A Tale of Two Speeches

I watched President Obama this morning at Colleville-Sur-Mer (and I have read the text of his remarks once through). It was an adequate speech. The President appeared stately and properly reverent behind his teleprompters. He hit the requisite notes in praise of bravery and sacrifice.

Having said that, it is safe to predict that no one will ever place this address on a "Barack Obama's Greatest Hits" ipod collection. For me , the remarks were not especially resonant. He did not "hook" me--as he so often does when operating at full power.

But, then, of course, there is a gold standard by which all D-Day remembrances should and will be judged--and, through the magic of the internet, that shining moment in presidential oratory is everywhere you look this morning: Ronald Reagan's outstanding 40th Anniversary commemoration to "the Boys of Pointe du Hoc" and the fight for democracy.

If you have not seen it lately (watch it here via RCP and courtesy of the Reagan Library). Watch it. Seriously.

It is easy to forget the majesty of Reagan. It is easy to forget the dignity of the man. It is easy to forget that he did not work off a teleprompter. Rather, he carried the text of his speeches on 3X5 cards, which he would transport in the front pocket of his suit coat. It is easy to forget the passion with which he delivered a speech about the United States of America and the larger fight for human freedom.

Along with individual bravery and collective sacrifice from the democratic nations of the world, Ronald Reagan suggested strongly that the hand of Providence affected the outcome of the Longest Day. He unabashedly seemed to believe that God was on our side. Without apology or equivocation, he boldly asserted that the United States was on the side of the angels in 1944 and 1984.

It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

Barack Obama also emphasized individuals coming together to stand up to EVIL embodied in an "ideology sought to subjugate, humiliate, and exterminate...and perpetrate murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior."

But he stopped short of drawing too many grand conclusions. The meaning of D-Day?

For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance. Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man or woman. It has always been up to us.

Yes we can?

In the end, RR placed the great challenge of his time, the Cold War, in the context of a long and righteous struggle for freedom. BHO, on the other hand, alludes to but fails to identify the "hardships and struggles of our time," and he consciously avoids any macro value judgments about righteousness.

To put it mildly, these two leaders perceive their respective historical moments in fundamentally different ways.