Location

Greenspun College of Urban Affairs

Description

Albert Einstein once said memory is deceiving given it is colored by the events of today. The old adage “history repeats itself” fails to illustrate the powerful capacity for memory to sustain and revise historical events. Presidents often inject memories of the past into public address to define troubling situations in ways that broad, national audiences can make sense of them. Barack Obama’s Rose Garden Address rejuvenates and exploits the public memory of September 11 in three ways: by (1) situating the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as an extension of its timeline; (2) reaffirming the identity of the nation at a moment of community loss; and (3) presenting an eloquent moral vision of the future to illuminate the nation’s perseverance.

As a public memory event, September 11 has proven remarkably resilient and yet fluid and adaptable as social and political contexts shift. Treating Obama’s speech as an extension of the September 11 memory in American public discourse can provide an update on its symbolic utility in light of a more recent, but understudied rhetorical artifact.

Keywords

Nationalism; Obama, Barack; Presidents; September 11 Terrorist Attacks (2001); Speeches, addresses, etc.; Speeches, addresses, etc., American; Terrorism

Disciplines

American Politics | Civic and Community Engagement | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration

Language

English

 
Apr 21st, 1:00 AM Apr 21st, 2:30 AM

The September 12, 2012 Rose Garden Address: President Barack Obama’s “9/11” Moment

Greenspun College of Urban Affairs

Albert Einstein once said memory is deceiving given it is colored by the events of today. The old adage “history repeats itself” fails to illustrate the powerful capacity for memory to sustain and revise historical events. Presidents often inject memories of the past into public address to define troubling situations in ways that broad, national audiences can make sense of them. Barack Obama’s Rose Garden Address rejuvenates and exploits the public memory of September 11 in three ways: by (1) situating the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as an extension of its timeline; (2) reaffirming the identity of the nation at a moment of community loss; and (3) presenting an eloquent moral vision of the future to illuminate the nation’s perseverance.

As a public memory event, September 11 has proven remarkably resilient and yet fluid and adaptable as social and political contexts shift. Treating Obama’s speech as an extension of the September 11 memory in American public discourse can provide an update on its symbolic utility in light of a more recent, but understudied rhetorical artifact.