President George W. Bush spoke only once Thursday night, but his message was directed at many.
The immediate audience was a joint session of Congress. The extended audience included tens of millions of Americans watching their televisions or listening to their radios. None could have been disappointed.
The president spoke plainly, forcefully, with passion and compassion as he described the wounds this nation has suffered, the action it will take to avenge past acts of terrorism, especially the attacks of September 11, and the initiatives he plans to protect against similar attacks in the future.
No gilded lilies: He did not try to give Americans a false sense of security, and he made it clear that the war against terrorism will be long and expensive. The cost will not only be counted in dollars spent, but in lives lost.
There has been much talk about the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and the attack on the Pentagon as defining moments for this nation. But nations are not defined by moments. Their greatness is established over weeks, months and years.
It is not enough for the American people to commit themselves to the cause of justice and freedom today. They will have to rededicate themselves to the task again and again and again. When the body bags begin arriving home. When energy prices soar. When they are inconvenienced by heightened security measures. When the terrorists strike back.
Each time our national resolve will be tested, and each time the American people will have to respond.
More messages: President Bush also delivered a message to our allies Thursday -- one that said we must work together for our common good, fighting terrorism whenever and wherever it is found. If one free nation is wounded by terrorists, all suffer.
And finally, he sent a strong message to terrorists and those states that sponsor or condone it. We will define our enemies by the company that they keep. A nation cannot call itself a good neighbor to the United States if it allows a nest of vipers to exist in its backyard and roam the neighborhood. If the neighbor does not destroy the snakes, the United States will come over the fence and do the job itself.