September 14, 2012
Yonathan T. Ararso '13
On September 10, 2012, Ambassador Eric Edelman visited the Hampden-Sydney campus to deliver a speech commemorating the 11th Anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. The 4th floor of Bortz Library was packed with students, professors, staff, and members of the local community for a symposium titled 9-11 In Retrospect: Did the U.S. Overreact? Some Personal and Historical Reflections.
After remarks from President Howard, the Ambassador took the podium and opened by praising both General Wilson and Dr. Howard for their service to the United States. In addition, he applauded the Wilson Center's commitment to leadership and remarked, "My presence here marks a belated way of saying thank you to General Wilson's distinguished service to this nation."
Moving into his speech, Edelman opened by reminding the audience of two other horrific events that shook the nation in the past: the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Unlike those two events, however, being part of the White House National Security team at the time made the 9/11 attacks, he asserted, "forever etched in [my] mind."
Edelman shared his reflections of September 11, 2001, by trying to recreate the events and the trauma that unfolded and how the country's leadership responded. Being a member of the Vice President's team at the time gave him insight into what he describes as "a day of unimaginable horror." The ambassador often cited passages from the memoire's of President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, and Vice President Cheyne. In addition, he shared the reactions of Laura Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Edelman's main point seemed to be that the 9-11 attacks completely shattered the existing perception that the United States enjoyed a "free security."
"This was the first attack on our soil since the war of 1812," he commented. Despite the overwhelming nature of the strike, however, Edelman praised the nation's leadership in their successful commitment to prevent further terrorist attacks on US soil.
In conclusion, the Ambassador praised the Obama administration's efforts to ensure that the US still remained committed to national security and, perhaps, most importantly, eliminating its greatest threat - Al-Qaeda.
"We should not forget that fundamental truth," he added before opening the floor to questions from the audience.