Shared Burdens / Shared Beliefs
***I will be posting Tony Blair''s speech to Congress on 7/22***
Overshadowed by the controversy concerning his State of the
Union Address, President Bush gave a good speech in Africa on
July 8 from Goree Island, Senegal.
For hundreds of years on this island, peoples of different
continents met in fear and cruelty. Today we gather in respect
and friendship, mindful of past wrongs and dedicated to the
advance of human liberty.
At this place, liberty and life were stolen and sold. Human
beings were delivered and sorted and weighed and branded with
the marks of commercial enterprises and loaded as cargo on a
voyage without return.
One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the
greatest crimes of history. Below the decks, the middle passage
was a hot, narrow, sunless nightmare; weeks and months of
confinement and abuse and confusion on a strange and lonely
Some refused to eat, preferring death to any future their captors
might prefer for them. Some who were sick were thrown over
the side. Some rose up in violent rebellion, delivering the closest
thing to justice on a slave ship. Many acts of defiance and
bravery are recorded. Countless others we will never know.
Those who lived to see land again were displayed, examined and
sold at auctions across nations in the Western Hemisphere. They
entered society indifferent to their anguish and made prosperous
by their unpaid labor.
There was a time in my country’s history where one in every
seven human beings was the property of another.
In law they were regarded only as articles of commerce, having
no right to travel or to marry or to own possessions.
Because families were often separated, many were denied even
the comfort of suffering together.
For 250 years the captives endured an assault on their culture and
their dignity. The spirit of Africans in America did not break.
Yet the spirit of their captors was corrupted. Small men took on
the powers and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished
brutality and bullying and rape produced a dullness and hardness
of conscience. Christian men and women became blind to the
clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to
injustice. A republic founded on equality for all became a prison
And yet in the words of the African proverb, no fist is big
enough to hide the sky. All of the generations oppression under
the laws of man could not crush the hope of freedom and defeat
the purposes of God.
In America, enslaved Africans learned the story of the exodus
from Egypt and set their own hearts on a promised land of
freedom. Enslaved Africans discovered a suffering savior and
found he was more like themselves than their masters.
Enslaved Africans heard the ringing promises of the Declaration
of Independence and asked the self-evident question, “They why
In the era of America’s founding, a man named Olaudah Equiano
was taken in bondage to the New World. He witnessed all of
slavery’s cruelties, the ruthless and the petty. He also saw
beyond the slaveholding piety of a time to a higher standard of
“God tells us,” wrote Equiano, “that the oppressor and the
oppressed are both in his hands. And if these are not the poor,
the brokenhearted, the blind, the captive, the bruised which our
savior speaks of, who are they?”
Down through the years, African-Americans have upheld the
ideals of America by exposing laws and habits contradicting
those ideals. The rights of African-Americans were not the gift
of those in authority.
That deliverance was demanded by escaped slaves named
Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, educators named
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DeBois and ministers of the
Gospel named Leon Sullivan and Martin Luther King Jr.
At every turn, the struggle for equality was resisted by many of
the powerful. And some have said we should not judge their
failures by the standards of a later time, yet in every time there
were men and women who clearly saw this sin and called it by
We can fairly judge the past by the standards of President John
Adams, who called slavery “an evil of colossal magnitude.” We
can discern eternal standards in the deeds of William Wilberforce
and John Quincy Adams and Harriet Beecher Stowe and
These men and women, black and white, burned with a zeal for
freedom and they left behind a different and better nation. Their
moral vision caused Americans to examine our hearts, to correct
our Constitution and to teach our children the dignity and
equality of every person of every race.
By a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and
daughters of Africa helped to awaken the conscience of America.
The very people traded into slavery helped to set America free.
My nation’s journey toward justice has not been easy and it is
not over. The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with
slavery or with segregation, and many of the issues that still
trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other
But however long the journey, our destination is set: liberty and
justice for all.
In the struggle of the centuries, America learned that freedom is
not the possession of one race. We know with equal certainty
that freedom is not the possession of one nation. This belief in
the natural rights of man, this conviction that justice should reach
wherever the sun passes, leads America into the world.
With the power and resources given to us, the United States
seeks to bring peace where there is conflict, hope where there’s
suffering, and liberty where there’s tyranny. And these
commitments bring me and other distinguished leaders of my
government across the Atlantic to Africa.
African peoples are now writing your own story of liberty.
Africans have overcome the arrogance of colonial powers,
overcome the cruelty of apartheid, and made it clear that
dictatorship is not the future of any nation on this continent.
In the process, Africa has produced heroes of liberation, leaders
like Mandela, Sangor, Incruma, Kenyatta, Sellassie and Sadat.
And many visionary African leaders, such as my friend, have
grasped the power of economic and political freedom to lift
whole nations and put forth bold plans for Africa’s development.
Because Africans and Americans share a belief in the values of
liberty and dignity, we must share in the labor of advancing those
values. In a time of growing commerce across the globe, we will
ensure that the nations of Africa are full partners in the trade and
prosperity of the world.
Against the waste and violence of civil war, we will stand
together for peace. Against the merciless terrorists who threaten
every nation, we will wage an unrelenting campaign of justice.
Confronted with desperate hunger, we will answer with human
compassion and the tools of human technology. In the face of
spreading disease, we will join with you in turning the tides
against AIDS in Africa.
We know that these challenges can be overcome because history
moves in the direction of justice.
The evils of slavery were accepted and unchanged for centuries,
yet eventually the human heart would not abide them.
There is a voice of conscience and hope in every man and
woman that will not be silenced, what Martin Luther King called
a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. That flame
could not be extinguished at the Birmingham jail. It could not be
stamped out at Robben Island prison. It was seen in the darkness
here at Goree Island, where no chain could bind the soul.
This untamed fire of justice continues to burn in the affairs of
man, and it lights the way before us.
May God bless you all.