By now, Sen. Kerry’s magnificent speech on national security is up on the web, along with a number of color photos of the event and in the news (here and here). No need, then, for me to post that speech again—only to urge people to read that speech carefully, and to look for the video on CSPAN. But I thought that it might be useful to add an account of the atmosphere in the hall, along with a brief description of the other speakers that preceded him. Judging from other CSPAN broadcasts, those other speakers are unlikely to be included in video archives of the events.
For third time in 4 months, I took the T to Faneuil Hall to hear Senator Kerry talk some sense on what is wrong in our country, and what needs to be done to fix it, at least (the last two speeches) with regards to energy and health care. Now an experienced hand at these speeches, I knew the routine well: get there well before the suggested arrival time to secure a good place in line, bring something to read, and (it’s summertime) a tube of sunblock.
Judging from the anticipatory buzz in the blogosphere (not to mention the exceptionally apt close-to-Sept.-11-timing for a speech on security), I sensed that there could be more people than usual, so I tried extra hard to get my family there early. Though we didn’t quite manage to get there as early as I’d liked, we still arrived 35 minutes before the suggested arrival time of 10:30, more than an hour before the talk began at 11 am. But so many people were there already, we were in a whisker of not making it onto the main floor of the hall.
By a miracle (and the fact that the staff gets more professional each time in getting people to their seats), we actually got good seats on the aisle. So, needless worry about whether we’d be able to see anything.
But I was right about the buzz. The hall was packed. A bank of about 10 TV cameras was behind us, with 1 or 2 additional mobile videocams, and 5 or 6 still photographers, near the front.
Some of the faces were (by now) familiar—fellow veteran volunteers from the 2004 campaign, staff people, Diana and Cameron Kerry. Among the newer faces (to me) were my immediate seat-neighbors: two Vietnam veterans, one to my left, one in front of me, one of whom (judging by markings on his hat and jacket, and his generous use of “oora” and a raised fist) was almost surely an ex-Marine. Well, it’s obvious why they were there. Having attended a Veterans for Kerry rally at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, I’d seen it before. As veterans of Vietnam, they know what Bush/Rummy/Cheney, Inc. are up to, they’ve seen the lies and the needless deaths before, and they take it personally. Both in that 2004 rally, and in my seat-neighbors today, I could feel the emotion simply erupting from their bodies.
… From Senator Kerry’s, too. Like his fellow Vietnam veterans, he takes the Iraq debacle personally. This man is on fire.
Delivering the nondenominational invocation was the Reverend Stephanie Spellers, a priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Boston, focusing on diversity in her ministry, and outreach to young adults. Clearly a person of ability and compassion, she came to the priesthood after an early career in religious journalism in Knoxville, Tennessee. She offered a beautiful prayer, whose general theme was asking for guidance in moving beyond the darkness of fear into hope. Her words are well worth a careful read, and worth further reflection. If I can get a copy of her prayer, I will pass it on.
The second speaker was Michael Casey, now a freelance photographer, who lost his wife on the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 11. His family story was covered in last week’s Boston Globe magazine.
Among other things, Casey mentioned that, five years ago, Sen. Kerry had attended the funeral for Casey’s wife, standing right behind him; and that he stayed for the entire two-hour Mass; and, further, that Sen. Kerry had kept a watchful eye on Casey and his infant daughter as he gradually rebuilt his life. I’ve heard so many stories by now about Kerry that are so much like this; but one almost never reads about them in the press. OK, I’ll avoid my rant about the MSM, but I can’t resist this comment: can you imagine W. doing ever doing the same?
The third speaker—to my astonishment and pleasure—was GARY HART, who introduced Kerry, his former senatorial colleague. As he wasn’t even listed on the printed program, I wondered whether his presence was a last-minute addition. If so, it was a great decision to include him. Hart gave brief but thoughtful, substantive comments. Like Spellers’ invocation, Sen. Hart’s comments are definitely worth a second reading, or hearing. If I can somehow find a transcript or video of Sen. Hart’s remarks, I will pass them on. In the meantime, I can offer these brief snatches:
Hart opened with a wonderful quote from Louis Brandeis, on liberty , to the effect that the founding fathers valued liberty both as means and as an end. He then moved into a synopsis of the last grim 5 years, concluding that we need leaders who do not substitute delusion for courage. He also recounted what many of us already noticed: the decline of leadership in the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, since Hart served in the 70’s. Where are, he asked , the Mansfields? The Symingtons? The Rubicoffs? The Javits’? Of that original group, only Ted Kennedy, he said, remains as a senator of caliber. (Big applause at that point). He then introduced Kerry as one of the few current politicians who deserve to be included in that pantheon. He described Kerry as a figure of gravity, scope, and conscience… as one of the few current politicians to put the national interest ahead of his own. And one of the few, he said, to grow larger with length of service. Amen to that.
As for Kerry’s speech (do be sure to take the time to read the transcript, or watch the video when it’s available), it was magnificent s, delivered with clarity and passion. The audience interrupted many many times with applause and with multiple standing ovations. My Vietnam Vet neighbors stood up more times than anyone… like I said, it’s personal for them.
In conclusion, I offer here my three personal favorite moments in Kerry’s speech. But here are my personal top three (emphasis mine). First: “they [the administration] trot out the fear card, instead of reinforcing in Americans ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’, they have nothing to offer but fear itself.” Second: “Let me say it plainly: No American president should be for torture before he’s against it.” (Rousing, standing ovation, and laughter!) Third: “We need to make America be America again.” Oh, yes.Yes. Yes.
You may well have different favorite bits, as it was a speech filled with memorable, thoughtful statements. So tell us: what are yours?