On October 12, 2010, Councilman Joel Burns of Fort Worth, Texas, showed that at least one politician among many not only understand the severity of bullying in high school and the workplace but also empathy and a resolve to do something about it. In a speech Joel Burns gave, he explained how he too was bullied in school for being gay (video link). To be truthful, Joel Burns’ speech moved me.
Joel Burns was not the first politician to move me, either. Though few ever mention attacks on homosexuals or bullying in such an empathetic light, these three speeches caught me, moved me, and changed me.
Hillary Clinton at the U.N. 4th World Conference
Before most of the U.S. knew Ms. Clinton as the First Lady and as the current Secretary of the State, Hillary Clinton was a mover and shaker on women’s rights. As this video shows, Hillary Clinton did this well (video link). Being a political scientist myself, I’ve seen how little attention is paid to non-state issues like human rights. And, as history has shown us time and again, women’s rights matter less than men’s rights. Black men received the vote before women in the U.S. I knew Obama would beat Clinton in the 2008 race for the White House for the same reason.
The world sits idle while millions of women are tortured and killed because of their gender. Political leaders claim it is a “state’s right” issue. However, as Hillary Clinton points out, its a human rights issue, not a “state’s right” issue.
Colin Powell speaks at U.N. Security Council
I was relatively young at 23 when Colin Powell gave this speech at the U.N. Security Council (video link). Knowing what Powell’s speech was leading to, I stayed home from school and work that day to watch. Secretary of State Powell explained to the world what Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had done to date to justify military action.
My whole body shivered with goosebumps. Part of me shivered with the realization that this speech was the diplomatic equivalent to a Declaration of War speech. The other part of me realized that the first part of me just told me we were going to war, again. Powell’s words became the drumbeat used to bring the U.S. to war for the second time in less than 2 years. Many of my friends were soon after deployed.
President G.W. Bush speaks at Ground Zero
September 11th was my generation’s equivalent to the J.F.K. assassination. Our world and our lives stopped, shook our heads and realized life would never be the same. No matter what your political affiliation, you stopped.
Three days after those four passenger planes were hijacked, President Bush gave a speech at Ground Zero. While the Twin Towers still smoked, Bush stood with a rescue worker atop of smoldering debris and exclaimed that “I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon” (video link).
Not known for his oratory capabilities makes this speech all the more impressive. Of course, having hindsight, Bush’s speech is also spine tingling call to arms. That aside, Bush’s speech did what many presidential speeches had done before, rallied the country around a cause, united a group of people in solidarity, and comforted a society in confusion and mourning.
Politics aside, Joel Burns said what so few political leaders and school administrators will say: that there is a problem that stems far beyond kids being kids or ‘just some name-calling’, that bullying in its worst forms is not only devastating for the victim, but that the victim’s recovery is further pushed back by administrative lethargy.
Lisa Gutierrez; Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns’ Speech to Gay Youth; Kansascity.com
George Bush: Bullhorn Address to Ground Zero Rescue Workers; Americanrhetoric.com
Hillary Rodham Clinton; Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women’s Plenary Session; Americanrhetoric.com
Colin Powell; Adress to the United Nations Security Council; Americanrhetoric.com