This paper seeks to point out the similarities and the differences between the speeches made by the then president of US George W. Bush in 2001 and the incumbent president Barack Obama in 2011 relating to the series of terror attacks that took place on September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington D.C. When analyzing the speeches, the paper will consider the nature of language, word choices and metaphors used. Moreover, the essay focuses on analyzing whether the two leaders used religious, medical, moral or militarized vocabulary and metaphors in addressing the nation following the acts of terror ten years apart as outlined in New York Times (23).
President Bush delivered his speech immediately after the attacks on the evening of September 11, 2001. The speech was an expression of disbelief, anger, grief, sadness and America’s outcry following the devastating attacks that took the lives of more than 2,977 innocent people. It was the first government point of communication to the world on the America’s position related to the disaster and the steps the nation intended to take to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice. George W. Bush was trying to respond to the question the world faced on the impacts of the event. The choice of words in the speech points out a turning point on the view of terrorism in the modern world contrary to the approach used in the past. Bush assured the nation and the international community of the changes in policies that his government has implemented immediately after the attack in order to ensure America was safe in future. Bush used the word ‘will’ in his speech to forecast a never ending struggle to regain the human dignity lost in the terror attack and also to seek the victory for freedom.
On the other hand, Obama’s speech on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack in 2011 reminded the world of the incredible strength and resolve that came through the leaders as they stood amid the ruins and rubbles of Ground Zero with the promise to deliver justice to terrorisms. He focused more on the achievements of the promises made a decade ago by George W. Bush. Obama opted to primarily speak about remembrance of the event and honor the people who met their death at the hands of terrorists. He also complimented the Americans on the triumph of unity they demonstrated and the shared values expressed over the tragedy. His use of the word ‘will’ was to focus on the continuous rebuilding of the country and the flourishing national values and principles (Lincoln 12).
The two leaders also used the word ‘America’ and ‘nation’ in different ways. Obama emphasized more on how the nation held together as one community and united more despite what he referred to as the attack of American ideals in 2001. Therefore, “the war on terror” expression cannot be found in Obama’s anniversary speech while Bush employed it. The words nation and American were often used to represent a political and military entitlement that clearly symbolized the American values that were defended domestically and supported internationally.
Each of the words in Bush’s and Obama’s speeches were deliberately selected with a precise purpose and meaning. The similarities in rhetoric diction between the two speeches create an understanding and continuity of the centrality of America’s effort to combat terrorism in the 21st century. According to Gerges (45), Obama uses terms that reinforce the perceptions of Bush’s administration on the threat of terrorism in the US and justifies the continued militarized language in reaction to terrorism. Both presidents closed their speeches with words of comfort that were infused with nationalism and faith in God. The similarity in diction between the two speeches is a strength that gives the United States of America a position of power, stability and legitimization of their actions against terror gangs.