I am an avid reader of graduation speeches. A graduation speaker must convey an idea under difficult conditions and in a short time—an almost impossible challenge. So I am fascinated when I find a speech that works.
When photographs of Saddam Hussein in his underwear were printed in the New York Post and the London Sun, President Bush told the Associated Press: “I don’t think a photo inspires murderers. These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric.” Then he added, “I think the insurgency is inspired by their desire to stop the march of freedom.”
In the film The Interpreter, Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) tells Secret Service agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) that she works as an interpreter at the United Nations because she prefers words to guns, even though she knows that words are “slower.” Later in the film we see a photograph of a younger Silvia brandishing a gun; she had once been a rebel fighter in Africa.
When historians look back on the current false peace between Israel and the Palestinians to determine what ended the Palestinian dream of a viable state, they’ll find answers in a February 24 New York Times editorial. There they will discover that a major American newspaper endorsed a land grab of monumental proportions.
Columnists have the luxury of saying what mainstream media often ignore or brush aside. Within journalistic limits of fairness, accuracy and good taste, the columnist gets to stop and stare at the underside of news reports, which explains why columnists are especially valuable in a polarized political environment.
Paul Rusesabagina, a member of the Hutu majority tribe in Rwanda, is married to a member of the Tutsi, the minority tribe that colonial powers installed as the nation’s rulers in an interference tactic that was common during the 19th century. By 1994, the year in which Terry George sets his film Hotel Rwanda, the Hutu majority was engaged in a genocidal conflict.
On January 9, 2005, the Palestinians will elect a new leader. Is there any reason to believe that this will lead to a positive result for the Palestinians? Judge for yourself on the basis of recent history. Yasir Arafat is the only modern leader the Palestinians have known.
When I ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress a few decades ago, I was an unknown Democrat trying to unseat a Republican. During the campaign I was asked how, as a clergyman, I could serve in Congress, where so many compromises would have to be made. I replied by saying something about how we don’t live in a perfect world and about ambiguity in politics.
CBS television has had a bad year. Dan Rather was snookered into broadcasting a story about a fake document and the network was fined $550,000 for baring an intimate part of Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl half time. Rather will survive, though tarnished, and a half million dollars is chicken feed for a corporate giant.
Veteran Italian director Ettore Scola begins his latest film, Gente di Roma (People of Rome), by following an older couple going through their morning routine—she preparing food, he dressing for work. Their apartment is small, so one camera covers their movements between rooms. The wife puts coffee on a counter, the husband sips it while she packs his lunch in brown paper.
Former Illinois Senator Paul Simon, who died last December, was the son of a Lutheran missionary and an avowed liberal Democrat. I served as campaign manager for Simon’s 1984 primary race for the Senate, and directed a staff that was young, aggressive and often frustrated at Simon’s determined grip on his liberal ideals.
In Control Room, a film on the Arab language television satellite network al-Jazeera, interviewer Abdullah Schleifer presses U.S. Marine Lieutenant Josh Rushing to look at the Middle East as it is seen by the people who live there. Sitting in his headquarters in Doha, Qatar, at the start of the Iraq war, Rushing is trying to be helpful.
On July 28, delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Boston will nominate John Kerry as their candidate for president. They will also approve the party’s national platform. Gay marriage will be finessed to satisfy Kerry’s cautious approach. Iraq? Bush’s efforts will be condemned; patriotism will be celebrated. God will reemerge as a Democrat. Health care? Democrats can do it better.
When the New York Times admitted that its reporting on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction came from unsupported allegations, it did so not on page one, where all the dire predictions about WMDs had appeared, but on page ten. This is a quiet mea culpa.
Both the International Red Cross and Amnesty International knew about the horrors of Abu Ghraib. Both organizations had sent reports detailing brutal behavior in U.S.-run Iraqi prisons to military authorities. But no action was taken until Specialist Joseph M. Darby alerted the army’s Criminal Investigation Division and mentioned photographs.
When the United States vetoed a proposed UN Security Council resolution criticizing Israel’s March 22 assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, it was the 24th time since 1983 that the U.S. has blocked a resolution critical of Israel. By this latest veto, the U.S.
Hollywood insiders were convinced that The Passion of the Christ would be a major flop. Mel Gibson’s detractors predicted he would lose the $25 million he personally invested in the film. But only two weeks after it opened, The Passion had earned $200 million. Apparently Gibson, a Catholic pre–Vatican II traditionalist, has tapped into a Zeitgeist known as the culture war.
Senator John Kerry’s anti–Vietnam war activities have been ignored by his Democratic opponents during his march to an all-but-certain Democratic nomination. Kerry was, after all, a Vietnam war hero before he became an antiwar activist.
When American administrator L. Paul Bremer III reported to Washington that the Iraqi people were not quite ready for reform, my mind flashed back to one of those British movies set in the 19th century. Typical plot: a colonial governor confronts the powerful nabob who won’t play the game the way they teach it at Oxford. He sends an urgent message to London: General election too risky. Stop.