Classroom Activities

  1. When you read or watched President Bush’s September 20 2001, speech, how did it make you feel? Did you feel reassured or did it create a sense of alarm, fear, or other emotions?
  2. How did you respond to the attacks on September 11? How has your view of the event changed since then?
  3. Why do you think Bush’s approval ratings were so high after the September 11? What about a national tragedy moves people to be unified? Can you think of other instances of this unification in U.S. or world history? How are those other events the same as September 11? How are they different?
  4. Do you think that the speech suggests sacrificing some civil liberties for the cause of more stringent security? If so, how much liberty are you willing to sacrifice to feel secure?
  5. Do you think the argument that the terrorists hate American freedom is persuasive? Do you see an inherent tension in the speech between the call for heightened security and the potential curtailment of civil liberties? How can such a tension be balanced in a nation committed to democratic principles?
  6. Can you detect the presence of the themes from the September 20, 2001, speech in subsequent speeches delivered by President Bush? If so, what themes predominated in his presidential discourse? What themes tended to disappear?
  7. How did the events of September 11 change the presidential campaigns of 2004 or 2008 or the mid-term elections of 2006?

Student Research

  1. How effective was Bush’s tendency to create such antithetical language in his leadership on the war on terror? Find two sources that take opposite opinions and see which makes a more compelling argument.
  2. President Bush compares Al-Qaeda to the Nazis. Find a presidential speech from World War II and compare the language it used to describe the Nazis with the language Bush used to describe Al-Qaeda.
  3. How did Bush’s anti-nation building campaign platform from the 2000 presidential election fit with his actions in the war on terror? Use three different research tools–one conversation, one print source, and one electronic database–to learn about the campaign issue; then prepare to discuss.
  4. Write a research paper on the USA Patriot Act. Consider how such policies deviated with previous methods of security.
  5. Compare and contrast Bush’s speech before the Joint Session of Congress to his first Inaugural Address. Note the similarities and differences between the two speeches in relation to the president’s language and goals on matters of U.S. foreign policy.
  6. Locate newspaper stories about the speech before the Joint Session of Congress soon after it was delivered. What did journalists write about the speech?

Citizenship Resources

  1. Locate two sources (one print and one electronic) that detail contemporary attitudes toward the war on terrorism. In what ways are attitudes different or similar to those views articulated in Bush’s speech before the Joint Session of Congress?
  2. Watch President George W. Bush’s September 23, 2003, address to the U.N. General Assembly ( or read a transcript of that speech ( Compare and contrast–in an essay or an impromptu speech–Bush’s September 20th speech with his speech two years later delivered before the United Nations.
  3. Remembering the often quoted words of, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” in President Bush’s September 20 speech, examine his speech on Palestine’s leadership ( Did he deploy a similar prose and sentiment in the subsequent speech?
  4. Security issues are likely to play an important part in the next series of elections. Find several sources that discuss their importance in securing votes for politicians.  Then offer your own opinion about whether security issues should take precedent over other issues when choosing which candidate to vote for.
  5. Search the Web to find sites devoted to promoting or discrediting the U.S. war on terror. How is the role of the United States portrayed in the war on terror? What kinds of things are said about the United States or about George W. Bush? From reviewing these sites, is the credibility of the United States seemingly advanced or debased because of the war on terror? What political motives might the sponsors have in sponsoring such sites?
  6. Survey the Web to identify sites which reflect upon the events of September 11, 2001. How are the events of that day remembered? What are the central subjects covered in such sites? Who are the sponsors of these sites? What political motives might they have in promoting such sites? What visual images predominate on these sites? Based on their content, how do you think 9/11 will be remembered by the American people?

Last updated March 24, 2016