American Presidents in Crisis

Download Audio
photoTonight, against a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, President Bush will address a somber nation. It's been a long day.

Now, the ceremonies are almost over. The bagpipes are winding down. The wreaths are lain. The names, read. The end written, perhaps, to one chapter of the country's relationship with 9-11. And ears open, listening for the president to describe the next chapter, the way ahead.

Now, a nation waits for its president to step forward and finally end this long day, this long year.

In a defiant speech outside the Pentagon earlier today, President Bush vowed to avenge the lives of those lost in last September's attacks. America's enemies, he told the country's military leaders, will not be stopped by a sense of decency or a hint of conscience. They will be stopped, he said, by a greater force.

And so history is framed.

From the Great Depression to World War, from the Bay of Pigs to September 11th, the ways that presidents have led during crisis has defined them and the nation for history.

Tonight, we look at how American presidents have fared, in times of great national challenge. And we ask, what do you want to hear, what do you need to hear, from George Bush tonight?


Robert Dallek, Presidential Historian, Professor of History at Boston University, author of several books including "Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945," which won the Bancroft Prize, and "Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents"

Amity Shlaes, Senior Columnist for the Financial Times and author of an upcoming book on the Great Depression

This program aired on September 11, 2002.


More from On Point

Listen Live