Annual Nakba Commemoration Dinner Speech
By Alan Hart
24 May, 2010
The following is the text of Alan Hart's address to the Annual Nakba Commemoration Dinner, Dearborn, on 15 May 2010.
I’m delighted to be with you on this most significant anniversary, and I want to begin with a very simple statement: In my view Nakba Denial – the denial by all supporters of Israel right or wrong of Zionist ethnic cleansing – is as obscene and as evil, repeat EVIL, as denial of the Nazi holocaust.
But today is not just about remembering what started to happen in Palestine that became Israel 63 years ago. It’s also about saluting the incredible, almost superhuman steadfastness of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians. The Victory sign is only a gesture but I ask you to join me in making it and say after me, “Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip, we are with you!”
If one reversed the “V” sign as Winston Churchill sometimes did, one could say it was an appropriate gesture to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He would not have cause for complaint because it’s a gesture he frequently makes to President Obama.
I also want you to know why the occupied and oppressed Palestinians have a special place in my heart as well as my mind. It’s not just that they are the party with right on their side in arguably the most epic might v right struggle in all of history…. If there is one people on earth that ought to have been de-humanized by what has been done to them, it’s the occupied and oppressed Palestinians. They have NOT been de-humanized, but their Zionist oppressors have been, de-humanized by their racist thinking, their insufferable self-righteousness, their contempt for Judaism’s moral values and ethical principles as well as international law, and their criminal actions. Today I go as far as describing Israel’s extreme right wingers as Nazi-like.
For some light relief, and also some rare insight, I’ll now tell you my own favourite stories about the two greatest opposites in all of history – Yasser Arafat, Father Palestine, and Golda Meir, Mother Israel. I think I am probably the only person on Planet Earth who enjoyed intimate access to, and on the human level friendship with, both of them.
One of my most treasured souvenirs from my television reporting days is a signed picture of Golda when she was prime minister. The inscription in her own hand is – “To a good friend, Alan Hart.” Because I am a goy, that meant a lot to me. The picture is on my web site and it’s the first one in my latest book. I have also used it as a protective shield. In the late 1980’s when I lectured and debated coast-to-coast across America and Canada, I had the picture with me. When I was accused of anti-Semitism, I would hold up the picture, read out Golda’s inscription, and say to my accuser – “Do you think that old lady was so stupid that she couldn’t have seen through me if I was anti-Jew!” That always won me the applause of the audience and its contempt for my accuser.
When Golda died I went to Israel as a private citizen to say my last goodbye to her. After the burial ceremony on Mount Herzl, I was watching Prime Minster Begin and his ministers leaving. There was a tap on my shoulder. It was Lou Kadar, a very bright and witty lady of French origin who was Golda’s lifelong best friend and confidant. Lou said: “Alan, please come back to my apartment for a drink. There’s something I MUST tell you.” Over a glass of chilled white wine, Lou asked me a question: “Do you remember that BBC Panorama interview you did with Golda in which said the Palestinians did not exist?” I said to Lou: “Not only do I remember, the whole world remembers because it was Golda speaking on film.” (The full quote was: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian. It’s not as though we came and took their land from them. They didn’t exist.”) Lou then said:
“Golda made me promise to tell you, but not until she was dead, that as soon as those words left her lips, she knew they were ‘the silliest damn thing she had ever said!‘”
When I started to write Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, I thought that the significance of Golda’s message to me from the grave was almost impossible to exaggerate. On a personal level I took it to mean that Golda wanted me to know that she was not actually as deluded as I might have imagined her to be on account of her denial, while she lived, of the existence of the Palestinians as a people with rights and an irrefutable claim for justice.
Put another way, she was acknowledging the difference between, on the one hand, Israel’s propaganda – the myth Zionism created to fool the world and comfort itself and, on the other hand, what she knew to be true. In effect and posthumously Mother Israel was admitting that the creation of the Zionist state had required the doing of an injustice to the Palestinians, and that Israel was living a lie.
The problem for Golda’s generation with the truth – the actual existence of the Palestinians – was that it raised fundamental questions about the legality and morality of the Zionist enterprise (her life’s work) and the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. On reflection, and because of her last message to me, I am inclined to the view that Mother Israel went to her grave troubled by the injustice done to the Palestinians in the name of Zionism. She would not have been able to escape the logic of reality and the question it begged. If the Palestinians did not exist – no problem. But if really they did exist – “What have we done?”
The Golda Meir I knew would have asked herself that question when it was obvious – as it was before her death – that the regeneration of Palestinian nationalism was as much a fait accompli as the existence of her state.
As it happened the truth was too uncomfortable for Mother Israel to confront while she lived. That was to be a task for her children. One possible implication of her last message to me was that she wanted them to confront it, by asking themselves what they must do to right the wrong done in Zionism’s name to the Palestinians. Some of my anti-Zionist Jewish friends have said that I have been much too kind to Golda. She was, they insisted, “an unchangeable, Zionist zealot.” They could be right and I could be wrong; but I think I knew Golda better than they did, and I’ll stick with my own interpretation.
Now to my own favourite Arafat story. It’s a good story in its own right but it has a point which I want to develop this evening.
In 1984, shortly after the publication of the first edition of my book Arafat, Terrorist or Peacemaker? I had a call from Tunis.
For those not aware of that book, it was the first ever to tell the true story of the Palestinian struggle from the leadership’s perspective. In addition to Arafat himself, my prime sources were Abu and Um Jihad, Abu Iyad and the Hassan brothers, Khalad and Hani. I spent more than a year virtually living with them and others in the leadership to talk the story out of them.
In that book I came to two main conclusions. The first was that by the end of 1979 (more than three decades ago), Arafat had performed a miracle of leadership by preparing the ground on his side for unthinkable compromise and peace, peace on terms which any rational government and people in Israel would have accepted with relief. The second was that what Arafat needed to emerge as the peacemaker he so much wanted to be was a good faith Israeli negotiating partner.
Back to the call from Tunis. It was from Khalad Hassan. He was Fatah’s intellectual giant on the right. When he thought it necessary, he was fiercely critical of Arafat to his face in private, but nobody did more than Khalad to assist the Chairman to sell the idea of unthinkable compromise with Israel to the PNC.
Khalad said: “Habibi, the Chairman is very, very angry with you.”
I asked why. Khalad replied: “You must come here and find out for yourself.”
So I went to Tunis. I was very aware that Arafat had a terrible tempter and I wasn’t looking forward to be on the receiving end of it. I wondered if our friendship was about to end.
For further background you should know that up to this moment I had enjoyed a very special relationship with the “Old Man”. It started early in 1980 when I became the linkman in a secret, exploratory dialogue between him and Shimon Peres, who was then the leader of Israel’s main opposition Labour Party. The hope everywhere at the time, especially in Jimmy Carter’s White House, was that Peres would win Israel’s next election and deny Menachem Begin, the world’s most successful terrorist leader, a second term as prime minister. President Carter was in despair because he had been prevented by Begin and the Zionist Lobby from bringing Arafat and the PLO into the peace process. Working to a Security Council background briefing, my mission was to try to build a bridge of understanding between Arafat and Peres so that in the event of Peres winning the election and becoming prime minister, he could get into public dialogue with Arafat. When Arafat agreed to participate in what I called a conspiracy for peace, he said this to me: “You must understand that I am putting my life into your hands. If word of this leaks before I have something concrete to show for it, I will be assassinated.”
Some years later I discovered who the assassin would have been. Over lunch in his home, I told Abu Iyad the story of my secret shuttle diplomacy between Arafat and Peres, and I ended by quoting what Arafat had said to me at the start of it – that he would be assassinated if word that he was engaged in dialogue with Peres through me leaked. Abu Iyad said: “He was telling you the truth. I would not have ordered anybody else to shoot him, I would have done it myself, with my own gun.”
The following day I told Arafat what Abu Iyad had said. He gave me a long, hard look. Then, in a very matter of fact voice, he said: “I knew that. Abu Iyad would have been the one to do it.” (For those in this audience who may not be familiar with Fatah and PLO politics in 1980 when I started my secret, shuttle diplomacy, Abu Iyad was then the one in Fatah’s top leadership who believed that Arafat’s decision to continue the struggle by politics and diplomacy alone was wrong).
The full, inside story of my shuttle diplomacy is in the forthcoming Volume 3 of the American edition of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. To wet your appetite for it, and before I get to the climax of my favourite Arafat story, I’ll tell you another because it illustrates how pragmatic, how flexible and how serious Arafat was in his effort to do business with Israel, in order to get an acceptable minimum of justice for his people.
At a point in my to’ing and fro-ing between Arafat in Beirut and Peres in Tel Aviv, I decided that we had made enough progress to suggest that they should have a secret, face-to-face meeting. I suggested it first to Arafat. (For background I should tell you that he was not consulting any of his leadership colleagues). When I put the idea to him, Arafat had only one question – What, really, were the prospects of Peres winning the next election and becoming prime minister? I said the expectation in Israel was that he would win. The polls were actually giving his Labour Party a more than 20% lead over Begin’s Likud. Arafat then said, “Yes, I’ll meet with him.” He had only one condition. The meeting could not take place “anywhere on Arab soil”. I said that was no problem. I lived in a rural even remote part of southern England and the meeting could take place in my home. Arafat said, “You have tell me only where and when and I’ll be there“.
I returned to Tel Aviv via Cyprus as usual. At the time, and still today, I was convinced that Peres wanted to meet secretly with Arafat, but it was a risk too far for him. Months previously when Peres had agreed to talk to Arafat through me, he had said that if word of what we were doing leaked, he would be destroyed and his party would be annihilated at the next election. But Peres wanted there to be a secret, face-to-face meeting with Arafat. He said he would nominate somebody to represent him. I asked who. Peres thought for a minute or so and then said “Aaron Yariv.” When Golda Meir was prime minister, General Yariv was Israel’s Director of Military Intelligence. I said to Peres: “I’m sure that Arafat knows as well as you do that a number of attempts to kill him were authorized by Yariv when he was DMI. Do you really expect Arafat to meet with him?” Peres replied: “It will be a good test of Arafat’s sincerity. If he agrees to meet with Yariv, I’ll know he is serious.”
Peres then commanded me to meet with Yariv and put the proposition to him. If he gave me a “Yes” in principle, Peres would talk with him and, subject to Arafat’s agreement, the secret meeting would be arranged. Yariv gave me a “Yes” in principle.
Back in Beirut, and somewhat to my astonishment, Arafat didn’t need even a few seconds to consider whether he should or should not meet secretly with the former Israeli DMI who had authorized a number of attempts to kill him. “I have only one condition,” Arafat said to me. “I must be assured that Yariv will be speaking FOR Peres“. What Arafat meant and went on to say was that if he made a deal with Yariv, it could only be on the basis of knowing that Peres would honour it. I said I understood that would be the case.
On my journey back to Tel Aviv I allowed myself to flirt for a few seconds with a fantasy. Was it possible, I wondered, that we were on our way to a Nobel Peace Prize?
As soon as I had checked into my room in the Dan Hotel on Tel Aviv’s beach front, I telephoned retired General Chaim Herzog. He was one of two men advising Peres. At the time Herzog was the Labour Party’s secretary general and running his own import/export business. As the founding father of Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, Herzog was already an Israeli legend. He went on to become Israel’s ambassador to the UN and eventually the Zionist state’s president. We were good friends and the reason why I was well informed about what was happening in Israel in my television reporting days is that Herzog was my journalistic deep-throat. On the ‘phone I said to him: “My Arab friend WILL meet with Yariv.” Herzog was obviously excited. He said: “We’re cooking on gas. Go tell Yariv. I’ll brief Shimon.”
Yariv listened to my report of my last meeting with Arafat in complete silence. When I stopped talking, he said: “I’m sorry. I can’t meet with Arafat.” He was obviously very embarrassed.
At this point ladies and gentlemen, and because I want to tell you exactly what happened next, I must ask you, please, to forgive my language. I did an Arafat (and a Begin). I lost my temper. I shouted at Yariv: “We’re not playing fucking games! What the hell is going on?” And I demanded an explanation. His answer was pathetic to say the least. “I didn’t think you’d persuade Arafat to meet with me,” he said. What he meant but didn’t say is that while I was in Beirut getting Arafat’s “Yes”, he, Yariv, had changed his mind and was hoping that Arafat would say “No” so that I could blame Arafat and not him.
I asked Herzog to investigate why, really, Yariv had changed his mind. When he reported back to me, Herzog said I should have a little sympathy for Yariv. While I was away in Beirut, he had done some re-thinking and came to the conclusion that if he met with Arafat, and if word of the meeting leaked, Prime Minister Begin would make an example of him and, as Yariv had put it to Herzog, “He might even have me hanged as a traitor.”
That was not the end of the matter, but to find out how it ended you’ll have to read my book.
Back now to my favourite Arafat story.
When I arrived in Tunis to find out why he was “very, very angry” with me, he was having a meeting with his headquarters staff. When they left his office, a bodyguard who knew me well gestured for me to enter and closed the door behind me. As usual it was just the two of us. Arafat was sitting at his desk, head down, rapidly reading and signing papers. For five very long minutes he didn’t look up or in any way acknowledge my presence. He was ignoring me completely. That was most unusual because Arafat by nature was a most courteous man. (If you were his guest for a meal, he would insist that you sat next to him and would personally serve you from the dishes on the table).
I refused to be intimidated and sat myself down in a chair opposite him. I noticed that my book was open on his desk.
Eventually, Arafat looked up and jabbed an accusing finger at me. With real anger in his voice and flashing in his eyes, he said: “You have made very big troubles for me!” I asked him how. He picked up my open book and read aloud a sentence of what I had quoted him as saying to me: The sentence was:
“Being the Chairman of the PLO is like being the only male customer in a brothel of 22 whores“.
Arafat pronounced the word “hoarez”, but whichever way you pronounced it, there was no getting away from the implication. When he first spoke those words, Arafat was telling me that he and his people were being screwed by each and all of the leaders and governments of the 22 states of the Arab League.
I said: “But Abu Amar, you DID say that to me and it IS true!” If he was going to deny saying it, I was going to remind him of where and when he said it. Something, perhaps it was my response, caused his anger to vanish. He relaxed and then said: “Yes, yes, yes, I DID say it. And yes, yes, yes, it IS true.” Pause. “But you shouldn’t have quoted me. You should have said it was your understanding of my thinking. Then I could have denied it. Now I can’t.”
And that was that. We were still friends.
Still today I think there is no better way of pointing to a truth of history than with the words I quoted Arafat as saying and which he did not deny. That truth can be summarised as follows.
More by default than design, the divided and impotent regimes of a mainly corrupt and oppressive Arab Order betrayed the Palestinians. After the first Zionist fait accompli in 1948, the Arab regimes secretly shared the same hope as all the major powers and Zionism. It was that the Palestine file would remain closed forever. (It had been closed not only by Israel’s victory on the battlefield, but also Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem to prevent Zionism grabbing it, and Eygpt’s taking of the Gaza Strip). There was not supposed to be a re-generation of Palestinian nationalism. In the script written by Zionism, and endorsed by all the major powers and the Arab regimes, the Palestinians were supposed to accept their lot as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of political expediency.
In that context it can be said that Arafat’s real crime in the eyes of all who demonized him was causing the Palestine file to be re-opened. After that it was what I have already described as the incredible, almost superhuman steadfastness of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians that guaranteed it could never be closed again – unless Zionism’s in-Israel leaders resort to a final round of ethnic cleansing and are allowed to get away with it.
By now even those of you who are not familiar with my books and other writings will be aware that I am a fierce critic of Zionism, the governments of all the major powers and the regimes of an impotent Arab Order. But that is not a complete list of my crimes. I am also a critic of diaspora Palestinian and almost all other Arab (and non-Arab) activist groups everywhere. At the risk of offending some and perhaps many in this audience, and even further afield, I’m going to tell you why.
As I see it, almost all activist groups are doing their own little things in splendid isolation, and in doing them they demonstrate to me that they have little or no understanding of the strategic essence of what must be done if Zionism is to be successfully confronted and defeated. (If you asked what I would regard as defeat for Zionism, my answer would be the de-Zionisation of Palestine).
My main point is this. While it is true that the incredible, almost superhuman steadfastness of the occupied and oppressed Palestinians is the rock on which all of us who campaign for justice stand, the struggle is not going to be won or lost IN Palestine that became Israel. It’s going to be won or lost HERE IN AMERICA.
In my analysis (and leaving aside the impotence of the regimes of the existing Arab Order) there are three political realities to be faced.
The first is that is that Zionism’s in-Israel leaders are not interested in peace on terms virtually all Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept.
The second is that only an American President has the leverage required to cause – or try to cause – enough Israelis to be serious about peace on the basis of an acceptable amount of justice for the Palestinians. (The leaders and governments of other major powers also have leverage, but they won’t think of using it unless America takes the lead).
The third is that no American President is going to use the leverage he has unless and until he is PUSHED to do so by informed public opinion, by expressions of real democracy in action. In other words, for peace to have a real and I believe last chance, a constituency of understanding has got to be created here in America to enable the President to break the Zionist lobby’s stranglehold on Congress. (As I put it in the Epilogue to the forthcoming Volume 3 of the American edition of this book, in order to use the leverage he has to require Israel to be serious about peace, the President needs enough members of Congress to be more frightened of offending their voters than they are of offending the Zionist lobby in all of its manifestations).
As I dared to suggest in my Dear America Introduction to Volume One of this book, the problem in America is that most Americans are too uninformed and mis-informed TO DO THE PUSHING and make their democracy work. Simply stated, most Americans, like most Westerners, have been conditioned to accept a version of history, Zionism’s version, which is not true. It is, quite simply, a pack of propaganda lies.
The biggest of all the lies is the assertion that poor little Israel has lived in constant danger of annihilation – the “driving into the sea” of its Jews. As I document in detail through the three volumes of this book, Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab force. Not in 1948. Not in 1967. And not even in 1973. Despite some stupid rhetoric that suggested otherwise and assisted Zionism to get away with the Mother and Father of its propaganda lies, the Arab regimes never, ever, had any intention of fighting Israel to liberate Palestine. Zionism’s assertion to the contrary was the cover that allowed Israel to get away where it mattered most – in America and Western Europe – with presenting its aggression as self-defense and itself as the victim when actually it was and is the oppressor.
I bring the Prologue to Volume 1 of the American edition of this book to a conclusion by quoting an Israeli I admire – Major General Shlomo Gazit. He was the best and the brightest of Israel’s Directors of Military Intelligence. He was also one of the two who were advising Peres when I was shuttling between him and Arafat. Over coffee one morning I said to Shlomo: “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all a myth. Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger.” Through a sad smile, he replied: “The trouble with us Israelis is that we’ve become the victims of our own propaganda.”
The biggest of the supporting Zionist propaganda lies was the assertion that Israel had no Arab partners for peace. As I’ve already said, and you know, Arafat had prepared the ground on his side for peace with Israel by the end of 1979. But there were a number of Arab overtures for peace long before that. I’ll mention just one. From almost the moment he came to power in Eygpt in 1951, Nasser wanted an accommodation with Israel. So much so that he had secret exchanges with Israel’s then foreign minister, Moshe Sharret. In my view Sharret was the only completely sane Israeli leader of his time. It was because he wanted to be serious about advancing a peace process with Nasser that he was destroyed by Ben-Gurion… The documented record is quite clear. It was Israel’s leaders NOT the Arabs who spurned opportunity after opportunity for peace.
Now to what I believe is the real significance of the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel. It is THE KEY to creating the constituency of understanding needed here in America to create the space to enable a president to break the Zionist lobby’s stranglehold on Congress.. Put another way, it is only when enough Americans are informed about the truth of history that there will be – perhaps I should say could be – sufficient pressure on Congress for an end to US support for Israel right or wrong.
Question: Why is it that still today most Americans are ignorant of the truth of history?
A large part of the answer is that the mainstream media still prefers to peddle Zionist propaganda. But in my view the ignorance is also evidence of the FAILURE TO DATE OF ACTIVIST GROUPS OF ALL FAITHS AND NONE. Yes, it’s important to draw attention to what’s happening in Israel/Palestine today and to protest against Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. Yes, it’s important to assist the occupied and oppressed Palestinians to remain steadfast and go on surviving. And yes, it’s important to campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions. But none of this campaigning is going to result in a fundamental change of U.S. policy so long as most Americans remain ignorant of the truth of history and how much they have been conned by Zionist propaganda.
The conclusion invited, or so I believe, is that IT’S TIME FOR ACTIVIST GROUPS TO GIVE PRIORITY TO DEVISING AND IMPLEMENTING A STRATEGY FOR INFORMING AND EDUCATING AMERICANS ABOUT THE TRUTH OF HISTORY, and therefore who must do what and why if this conflict is not to end in catastrophe for all; and by all I don’t just mean the Arabs and Jews of the region, I mean all of us everywhere. The essence of the campaign message would be something like – “Fellow Americans, almost everything you’ve been conditioned to believe about the making and sustaining of this conflict is not true.”
I devoted more than five years of my life to researching and writing the original version of this epic book. My purpose was to provide a powerful weapon to make winning the war for truth possible. The book is about much more than is suggested by its title, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. (A longer version of the title could be – It isn’t the Arabs who are the real enemy of the Jews, it’s Zionism’s brutal and increasingly Nazi-like colonial enterprise).
Updated to President Obama’s surrender to the Zionist lobby, it’s the first ever book tell the complete story of the making and sustaining of the conflict replacing Zionist mythology with the documented facts and truth of history. And the story as I tell it is not confined to events in the region. I’ve given those events global context, meaning that I take my readers behind closed doors in London, Paris, Washington and Moscow. With this book you can start out knowing nothing worth knowing about the conflict, which sadly is the position of most Americans, and end up seeing how all the pieces of the most complicated jig-saw puzzle fit together. Simply stated, this book enables all readers – almost all of them for the first time ever – to make sense of what is happening and why.
If I had written a pro-Zionist book, I would have had wealthy Jews throwing money at me for promotion of all kinds. My experience to date is that wealthy Arabs, including wealthy Palestinians, are frightened of offending Zionism to assist my efforts to make informed and honest debate possible.
I also think that like most activist groups they have no understanding of how you change lobby-driven government policies in the so-called democratic nations. There is only one way to do it – by informing and educating the citizens, the voters, empowering them to make democracy work and call and hold their leaders to account. When enough citizens want something done, governments have to do it.
So I’m asking you tonight to make good use of my book and become actively engaged in the process of educating your fellow Americans to make democracy work. I am, of course, aware that there is a reason why some and perhaps many Arab and other Muslim Americans think that’s too dangerous and that they should keep their heads down and their mouths shut, in order, as they see it, to protect themselves, their families, their careers and their businesses. The reason is that the monster of Islamophobia is on the prowl in America (as it is in Europe) and licking its lips.
But backing away from this monster is not the way for American and other Western Arabs and other Muslims to protect their own best interests. The best way, I say, is for them to play their ACE card.
What is that? I call it the Patriot Card. Regardless of ethnicity, the one thing above all others that Americans are required to demonstrate in order to be regarded by their fellow citizens as safe and sound is patriotism. Hold on to that thought while I make this short statement.
The best recruiting sergeant for violent Islamic fundamentalism in all of its manifestations everywhere is the double-standard of American-led, Western foreign policy, particularly as it relates to the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel. General Petraeus, and apparently President Obama, now accept that support for the Zionist state of Israel right or wrong, is NOT in America’s best interests and is damaging them.
By helping your fellow Americans to understand this, you would not only be presenting yourselves as real patriots and therefore best protecting your own interests, you would be helping to expose supporters of Israel right or wrong for what they are – brainwashed, deluded and plain wrong at best, and a threat to real national interests at worst. Some would even call them “traitors”.
I’ll close by reading the first sentence of Volume 1 of the American edition of my book and adding a comment.
“Dear Americans, If all of our children, wherever they live, are to have even the prospect of a future worth having, the world needs America’s best, not what it had under the neo-conned regime of President George “Dubya” Bush – its worst.”
My appeal to you this evening is this. If you really care about stopping the final ethnic cleansing of Palestine, keeping hope for justice and peace alive, and best protecting America’s own real interests, become engaged in the war for truth and justice and play your necessary part in helping to bring out the best of America.