What We Affirm: Leon Wieseltier’s Remarks at ‘9/11: An Evening of Remembrance and Reflection’

Click Here to Read: What We Affirm: Leon Wieseltier’s Remarks at ‘9/11: An Evening of Remembrance and Reflection’ from the New Republic.  in partnership with the Kennedy Center and the Pentagon, commemorated the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. The event (which can be viewed in its entirety here) was

Leon Wieseltier

faciliated by Christiane Amanpour, and was structured as a memorial service with brief addresses from leading policymakers, cultural figures, first-responders, and survivors of 9/11. It included moving performances by Raul Esparza, Denyce Graves, Emmylou Harris, Wynton Marsalis, Duawne Starling, and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Mauceri. Actress Melissa Leo read verse by Robert Frost and Mark Strand. And Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice captured the historical and political significance and cultural impact of September 11 through the reading of newspaper articles from September 12, 2001.

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2 Comments on “What We Affirm: Leon Wieseltier’s Remarks at ‘9/11: An Evening of Remembrance and Reflection’”

  1. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    Comment from Eugene Mahon:

    What an extraordinary piece of writing! I read Leon all the time in The New Republic but I can’t remember ever hearing him as eloquent, as passionate, as simple (in the most complex way of course) or as inspiring. And his definition of mourning is Freudian and yet it even goes beyond Freud I think in its affirmation of the mourner’s strength of character and belief in himself/herself . in other words mourning is a tribute to the mourner’s capacity to love in a ferocious and tender manner. Mourning honors the dead by staying alive, by clinging to life and using it as a weapon to fight back. Mourning is heroic if we define heroism correctly. And we must or we end up with heroics which is not the same thing at all.

    Thank you for sending this extraordinary, inspirational piece. It has made 9/11/2001 worth fighting for and living for and it has made 9/11/2011 not only a day of sorrow but a day of challenge.

  2. Tamar Schwartz Says:

    Comment from Bob Holt:


    I read Wieseltier’s remarks just after having been through the big memorial section of today’s Sunday Times. I also read, a couple of days ago, Noam Chomsky’s incisive and bitter summary of the decade, a perspective notably lacking in anything I have read elsewhere. And even in Chomsky’s irreverent piece, with its bitter comments on the ineffectiveness as well as illegality of treating a crime as if it demanded a war, there was no mention of the unresolved questions, the strange coincidences and sequences that gave rise to the rather large but today unnoticed “9/11 Truth” phenomenon. No doubt, much of it was quasi-paranoid conspiracy theories, but there were some sober, well-researched efforts like those of D. R. Griffin (The New Pearl Harbor) raising reasonable doubts of the official story, which have never been carefully rebutted.

    I must say, also, that today’s somber reflections on the trauma of that bright morning mostly lack one major perspective: the fact that the drama of it obscured the near-triviality of the cost in lives and physical destruction, as compared to the less-dramatic, everyday injustices and casualties of our normal ways of living–automobile accidents, for example, and prejudice-driven poverty. Vastly worse than the costs of 9/11 were the costs to innocent people, American and non-American alike, in the wars Bush launched with impunity. Unfortunately, in traumatic situations people regress to childish forms of thought and emotion, losing hard-won aspects of maturity and wanting strong leaders who will avenge the dead regardless of law and justice. It was a perfect set-up for conservatives and authoritarians, and a tremendous setback for civilization and the long slow struggle for enlightened, decent, empathic, and above all realistic ways of living and governing ourselves in a world of responsible and thoughtful adults.

    So I feel somewhat depressed by the very widespread failure to learn much from a lost decade, which is comparable in some ways to the dark medieval centuries. The ultimate tragedy is that this massive setback in our culture and civilization crippled us at a time when the crisis of climate change and ‘peak everything’ requires unprecedented foresight and unselfish action to make life tolerable for our immediate descendants. Indeed, they continue to do so. In a way, I am glad that I will not live to see much of the disasters ahead, though by the same token I want to ‘rage, rage’ that I am losing my powers to do much of any significance to help stem the tide of catastrophe.

    Robert R. Holt

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