Monday, September 11, 2017


"Where were you on 9/11?" is an expression that highlights just how much of an impact the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had on the average American. It elicits different responses from different generations, reflective of the experiences they had in 2001 and afterward.

In my case, I was a little kid in school. To be honest, I was too young to understand what was happening at the time. Here's what I do remember: adults crying, school closing early, and parents coming to pick everyone up early. I remember waiting in a room for my parents to get me, too. I think I even saw images on the news of a burning tower, but I didn't really understand what they meant.

Although my recollection of that exact day is hazy, it's had a major impact on my life afterward in all types of ways. Many scholars of recent U.S. foreign policy history divide it into two segments: before and after 9/11. There were all kinds of consequences for how America chose to engage in the world after that - some good and some bad. I still see it in my career and even social life today.

Yet when I reflect on 9/11 each year, there are quite a few things that have uplifted me and given me hope. I am always moved by the courage and sacrifice of first responders and the impromptu heroes that emerge during a tragedy. They truly represent the best of us. You can read their stories and learn more about 9/11 on the 9/11 Memorial website here.

I also love re-reading every year the remarks President George W. Bush gave merely days after the attacks. I'm including them in full below, as they are worth seeing in their entirety. President Bush had every political opportunity to turn the marginalized among us into the enemy, particularly the visibly Muslim, but he went out of his way to let them know he would defend them. In my view, despite his faults and mistakes, he showed true statesmanship here. He said:

"Thank you all very much for your hospitality. We've just had a -- wide-ranging discussions on the matter at hand. Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday's attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens.

These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that.

The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.

The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.

When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.

America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.

Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That's not the America I know. That's not the America I value.

I've been told that some fear to leave; some don't want to go shopping for their families; some don't want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they're afraid they'll be intimidated. That should not and that will not stand in America.

Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.

This is a great country. It's a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth. And it is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the same way I do. They're outraged, they're sad. They love America just as much as I do.

I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come by. And may God bless us all."

Well said. I don't know how successful we as a public will be as far as the campaign to #NeverForget 9/11 is concerned. After all, many have forgotten December 7 even though it changed our country and the world. Although it's impossible to properly and actively reflect on all historical atrocities committed on their anniversaries (or we would never really do much else), I think 9/11 has had such a powerful impact - both damaging and refining - on our modern national character that it is worth the reflection. Whether I blog about 9/11 in the future or the not, no matter where in the world I happen to be, I'll strive to #NeverForget. It's the least I can do.

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