Watching the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, was a horrific experience. Seeing those planes run into the buildings over and over and over again, the terrorists assassinated innocent citizens and not only shattered those buildings and the lives of the families of those who were lost, but also the nerves of everyone who watched and listened to the unfolding events.
Depending on your age, you may remember other events that have had a major impact on American lives. Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, and the first steps on the moon are among several images that stay locked up in our brains and affect the way we view our world. The impressions left by these events provoke changes in our lives as we resolve to improve them or reshape them as a result.
Many political and spiritual leaders have reflected on the September terrorist attacks and chosen to use the word "resolve" to describe their determination to recover and restore our commitment to freedom and liberty in the shadows of those terrifying events. President George W. Bush said, "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." He said it with a certain look of steel in his eyes. He wasn't being vindictive, but he was being a leader standing firm against these enemies.
Resolve is not a term that is used frequently or lightly. It is more often used after experiences that challenge us. As a noun, it is defined to be firmness of purpose, the trait of being resolute. As a verb, it is to form a purpose; to make a decision; especially, to determine after reflection. It is an important word.
Having lived in Washington, D.C. for 12 years, I had the opportunity to witness two other world- changing events where the term resolve was used in the national interest. The first was in a meeting with former President George H. Bush in early December 1990. About 25 business leaders were being briefed in the Roosevelt Room on our preparations for Desert Storm by Richard N. Haass from the National Security Council . President Bush entered the room about half way into the meeting with his shirtsleeves rolled up and spoke candidly about getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. I remember him saying that he was President of the United States and he was confident that this was the right action in the national interest and was resolved to get Hussein out of Kuwait. I was struck by his forcefulness and his determination. There was no doubt that he held a firmness of purpose. And on January 16, 1991, our assault on Kuwait began as he promised.
My second encounter was on the morning of April 20, 1995, the day after the Oklahoma City bombing. Deputy Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles had agreed to speak to a meeting of trade association executives at the Mayflower Hotel. Erskine seldom left the White House and was uncomfortable being away from his office after being up most of the night and in and out of meetings related to the bombing. You could see the determination in his eyes as he spoke. He stated strongly, "We're going to get these guys, we are going to find them and bring them to justice!" He was resolute with his message.
Each and every day since September 11th, we watch the agenda develop. More and more evidence is unearthed. More information is gathered. More planning is conducted. It is clear that our new President Bush grows stronger and more resolute as he gathers his own strength and the strength of the United States to the task ahead. He and we will not let this attack stand. It is so good to have leaders who stand firm and resolute.
In light of all that has happened, we must reclaim our liberty. We must fire up our ambitions and expectations to persevere despite our sadness, our grief and our anger. We must strengthen our resolve to recover our confidence and restore our freedom. They are doing that in New York City and at the Pentagon. We must continue to do that here in Charlotte!