Weekly roundup … of speeches

In recent days, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made televised speeches to the European Parliament, the British Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, the US Congress and the German Bundestag.

Prior to Zelenskyy’s speech to Congress, on MSNBC Jon Meacham recalled Robert F. Kennedy’s 6/6/1966 “Ripple of Hope” address to students in Capetown, South Africa: Few will have the greatness to bend history; but …. Each time (one) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, (he or she) sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and … those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Meacham said: The thrilling and terrifying thing about democracy is … all of us … have the capacity to bend history. Meacham compared Zelenskyy’s “disposition of heart and mind” to that of Churchill, John Lewis, the women of Seneca Falls, the people of Selma, those who stormed the beaches of Normandy, etc., who in the mysterious yet discernible commerce between the leaders and the led made democracy what Lincoln called the best hope. He said: We face enormous stresses … a generational task. And we do have the capacity … if you believe in the Declaration of Independence … the rights of humankind … the rule of law, this is a moment to stand up. Zelenskyy has. The question now is, “Will all of us?”

In his speech to the South African Student Union, Robert Kennedy said, “The first element of … liberty is the freedom of speech….” The 1776 miracle hasn’t yet reached Russia, where the state media considers Tucker Carlson’s reports “essential” and where Marina Ovsyannikova tried to get in a word edgewise.

From “A Russian who protested the war on live TV refused to retract her statement in court,” by Bill Chappell, NPR, March 15, 2022

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