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Today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with President Biden at the White House in the afternoon and addressed a joint session of Congress later in the evening at the invitation of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in one of her final acts as the nation’s top lawmaker. You may recall the Speaker flew to Kyiv to meet with Pres. Zelenskyy and offer moral support back in May.
(I also want to note how proud I felt to see Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi standing behind Pres. Zelenskky, as is tradition, perhaps the last time we’ll see two women behind the dais for quite a while.)
His public remarks at the presser were succinct and compelling, and tonight’s speech may be one of the finest oratorical performances of the modern era in global politics, and I don’t say that lightly.
It was especially impressive given his English proficiency. It was obvious to all that President Zelenskyy's fluency in courage and family easily transcended the language barrier.
His communications approach repeatedly goes back to the same theme: family, family, family. Parents and children, over and over. This war is about ensuring parents watch their children grow into happy adults in a free and independent Ukraine. It is a message that is authentic and highly effective.
Pres. Zelenskyy walked into a chamber that, for many years, has been full of pettiness and cynicism and childish antics by unserious politicians and—solely through his passion and common sense—appeared to be a moral giant from a distant era. His speech couldn't have gone any better.
Some of my favorite lines:
Against all odds and doom and gloom, Ukraine didn't fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.
It gives me good reason to share with you our first joint victory. We defeated Russia in the battle for minds of the world.
Europeans gained this victory, and it's why Europe is stronger than ever. The Russian tyranny lost control over us.
The struggle will define what world our children and our grandchildren live in... this battle cannot be frozen or ignored.
The world is too interconnected and interdependent to allow someone to stay aside and feel safe when such a battle continues. Our nations are allies in this battle, and next year will be a turning point.
I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.
Your money is not charity. It is an investment in the global security that we handle in the most responsible way.
We'll celebrate Christmas, and even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith, in ourselves, will not be put out.
He also compared Ukrainian soldiers fighting for their independence to American soldiers fighting in the Battle of the Bulge—both at Christmastime, both against a tyrannical force, 78 years apart. An incredibly effective rhetorical strategy.
But despite that, there were some pundits—whom I will not name here—that seemed to be displeased with his attire.
These pundits are failing to read the room, but moreover, they're just completely missing the point.
His clothes are intentional symbolism. A country and its leader under immediate and existential threats from a tyrannical force have no time for suits and neckties.
Notice, too, that he's not wearing a formal uniform.
He has no visible rank or medals or nametapes. He has no commander’s cap or mirror-shined shoes. He has no epaulets or brass buttons or starched creases. He isn’t even wearing patches.
He's wearing simple, practical fatigues. He's wearing what women and men who are fighting on the frontlines in Ukraine are wearing.
He’s wearing what the mothers and fathers of Ukraine are wearing as they’ve spent weeks and months away from their scared children. He’s wearing what the school teachers and plumbers and doctors and janitors of his country are wearing as they defend their right to exist freely.
He's wearing the urgency of the moment, and thank god for that.
That's the point.
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