San Diego Business Journal

A Learned Speech Appropriate for Sept. 11

Publisher's Notebook
by Ted Owen

The anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our country is right around the corner. Sept. 11, as many have said, will long live in infamy.

As we begin to refocus on what happened that day last fall, I begin to see the stirrings of a renewed patriotism. There were so many flags fluttering in the immediate weeks after the attack that no matter where you looked you would see one.

I liked that. There are still hundreds flying in front of homes, offices and on cars. I love the symbolism of those red, white and blue banners proudly waving in the wind.

I was doing some research for a speech I am giving in a week or so, and I came across a short speech delivered by a Circuit Court judge by the name of Learned Hand, who was speaking at an "I am an American Day" celebration in the midst of World War II. Parts of it seem appropriate as we near Sept. 11, our "Proud to Be an American" day.

"We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same.

"For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice?

"We sought liberty , freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning.

"What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. "These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.

"While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women?

"It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow.

"A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few , as we have learned to our sorrow.

"What, then, is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of him who, near 2000 years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten , that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

"And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be , nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it , yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in the spirit of liberty and of America so prosperous, and safe, and contented, we shall have failed to grasp its meaning, and shall have been truant to its promise, except as we strive to make it a signal, a beacon, a standard, to which the best hopes of mankind will ever turn?

"In confidence that you share that belief, I now ask you to raise your hands and repeat with me this pledge:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands , one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We are once again reprinting our glossy 11-by-17-inch American flag. It will appear in our Sept. 2 issue. Take it out, read the sentiments on the back and proudly display it in a window of your choice.

Look at it every day, smile and remember you live in the greatest country in the world. May God bless America and each one of you.

Credit: To Second Chance and its volunteers for a very successful Paints the Town project. More than 900 volunteers converged on the streets of Downtown recently to help fix up the area. They covered 175 blocks, collected 19 tons of trash, painted two senior citizens' homes, painted two city block murals and removed 18,000 square feet of graffiti. Some of the events sponsors were Union Bank of California, Pacific ComTel, Nordstrom, San Diego National Bank and the San Diego Roofing Contractors Association, to name but a few. This kind of effort is the real reflection of how American corporations perform in a region. Not like the Enron-esque stereotypes. Congratulations to Second Chance for putting together a great project.