Joint Address to Congress - History

Joint Address to Congress - History


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September 8, 2011


ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS

United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.


7:09 P. M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, and fellow Americans:

Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that’s made things worse.

This past week, reporters have been asking, “What will this speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls, and the next election? ”

But the millions of Americans who are watching right now, they don’t care about politics. They have real-life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by -- giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send a kid to college.

These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share -- where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits; maybe a raise once in a while. If you did the right thing, you could make it. Anybody could make it in America.

For decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode. They have seen the decks too often stacked against them. And they know that Washington has not always put their interests first.

The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy. (Applause.) The question is -- the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.

Those of us here tonight can’t solve all our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.

I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act. There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans -- including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything. (Applause.)

The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed. (Applause.) It will provide -- it will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. (Applause.) It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away. (Applause.)

Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven’t. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for “job creators, ” this plan is for you. (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill -- pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or if they raise workers’ wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. (Applause.) If you have 50 employees -- if you have 50 employees making an average salary, that’s an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.

It’s not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that’s in this plan. You should pass it right away. (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It’s an outrage.

Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us a economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America? (Applause.)

There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country. And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them, if we act now. (Applause.)

The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows, installing science labs and high-speed Internet in classrooms all across this country. It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jumpstart thousands of transportation projects all across the country. And to make sure the money is properly spent, we’re building on reforms we’ve already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We’re cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it will do for the economy. (Applause.)

This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization. It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong. (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America’s veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home. (Applause.)

Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and the dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents -- (applause) -- their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty.

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job. (Applause.) We have to do more to help the long-term unemployed in their search for work. This jobs plan builds on a program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job. The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year. (Applause.) If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in this chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past. And in this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again -- right away. (Applause.)

Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut next year. Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your pocket will go into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year. If we allow that tax cut to expire -- if we refuse to act -- middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. We can’t let that happen. I know that some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away. (Applause.)

This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle class. And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here’s how. (Applause.)

The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan -- a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run. (Applause.)

This approach is basically the one I’ve been advocating for months. In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I’ve already signed into law, it’s a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. (Applause.) What’s more, the spending cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet right away.

Now, I realize there are some in my party who don’t think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns. But here’s the truth: Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don’t gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won’t be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it. (Applause.)

I am also -- I’m also well aware that there are many Republicans who don’t believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here is what every American knows: While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary -- an outrage he has asked us to fix. (Laughter.) We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share. (Applause.) And by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.

I’ll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington. By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. (Applause.) Our tax code should not give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process. But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, “What’s the best way to grow the economy and create jobs? ”

Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? (Applause.) Right now, we can’t afford to do both.

This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. (Laughter.) This is simple math. These are real choices. These are real choices that we’ve got to make. And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close. And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future. (Applause.)

Now, the American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can’t stop there. As I’ve argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future -- an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth. (Applause.)

And this task of making America more competitive for the long haul, that’s a job for all of us. For government and for private companies. For states and for local communities -- and for every American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us will have to change the way we do business.

My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you’re a small business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we’re going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do right now. (Applause.) We’re also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly growing startup companies from raising capital and going public. And to help responsible homeowners, we’re going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent. That’s a step -- (applause) -- I know you guys must be for this, because that’s a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.

So, some things we can do on our own. Other steps will require congressional action. Today you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process, so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That’s the kind of action we need. Now it’s time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama and Colombia and South Korea -– while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition. (Applause.) If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. (Applause.) I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words: “Made in America. ” That’s what we need to get done. (Applause.)

And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side by side with America’s businesses. That’s why I’ve brought together a Jobs Council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs.

Already, we’ve mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. And we’re going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America. (Applause) If we provide the right incentives, the right support -- and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules -- we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that we sell all around the world. That’s how America can be number one again. And that’s how America will be number one again. (Applause.)

Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations. (Applause.)

Well, I agree that we can’t afford wasteful spending, and I’ll work with you, with Congress, to root it out. And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that do put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it. (Applause.) That’s why I ordered a review of all government regulations. So far, we’ve identified over 500 reforms, which will save billions of dollars over the next few years. (Applause.) We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that common-sense test. (Applause.)

But what we can’t do -- what I will not do -- is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. (Applause.) I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. (Applause.) We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe we can win that race. (Applause.)

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own -- that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.

Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.

But there’s always been another thread running throughout our history -- a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future -- a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad -- (applause) -- launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. (Applause.) And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves -- where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G. I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance? (Applause.)

How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? (Applause.) How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. And members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities. (Applause.)

Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight is the kind that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight will be paid for. And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities.

Now, I know there’s been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan -- or any jobs plan. Already, we’re seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media has proclaimed that it’s impossible to bridge our differences. And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.

But know this: The next election is 14 months away. And the people who sent us here -- the people who hired us to work for them -- they don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months. (Applause.) Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.

I don’t pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It should not be, nor will it be, the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it -- to be persistent -- to keep trying every new idea that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.

Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we will have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. (Applause.) And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country. (Applause.) And I ask -- I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice: Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that if we act as one nation and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge.

President Kennedy once said, “Our problems are man-made –- therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. ”

These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let’s meet the moment. Let’s get to work, and let’s show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)

Thank you very much. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END 7:43 P. EDT


Here Are The Key Moments From Biden’s Speech To Congress

President Joe Biden gave his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, highlighting the accomplishments of his first 100 days and his proposals for accomplishing future goals.

The president’s first 100 days in office have been marked by crises that have come from all angles, from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change to racial injustice to the recovering economy. Biden spoke to lawmakers about how he’s managed the crises so far and what he wants Congress to help him achieve.

“I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” Biden said. “Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

Here are some of the key moments from Biden’s address:

Harris And Pelosi Make History

Wednesday marked the first time two women, the vice president and the speaker of the House, have shared the stage behind the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress.

Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had already made history as the first woman sworn in as House speaker in 2007. During Biden’s presidency, Harris became the first woman, Black American and Indian American to become vice president.

“Madame Speaker, Madame Vice President,” Biden said, gesturing to the women. “No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time.”

During a president’s address to Congress, it is customary for the vice president and the House speaker to sit behind him. Though Pelosi has previously taken that seat as speaker, now that Kamala Harris is vice president, it created the first time a president had been joined on the House dais by two women.

Proposing To Fund Education By Raising Taxes On The Rich

Biden formally introduced his American Families Plan, which includes a proposal to spend $1.8 trillion over the next decade on the nation’s education system.

According to the president, the plan addresses four major challenges facing American families: access to a good education, access to affordable child care, paid family and medical leave and tax credits for the middle class.

The proposal has an uncertain political path ahead as Biden proposed a number of tax hikes for some of the wealthiest Americans as a way of paying for the plan.

“We’re going to reform corporate taxes so they pay their fair share ― and help pay for the public investments their businesses will benefit from. And we’re going to reward work, not wealth,” he said, adding that those making $400,000 or more will see their tax rate go back up to 39.6%.

Calling For Drug Pricing Legislation

Biden asked Congress to pass legislation this year that would give the federal government the power to negotiate prescription drug prices.

“We all know how outrageously expensive they are,” he said of prescription drugs. “In fact, we pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world right here in America ― nearly three times as much as other countries. We can change that.”

During his speech, the president talked about giving Medicare the power to save “hundreds of billions of dollars” by negotiating to lower drug costs, with the money saved going to strengthen the Affordable Care Act without costing taxpayers more.

Opening Food Benefits To People Convicted Of Felonies

Part of Biden’s American Families Plan includes a provision that slightly improves access for those who’d been convicted of drug felonies to access the federal government’s existing safety net.

“One of the defining images of this crisis has been cars lined up for miles waiting for a box of food to be put in the trunk. Did you ever think you’d see that in America?” he said. “That’s why the American Rescue Plan is delivering food and nutrition assistance to millions of Americans facing hunger ― and hunger is down sharply already.”

The 1996 welfare reform law prohibited people with felony drug convictions from receiving federal welfare or food benefits, even if they had completed their sentences and were reentering society. The president’s proposal would lift the felony restriction for nutrition assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps, one of the federal government’s biggest anti-poverty programs.

Demanding That Congress Pass Police Reform

Biden called for Americans to “root out systemic racism,” pressuring Congress to pass police reform legislation in the name of George Floyd, whose murder by a police officer in Minneapolis last year sparked a nationwide reckoning on police brutality and racial injustice.

“We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black America. Now is our opportunity to make some real progress,” he said.

Biden said he wants Congress by next month to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the Democratic-led House passed earlier this year. The bill would ban police chokeholds and no-knock warrants, require data collection on police encounters and end qualified immunity for police officers.


Harris and Pelosi make history at Biden’s joint address to Congress as president says ‘it’s about time’

Ahead of Joe Biden’s joint address of Congress, Kamala Harris had a sublime one-word answer when asked about the importance of a particular detail of the event.

As she passed through the corridors of the US Capitol the vice president was asked about the historic significance of there being two women sitting behind the president on the House rostrum.

She replied simply: “Normal.”

With Ms Harris as the first female vice president and Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, this is the first time two women have appeared behind a sitting president as they address Congress.

Ms Harris’ sharp response was greeted enthusiastically on Twitter, with users tweeting: “the right answer”, “Yes! Normal. Love it”, and “like a boss”.

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As the president began his remarks he greeted: “Madame Speaker, Madame Vice President.”

“No president has ever said those words from this podium, no president has ever said those words. And it’s about time.”

As he handed Ms Harris a copy of his speech he told her: “I’ve waited a long time to do this.”

Former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah tweeted: “I disagree with them on 99% of policy, but, man, it’s pretty cool to see 2 women: the Speaker & the VP preside over a joint session of Congress for the 1st time in history.”

Washington representative Pramila Jayapal tweeted a photo of the two women standing before Congress and tweeted: “Madam Vice President Kamala Devi Harris!”

She followed, writing: “Incredible to see a President with two powerful women behind him as Vice President and Speaker of the House.”

This is Ms Harris’ first time sitting behind the president at an address to Congress, but Ms Pelosi has sat in the same seat on many occasions, with Mr Biden being her fourth president.

During her two stints as speaker, Ms Pelosi has also presided over the House under presidents George W Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

During Mr Trump’s final state of the union speech in 2020, she memorably ripped up her copy of the president’s remarks after he finished delivering them.


President franklin d. roosevelt, joint address to congress, december 8, 1941 to what significant event did roosevelt refer in this excerpt? o a. britain's and france's declarations of war o b. u-boat attacks on an american destroyer o c. japan's attack on pearl harbor o d. germany's invasion of poland

The answer is C. I thought it was D at first, but I got it incorrect so I hope C helps you!

A: The battle of Midway is noteworthy because it was the first naval battle in which neither side was within sight of the other according to Trisha Gomez.

Plagiarizing is the process of copying words from another source without the rightful credit. It could also mean copying someone's works without due permission and using it as one's own work.

In the given passage about the Battle of Midway, Tricia Gomez wrote about the battle and how it was one of the very first naval battles that involve neither parties to be within sight of each other. And in order to avoid plagiarized work, the summarized version of the passage including the words "according to Tricia Gomez" allows for a valid answer when rewritten again.


President Woodrow Wilson’s Joint Address to Congress

“It is a distressing and oppressive duty, Gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance.

“But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own Governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our Eves and our fortunes, every thing that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.”


Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Japan (1941)

Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole Nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.


The Annual Message and the State of the Union Address

The Constitution states that the President will “give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient” (Article II, section 3). For the first decade of the national government Presidents appeared in person before a Joint Session of Congress to deliver their annual messages. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson in 1801, Presidents sent the Annual Message in writing to be read by House clerks and Senate secretaries respectively. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson resurrected delivering the Annual Message in person to a Joint Session of Congress. Beginning with the 80th Congress (1949–1951) the appearance of the President to deliver the Annual Message has been termed the “State of the Union Address.”


Past Presidents Made History In First Address To Congress

President Kennedy addresses a joint session of Congress on Jan. 30, 1961.

When new presidents address Congress for the first time, they can scarcely be said to be making a first impression. In recent years, even the youngest presidents have become familiar to everyone in the country via their careers, their campaigns and the constant attention of the media.

Yet there remains a special quality to the moment when a new president first enters the House chamber, shaking hands and making his way to the speaker's rostrum, turning finally to look out at the leading figures of the entire federal power structure — all in one place and staring back at him.

So it was for a 47-year-old former first term senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, who just eight years ago this week gave his first address. He would make no mention of being the first African-American president, but rather focused from the outset on a national economy in free fall.

"The impact of this recession is real and it is everywhere," Obama said. "But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."

Analysis

Trump Takes His Vision To Congress, The Country And An Audience For The Ages

There was in these remarks a distant echo of John F. Kennedy's first address to Congress in January 1961. Just 43 at the time, Kennedy too had been elevated from the middle-ranks of the Senate in part by economic anxiety. And he said as much to Congress the first chance he got.

"The present state of our economy is disturbing," Kennedy intoned. "We take office in the wake of seven months of recession, three and one-half years of slack, seven years of diminished economic growth, and nine years of falling farm income .

"Life in 1961 will not be easy. Wishing it, predicting it, even asking for it, will not make it so. There will be further setbacks before the tide is turned. But turn it we must."

Kennedy and Obama both gave other speeches that were more famous. But as freshly inaugurated presidents they both got down to business with Congress, setting a marker for the programs they would pursue.

So too in his own way did George W. Bush when he stood before a joint session for the first time on Feb. 27, 2001. Like his father George H.W. Bush, the second president Bush came to office in good economic times, with the federal budget projected to be in surplus and no thought yet of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Bush delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 27, 2001. Doug Mills/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

President Bush delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 27, 2001.

Doug Mills/AFP/Getty Images

"Our generation must show courage in a time of blessing as our nation has always shown in times of crisis," Bush said. "And our courage, issue by issue, can gather to greatness and serve our country. This is the privilege and responsibility we share. And if we work together, we can prove that public service is noble."

Bush was not known as a compelling speaker, and the audience for his first address to Congress was about 40 million viewers, down sharply from the 67 million who tuned in for Bill Clinton's first address in 1993. (A record for President Trump to shoot for.)

Whether Clinton drew that size crowd for his speaking appeal or roguish reputation may be hard to discern, but he had his sense of humor. His first sentence was "it is nice to have a fresh excuse for giving a long speech."

Clinton offered a preview of two of the major issues of his first term. He spoke of ending "welfare as we know it" and also of tackling the costs and gaps in the health care system.

"Our families will never be secure, our businesses will never be strong, and our government will never again be fully solvent until we tackle the health care crisis."

Twelve years earlier, Ronald Reagan had wowed both the chamber and the national TV audience with his first address to a joint session. It was February of 1981, just four weeks after he took the oath for his first term, and he was pitching the economic program that became his hallmark.

It included deep cuts to taxes and spending. It was a major departure from the New Deal consensus of the previous half-century, but Reagan got a warm partisan reception — including at an unexpected point late in his speech. Ever confident onstage, the former actor quipped "I should have arranged to quit right there."

Another kind of crisis afflicted Gerald Ford in 1974 when he first addressed a joint session in August of 1974. It was just three days after Richard Nixon had resigned and Vice President Ford had been sworn in to succeed him.

"I do not want a honeymoon with you," he said, "I want a good marriage."

He promised to listen to Congress, and to the people, "to be sure that we are all tuned in to the real voice of America."

Still, the most dramatic first address to Congress in the post-war era had to be that of Lyndon Johnson in November 1963 just days after he had been elevated to the presidency by the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

"All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today," he said. "The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time."

President Johnson charts a course for his administration in a speech to Congress on Nov. 27, 1963. Seated behind the new president are House Speaker John McCormack (left) and Sen. Carl Hayden. AP hide caption

President Johnson charts a course for his administration in a speech to Congress on Nov. 27, 1963. Seated behind the new president are House Speaker John McCormack (left) and Sen. Carl Hayden.

And later in that speech, Johnson vowed to pursue the legacy he had inherited.

"On the 20th day of January, in 1961, John F. Kennedy told his countrymen that our national work would not be finished 'in the first thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But,' he said, 'let us begin.' "

Then Johnson added: "Today, in this moment of new resolve, I would say to all my fellow Americans, let us continue."

Continuity of tradition and shared power is what ceremonies such as the address to Congress are all about. They start the process by which independent personalities become part of the government, to envelop them in the context they are confronting.

Even the most disruptive and embattled presidents have come to realize that — no matter how much they see themselves as champions of the people — they cannot escape the constraints of the office in which they serve.


Joe Biden’s Bold Defense of American Democracy

Joe Biden’s presidency now has a lasting theme—one far more powerful than slogans like “Build Back Better” or all the variations on the “American Rescue Plan.” As he delivered his address to a more than half-empty House chamber on Wednesday night, Biden portrayed himself, above all, as the defender of democracy.

Again and again, often in surprisingly personal terms for a formal address, Biden came back to China’s quest for global mastery. Describing his many conversations with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Biden told the nation, “He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world—he and others, autocrats, that think that democracy can’t compete in the twenty-first century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus.”

That focus on democratic values, more than anything, may guarantee Biden a place in American history. The president’s team had billed the address as Biden’s “One Hundred Days” speech—an allusion to Franklin Roosevelt, who was first associated with the phrase during the heady launch of his presidency in 1933. (In fact, long before Roosevelt, the term was used to describe Napoleon’s dramatic 1815 return from his exile in Elba and the military campaign that abruptly ended at Waterloo.)

But there are valid parallels to 1933. As Jonathan Alter details in The Defining Moment, his chronicle of the early days of Roosevelt’s administration, important figures on the left as well as the right believed that democracy had failed and America needed an autocrat to confront the Depression. Even liberal columnist Walter Lippmann, one of the founders of The New Republic, told FDR shortly before he was inaugurated, “The situation is critical, Franklin. You may have no alternative but to assume dictatorial powers.”

Biden, for his part, defeated a president dripping with contempt for democracy and eager to assume dictatorial powers. “As we gather here tonight,” Biden said late in his speech on Wednesday, “the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol—desecrating our democracy—remain vivid in our minds.” The Capitol attack was for Biden an event like Pearl Harbor or September 11, a defining moment that clarified the kind of president he wanted to be.

On a purely rhetorical level, the Biden speech was at times too long and too jarring. This is the occupational hazard of all addresses to Congress because at a certain point the speechwriter’s dream of brevity and eloquence gives way to the political pressures to include one more item. As a result, some of the transitions in the Biden address were abrupt. Within the space of a single breath, the president went from talking about caregivers for the elderly to declaring, “For too long, we have failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”

But the speech was also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a master class in political artistry. Over the course of a career that stretches from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, Biden has listened to countless presidential addresses from the floor of the House—and he has learned the wisdom of sticking to a single theme. If you listened carefully, he framed almost every major initiative in the speech as a response to the rise of China and the threat of its version of autocracy. Biden said at the beginning of the speech, “We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the twenty-first century. We’re at an inflection point in history.”

Later in the speech, Biden went beyond economic competition to report, “I also told President Xi that we will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO in Europe. Not to start a conflict but to prevent one.” Biden’s only failure in this part of the address was to talk about “human rights” in abstract terms rather than link them directly to the plight of the Uighurs and the assault on democracy in Hong Kong.

His demonization of China may trouble the foreign policy doves. But in political terms, a foreign adversary is often a valuable tool that a president can use to pass legislation and forge national unity. It probably was not lost on Biden that Dwight Eisenhower partly sold the interstate highway system in the 1950s as a way of moving supplies quickly in case of conflict with the Soviet Union.

Biden knows that the point of his presidency is to convince a majority of Americans that democratic norms can be relied on in even the most devastating set of crises. His focus on democracy and his steady, measured demeanor both seemed designed to further that goal. Even before his speech, almost half of all Americans (some 42 percent) viewed him as a moderate, according to an NBC poll released Sunday, which is significantly higher than the number of voters who regarded Barack Obama as a moderate at a similar juncture in his presidency.

Biden attempted to keep up his image as a reasonable centrist confronting unprecedented crises by lowering his voice during the important first half of the speech. He saved almost all the left-wing material in the speech (lines that were impossible to imagine Obama or Bill Clinton delivering) for the second half—at a point when presumably most of the moderate swing voters had clicked away from the speech to lighter fare. “Wall Street didn’t build this country,” Biden said, in words that must have shocked much of the Republican Party. “The middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class.” In another historic moment, Biden said, “All transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know that your president has your back.”

No single speech will change the trajectory of a presidency. And for all we know, historians may conclude that the most important political event that occurred Wednesday was the FBI’s search of Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office. All of Biden’s initial political success in office could be upended by a new coronavirus variant, a major crisis on the southern border, or a Taliban takeover of Kabul as soon as the last American armed forces leave Afghanistan. That’s the inherent problem with placing too much weight on the 100-day mark in a presidency.

But as Biden said in the stirring conclusion to his first address to Congress, “We’ve stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and ‘We the People’ did not flinch.” That alone is a lasting presidential legacy, no matter how the politics of 2022 and 2024 play out.


Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security if we want life, let us give life if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful

source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112) “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78) and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems

are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.


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