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If I'd written the State of the Union Speech …

Wednesday, 30 January 2002 12:00 AM

If I had written the president's State of the Union Speech, this is what he would have said:

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of Congress and my fellow Americans: When I last stood here and spoke about the horrors of September 11 and my plans for dealing with this outrage, it was already apparent that the nation had changed, and would never again be what it had been prior to that infamous date.

Tonight I want to discuss how the nation has changed, and what the changes mean for the future of the United States of America.

The first change I can describe in a few words: Never again will there be a Kitty Genovese.

For those who do not recall what happened just after 3:00 a.m. on March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old New Yorker, was coming home from her job. As she approached her Kew Gardens apartment house, a man jumped on her. She screamed. Lights in nearby apartments went on, windows opened. Neighbors peered out at the darkened street below. She screamed again.

"Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me!'' she screeched. One of her neighbors watching from his window shouted, "Let that girl alone."

Kitty's attacker walked away, leaving her dazed and bleeding. Ignoring her plight, her neighbors turned off their lights and closed their windows, leaving Kitty alone and wounded. The attacker, recognizing that no one would interfere with him, came back and began to stab Kitty again. "I'm dying!" she screamed.

Once again the lights came on and windows opened. The attacker turned Kitty loose and left. The lights went out and the windows slammed shut.

And for the last time, the attacker came back and found Kitty lying in a pool of blood in the vestibule of her apartment house. He took enough time to finish the job, leaving Kitty dead.

It was almost an hour after the initial attack, at 3:50 a.m., that one of her neighbors bothered to call police. For almost 35 minutes the attacker had been free to commit this heinous crime while 38 of Kitty's neighbors raised not a single finger to help her.

As writer Michael Dorman observed, Kitty Genovese was a name that would become symbolic in the public mind of a dark side of the national character. It would, he wrote, "stand for Americans who were too indifferent or too frightened or too alienated or too self-absorbed to 'get involved' in helping a fellow human being in dire trouble."

September 11 guaranteed that there will never again be a Kitty Genovese incident. Americans have changed.

That was obvious a couple of weeks ago, when a disgruntled law student went on a shooting rampage at Virginia's Appalachian School of Law, killing two faculty members and a fellow student.

The campus erupted in panic, with students frantically running for cover. Instead of joining them, two students, Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges, ran to their cars and got their handguns.

Joined by a third student, ex-Marine Ted Beson, they confronted the shooter. Gross and Bridges pointed their guns at him and forced him to drop his weapon. Beson threw himself at the killer and with the help of Gross and Bridges wrestled him to the ground.

Their heroic acts stopped the deadly shooting spree, probably saving numerous lives at the risk of their own.

Campus security chief Scott Doner recognized the significance of their heroism when he said that "because of what happened on September 11, and going all the way back to Columbine, people are beginning to realize they can make a difference.''

People made a difference on Dec. 22 when a passenger on American Airlines Flight 63 attempted to set off explosive devices concealed in his shoes. Flight attendants, aided by several passengers, subdued terrorist Richard Reid before he could detonate the devices and possibly bring the plane down, killing all aboard.

These examples of courage may have been inspired by the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, when Todd Beamer and a number of his fellow passengers, his urging them "Let's roll" ringing in their ears, sacrificed their lives in order to stop another suicide attack on their fellow Americans.

Americans have changed, and the changes signal a rebirth of that American spirit which in a mere two centuries transformed 13 colonies emerging from the wilderness into the most powerful nation in world history.

In recent weeks we have seen our fellow Americans rise up in anger when the most treasured symbols of our national pride have been desecrated, with portraits of George Washington being removed from places of honor and children forbidden to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

All across the nation our fellow citizens have given notice that they will no longer stand idly by while their nation is slandered by a contingent of anti-American Americans.

We have changed in other ways. I sense a revolution in attitudes among our fellow Americans – a revolution we in Washington ignore at our peril.

No longer will demagogues be able to win elections by promising benefits to some citizens at the expense of all their fellow citizens. After years of the spend-and-elect philosophy that has dominated politics, more and more Americans are seeking only those things which benefit all of our citizens and not just certain segments of the population allegedly willing to trade their votes for personal gain.

America has changed. Americans have changed. Together we have embarked on a journey toward a world free of terrorism, fully understanding the risks and sacrifices involved in this great undertaking. We are determined to prevail. And prevail we will, no matter how long it takes or what it costs.

Why have we changed? Some have said that my last address to this body inspired the changes. I dispute that, recalling what Winston Churchill said when he was given credit for the victory over Nazi Germany. It was the British people who had the heart of the lion, he said. He merely supplied the lion's roar.

America has changed because Americans have remembered that all our history has shown that when the chips are down, they, too, have the heart of a lion.

We have changed because we are Americans, and the American spirit has been re-awakened in us. We have only begun to thrive.

Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute.

He can be reached at

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Wednesday, 30 January 2002 12:00 AM
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