech time and time again. Each time, I am touched by the urgency and conviction in your voice- the urgency and conviction of a man who has found his purpose and knows the rightness of his cause.

"We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail." Oh, that those words would continue to inspire all of us every day.

Thank you for saying we'd smoke the terrorists out of their holes. Thank you for saying you wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." Thank you for knowing, instinctively, that was no time for nuance.

Thank you for calling evil by its name.

Thank you for throwing a strike at Yankee Stadium during the World Series. That was huge- and don't think for a second the Lord didn't make sure that pitch caught the outside corner. We needed that.

Thank you for showing me how to make tough decisions and stick to them. I believe history will vindicate you, but we needn't wait for history. Fifty million Iraqis and Afghans, and millions more of your fellow Americans, will tell you today that you've made the right decisions.

And more words have stuck with me. You said these while accepting your party's renomination for president:

"One thing I have learned about the presidency is that whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them - and whatever strengths you have, you're going to need them. These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget. I have tried to comfort Americans who lost the most on September 11 - people who showed me a picture or told me a story, so I would know how much was taken from them. I have learned first-hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I've held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.

And I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers - to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.

The world saw that spirit three miles from here, when the people of this city faced peril together, and lifted a flag over the ruins, and defied the enemy with their courage. My fellow Americans, for as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say: Here buildings fell, and here a nation rose."

Thank you for showing me what it meant to be a leader of all people, not just those that voted for you. You've had to make some sacrifices that displeased your staunchest supporters, but I know you believe they were for the greater good.

Thank you, President Bush, for honoring your wife. What a beautiful picture of love and marriage as God intended it.

I'll admit, your informality has made me uncomfortable every now and then. I've cringed when you've mispronounced words and shaken my head when you've leaned on a lectern. But that's who you are, and I thank you for not apologizing for that.

It has been said of you, "This president is not for turning." Would that one day folks would say of me that I, too, am not for turning.

We share a common hero, President Bush. Ronald Reagan was more than a great president, he was a thoroughly great man. People have said that you're no Ronald Reagan. Well, they're right- but Ronald Reagan was not you, either. That doesn't mean you weren't both great men.

Thank you for reminding us all that this is not a time for unsteady leadership. Thank you for saying that whether or not we agree with you, at least we know where you stand. I wish that were true of more people.

I thank you also, President Bush, for your faith. The last thing we need is for our president to hide his faith under a bushel. I share your conviction that freedom is Almighty God's gift to mankind, and that spreading liberty is the noblest goal of a government.

No matter what happens Tuesday, I thank you Mr. President. Your service to our country has been exemplary, and I am humbly grateful for it.

I believe you will be re-elected, and I look forward to four more years of your leadership. I will continue to pray for you.

I'm sure it's hard to be in your shoes. Heck, it's not always fun to support you because those who oppose you are so bitter and spiteful. I cannot imagine being the target of such personal hatred- yet by God's grace, you persevere.

They've criticized you for talking so much about the events surrounding September 11. But sir, I can't think of anything more fitting to talk about, for it was in that refining crucible that your character was revealed. Indeed, the character of each of us was revealed.

You've said you'll never forget the words of one man you met in New York shortly after September 11: "Don't let me down."

I echo this to you today, Mr. President: Don't let me down. Don't let us down.

You have given me reason to believe in you, and for this, I will proudly cast my vote for you this Election Day. I pray that no matter what the results, you will hold fast to your character and act in a way that honors our republic. Please show leadership and discourage anyone in your party from threatening the legitimacy of this election.

I respect you and I love you, President Bush. May God continue to bless you, your family, and our great nation.

Keep the faith, sir.


At December 16, 2008 at 11:36 PM, Blogger kianae92 said...

Great letter, definitely not knocking your writing here but, there are a lot of things i disagree with in this. i'll just elaborate on the thing that bugged me the most.

"I remember you saying four years ago that if we elected you, "I will restore honor and dignity to the office to which I am elected, so help me God." You said it with such conviction, and you did it."

I disagree with you on the count that you think he did restore dignity and honor to the office. I know that his presidency followed one that was pretty scandalous and these words may have been partially true when Bush spoke them, however, in my eyes if they were once true they are no longer. The fact that Bush is made fun of on a daily basis for making mistakes that are kind of hard for a person to make (we all know his public speaking skills are not that amazing, admit it) does not do much for the dignity factor; and as for honor, he had honorable intentions, yes but look where those got us. Our economy is the worst it's been in years and we are still involved in a war that should have ended years ago highly contributing to our debts. I know that you wrote this as a memoir-type of thing remembering how you felt on the day you could vote for his re-election but generalizing his whole presidency i would have to say that 'restoration' of anything at all is not exactly one of Bush's fortes.


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