Tragedies in our nation’s history have historically tugged at the President of the United States to not only lead the government, but to act as Comforter-in-Chief to the grieving nation.  This has become particularly a role for the President with the advent of electronic media, especially television.

The speeches often have a number of common components:

  • A recitation of the facts
  • A resolve to bring about justice
  • A statement that changes will come
  • A reliance upon God

Here are a few of the moments in history when the President has confronted tragedy and evil with moving speeches:

Abraham Lincoln:  On November 19, 1863, some four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln’s short speech to the assembled at the former battlefield, now being dedicated as the Soldier’s National Cemetery, brought comfort and challenge to listeners.  Click here to read the text of Lincoln’s speech.

Franklin D. Roosevelt:  After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt went before Congress on December 8 and declared it as “a day which will live in infamy.”  He then asked Congress to declare war against Japan.  Click here to listen to Roosevelt’s speech to Congress.

Ronald Reagan:   On January 28, 1986, President Reagan went on television to explain the Challenger space shuttle disaster to the nation.  Click here to view the video of the speech.

George W. Bush:  After the September 11, 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush addressed the nation.  Click here to view his speech on 9/11.

Barack Obama:  On December 14, 2012, President Obama, in an emotional address from the White House spoke of the senseless shootings in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Click here to watch the President’s remarks.

Mike Purdy’s Presidential History Blog 
© 2012 by Michael E. Purdy