Speak to us, Mr. PresidentThe cataclysmic terror attack on the U.S. mainland started at 8: 42 a.m. on September 11, 2001, as the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At 9:03 a.m., another plane hit the South Tower while President George W. Bush was making a speech at an elementary school in Florida. Bush was briefed about it at 9:05 a.m., and 26 minutes later made his first statement on the incident. “This is clearly a terrorist attack against us,” he said.
He stayed in a military compound for10 hours for security reasons and then returned to the White House. At 8:00 p.m., 12 hours after the attack, he addressed the nation, declaring he would never allow terrorist activities to resurface in the United States. The next day, he held a press conference in the Oval Office, proclaiming a war against terrorists and the countries giving them sanctuary.
When a national emergency breaks out, the president should appear before the public because his judgment and resolution can greatly affect how the crisis will evolve. And when that emergency has a colossal impact on the people, the president should quickly appear before them to speak out on what really happened, what the government and the military plan to do, and what he wants to ask the people to do. That’s part of governing.
While the U.S. president made a nationally-televised speech to his people 26 minutes after the first attack, our president said nothing to his people after we were attacked, even when we clearly know who attacked us. He stays mum when North Korea argues that we attacked first. The only news from the Blue House is that the president ordered the military not to allow the attack to escalate into a war. At a moment of national crisis, he still lacks a crucial ability to communicate with the people.
President Lee Myung-bak, the Blue House and the ruling Grand National Party repeatedly stressed the importance of communication in the wake of a massive candlelight protest against U.S. beef imports. But when communication skill is needed the most, our president is not seen.
Lee should go before the people and explain what went wrong with our military response and how he is going to protect the villagers in the tense west coast. Lee may think that talking about such sensitive issues will backfire. But that’s wrong. As long as he communicates with his people at a critical moment, they will listen, respect and follow what he says.