On the evening of 9/11, I sat in the living room hanging on every word President George W. Bush’s spoke from the Oval Office. Hours earlier, our nation had, of course, been dramatically changed by the worst terrorist attack on US soil, and in those unsettled early moments of our new reality, President Bush’s voice was a beacon of resiliency and hope.
Nearly two decades later, as the nation grapples with another new, uncertain landscape in the wake of a global pandemic, I found myself once again steadied by the former president’s words as they filled my screen.
In a video released by the George W. Bush Presidential Center over the weekend, President Bush shared a message with the nation that transcends politics and reminds us we’re all in the fight against COVID-19 together.
Watch the powerful video below:
— George W. Bush Presidential Center (@TheBushCenter) May 2, 2020
In his message, President Bush outlines four things we as Americans must remember, the first going back to those early days post-9/11:
First, let us remember we have faced times of testing before. Following 9/11 I saw a great nation rise as one to honor the brave, to grieve with the grieving, and to embrace unavoidable new duties. And I have no doubt—none at all—that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America.
The next point he makes is one of the most challenging parts of the past few months for many of us—social distancing from the people we love.
Second, let us remember that empathy and simple kindness are essential, powerful tools of national recovery. Even at an appropriate social distance, we can find ways to be present in the lives of others, to ease their anxiety, and share their burdens.
As the nation creeps forward into a new normal, President Bush reminds us that one person’s experience will not be the same as another’s, and we must find ways to love each other through it.
Third, let’s remember that the suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly. In the days to come, it will be especially important to care in practical ways for the elderly, the ill, and the unemployed.
Finally, and most poignantly, the former president encouraged us to remember that despite our vast differences, each one of us matters—and it’s up to us to come together for the way forward.
Finally, let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable, and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.
Indeed, we are determined to rise, and our nation’s deep history of grit in the face of challenge is proof that we can—and we will.