I’ve once asked a wiser man than myself how can one comfort someone with words? “When you can’t find the words to say, it’s better to keep silent”, he said. Yet, there are hard times when words are needed and expected and no matter how difficult it is to express them, something must be said.
Due to Friday events in Norway, that greatly and unpleasantly surprised me as well as they surprised an entire world, PM Jens Stoltenberg held a press conference the very next day, on Saturday morning. Listening to his warm message and his kind words of encouragement towards Norwegians, it felt even more upsetting that such tragedy took place in an welcoming, friendly country like Norway. But there was more. Though I was paying attention to the PM’s words, I couldn’t help but think of another speech, given by formal US president, George Bush, after 9/11. The speech was also addressed to the media, but the message and the energy felt completely different.
I printed out both speeches looking for whatever gave me the funny different feeling in my tummy and it wasn’t long before I reached my conclusions.
Both speeches start by recreating the context of what happened, but at one point they go on differently.
“The acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America (…). America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. America has stood down enemies before and we will do so this time.” (George Bush)
“We all feel the need to contribute, talk together and take care of each other.” (Jens Stoltenberg)
There it was. While Norway’s PM focused on the people, their unity and their ability to keep strong together, US’s formal president talked about how America will bring down those threatening this great country. I understand that each nation react to different kind of messages, but in the light of such tragedies, to empower a grieving nation with more negative feelings it’s what I call a bad choice.
I admired Jens Stoltenberg’s speech for its focus on the people helping eachother. There wasn’t any moment where he might have threatened an invisible enemy for bringing down the peace of the country, nor did he expressed the greatness of his society whose friendly values and security were shattered. He just said that people are there for eachother and that they remain the same loving nation fighting for democratic values.
In contrast, George Bush’s speech appeared revengeful and hateful. And, in America’s case, where the attacks were related to religious motives, to end your speech, as a president, with a psalm – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” – is hilarious. Probably the attackers on the planes thought the same while crashing into the World Trade Center – “I fear no evil, for You are with me.”
Jens Stoltenberg speech.
George Bush speech.