Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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January 21, 2004
The last seven words

No, I'm not talking about an oratorio by Haydn, but about the last seven words in a certain speech given last night.

The words are, "[And] May God continue to bless America." Or, as the transcripts often put it, "May God continue to bless America. (Applause.)"

I was surprised to discover that GWB's use of the phrase to close his speeches predated 9/11/01. I located on the White House website a single, pre-9/11 use of the phrase from 7/20/01.

Many people seem to have begun taking conscious notice of the phrase when it appeared at the end of his 2/1/03 speech following the Columbia space shuttle disaster, the same speech where he quoted Isaiah at length.

However, the phrase has also generated some discussion over the wisdom or propriety of using it in his "anti-terra" speeches, an example of which is his 3/17/03 "ultimatum" speech to Saddam. Though the discussion is not confined there.

My favorite uses of the phrase are those where the certainty that America is currently being blessed ("may God continue") is directly juxtaposed with the implication that some other country or population is not being blessed by God right now but that GWB officially requests from God that they be blessed at some unspecified future time ("may God bless").

Some examples illustrating this blessed/not blessed dichotomy include:

America but not Greece

America but not the Dominican Republic

America but not the people of Mexico

America but not Africa

America but not the people of Africa

America but not the talents of black musicians (including James Brown)

America but not Hispanic ministers and their ministries

In marked contrast, I have uncovered only one instance where GWB expressed the certitude that some entity other than America itself is currently being blessed, hence his need to merely request that God "continue" to bless them: the 2003 NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs.