On Healing the Nation

President John F. Kennedy, September 30, 1962, on the court-mandated admission of African-American student James Meredith to the University of Mississippi:

There is in short no reason why the books on this case cannot now be quickly and quietly closed in the manner directed by the court.  Let us preserve both the law and the peace and then, healing those wounds that are within, we can turn to the greater crises that are without and stand united as one people in our pledge to man’s freedom.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, July 27, 1967, addressing recent mass racial violence in Newark and Detroit:

I know there are millions of men and women tonight who are eager to heal the wounds that we have suffered; who want to get on with the job of teaching and working and building America.  In that spirit, at the conclusion of this address, I will sign a proclamation tonight calling for a day of prayer in our Nation throughout all of our States … to pray for order and reconciliation among men.

President Richard M. Nixon, August 8, 1974, announcing his resignation-in-disgrace and the challenges faced by his successor, as Nixon saw them:

As we look to the future, the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this Nation, to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent past behind us, and to rediscover those shared ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free people.

President Jimmy Carter, October 20, 1979, in remarks dedicating the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library:

From Vietnam to Cambodia, from Los Angeles to Memphis, from Kent State to Watergate, the American spirit suffered under one shock after another, and the confidence of our people was deeply shaken.  We’ve undertaken a solid commitment to heal those wounds, and at long last the darkness has begun to lift.  I believe that America is now ready to meet the challenges of the 1980’s with renewed confidence and with renewed spirit.

President Ronald Reagan, November 11, 1984, dedicating “The Three Soldiers” statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial:

The war in Vietnam threatened to tear our society apart, and the political and philosophical disagreements that animated each side continue to some extent.  It’s been said that these memorials reflect a hunger for healing.  Well, I do not know if perfect healing ever occurs, but …  I believe that in the decade since Vietnam the healing has begun, and I hope that before my days as Commander in Chief are over the process will be completed.

President George H. W. Bush, March 9, 1989, in remarks at The United Negro College Fund Dinner in New York:

Black and white, together — we know that America will not be a good place for any of us to live until it is a good place for all of us to live.  Most Americans, I’m convinced, believe that government can be an instrument of healing.  There are times when government must step in where others fear to tread.  My friends, I share those beliefs, and as President, I will act on them.

President Bill Clinton, September 11, 1998, making a public apology before an audience of over 100 clergy and religious leaders at the White House Prayer Breakfast, following the release of the “Starr Report”:

I will intensify my efforts to lead our country and the world toward peace and freedom, prosperity and harmony, in the hope that with a broken spirit and a still strong heart I can be used for greater good, for we have many blessings and many challenges and so much work to do.  In this, I ask for your prayers and for your help in healing our nation.  And though I cannot move beyond or forget this – indeed, I must always keep it as a caution light in my life – it is very important that our nation move forward.

President Gerald R. Ford, December 21, 1998, co-written with Jimmy Carter, calling for a measured, bipartisan approach to the impeachment of Bill Clinton:

It is the genius of our constitution that [it provides a] charter whose legal mechanisms permit the nation to heal itself, so long as the end result is both justice and grace.  Clearly, the American people expect and desire an outcome that is firm, fair and untainted by partisan advantage.

President-elect George W. Bush, December 14, 2000, to Vice President Al Gore, when Gore called Bush to concede the election:

I look forward to working with you to heal the nation.

President Barack Obama, January 12, 2011, at the Tuscon, Arizona, memorial service for the 6 people killed and 13 others wounded (including U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords) in the sixth mass-shooting of Obama’s presidency:

[At] a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

President Donald J. Trump, May 18, 2020, answering questions following a Covid-19 roundtable with restaurant executives (the word “heals” is in here somewhere):

I happen to be taking it— hydroxychloroquine.  Right now, yeah.  A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it.  Because I think it’s good.  I’ve heard a lot of good stories.  And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right — you know, I’m not going to get hurt by it.

• • • • • 

For a nation as brave, courageous and exceptional as our leaders say we are, it seems that we are always in need of healing.  I guess that’s because, if we aren’t busy bombing others, we can’t help but fight among ourselves.  There is thus a sad logic to this president’s lack of interest in healing the nation — being that such efforts by past presidents have been about as effective as, well, hydroxychloroquine.


Note:  The transcript of the roundtable meeting between Trump (and Mnuchin and Kushner and Ivanka) and big restaurant executives makes for a revealing read, if you can stomach it.  Frankly, I am surprised that the White House published it.  Trump’s number-one proposal for rescuing the restaurant industry?  Full tax-deductibility of food and entertainment expenses for corporate business meetings.
Share your thoughts about this post (below).
More in News and Comment | Subscribe.

3 Responses to On Healing the Nation

  1. Gavin Larsen says:

    All he wants to heal is his bruised ego.

  2. Eric says:

    It surely must have been difficult to choose only one bizarre statement that includes “h e a l s”.

    • Craig says:

      … yes, so I selected the most recent example. But really, read the transcript of that meeting. It’s Godfather Part IV, except Godfather is now in a dementia-care center and everyone wants to humor him.

Leave a Reply