Mayor Giuliani’s Speech to the un general Assembly on Terrorism



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Alexandria DeNunzio
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Professor Hoffman
5 August 2015

Mayor Giuliani’s Speech to the UN General Assembly on Terrorism
On October 1st 2001, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Terrorism. This speech was in light of the atrocious terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, which sent two planes into the Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon. These acts were an act of terror promulgated by the group Al-Qaeda under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden. This speech is crucial because it is the beginning of the plea to the United Nations to begin acting against terrorism. In addition, this speech was given only three weeks after the attacks shows particular strength and perseverance from the city of New York. The speech itself can be seen through an ideographic, civil religion and shared text lens that put forth strong words about the city of New York, Mayor Giuliani and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The insights gained will hopefully make one aware of the combination of constitutive rhetoric, ideographs and pure emotion can be an extremely successful one on the political stage.

The orator of this speech is Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Prior to be elected Mayor of New York City, Giuliani graduated form New York University Law School in 1968 (Biography of Rudolph Giuliani). In 1983, Giuliani was appointed U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York where he “spearheaded the effort to jail drug dealers, fight organized crime, break the web of corruption in government and prosecute white-collar criminals; he had 4,152 convictions with only 25 reversals including cases he had against the Italian Mafia (Biography of Rudolph Giuliani). In 1989, Giuliani decided to run for Mayor of New York City but lost. In 1993, his campaign focused primarily on reforms on quality of life, business, education and crime won him the election (Biography of Rudolph Giuliani). He made New York more accountable by reducing crime by 57% and murder by 65% (Biography of Rudolph Giuliani). His tax reform and fiscal responsibility took New York from a $2.3 million dollar budget deficit into a multi billion-dollar surplus, adding jobs and making New York City a hot spot for tourism (Biography of Mayor Giuliani). Giuliani has been characterized as a “no nonsense” tough on crime leader. He appointed Police Commissioner, William Bratton, and both believed in a “broken window” theory of crime where small crimes can lead to a lawless environment and create larger crimes (Thomas,1). This persona was absolutely transmitted in Giuliani’s Speech after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This Speech at the UN was part of a weeklong forum to discuss terrorism for the first time since the attacks (Christensen).

New York City after the attacks on 9/11 was in shambles. Many felt hopeless and lived in fear of terrorists. Whenever a situation like this occurs the electorate look to their leaders for guidance and assurance that all will go on as normal. This has proven to be especially true in history with Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression and World War II. September 11th 2001 was no different and President George W. Bush and Mayor Rudy Giuliani were under the magnifying glass of the media and public on how they would respond. Now, many have a disdain on how politicians handled themselves during this time and the “War on Terror” but in 2001 that was not the case. People were looking for a leader after those horrifying events. Giuliani’s speech was held in high regard by the media as a result. After 9/11 Giuliani’s popularity soared where the speech was considered impassioned and a rare opportunity for the Mayor, being only the third mayor to address the U.N. (Schemann). He was most remembered through his powerful allusions and didactic tone that unified the audience, which consisted of not only diplomats but also New Yorkers (Schemann). As a result, Giuliani gained respect from many members of the delegation although there was still concern about how to proceed. Still, the speech itself was very well received.

The reason for Giuliani’s success in this speech is for a few things. It was not only his didactic, harsh tone but it had much to do with the type of constitutive rhetoric. Giuliani opens his speech by thanking his fellow delegates and discusses what happened on September 11th 2001. He then launches into his own definition of what it means to be American. He states:

The strength of the American response flows from the principals upon which we stand. Americans are not a single ethnic group. Americans are not one race or religion. Americans emerge from all of your nations. We’re defined as Americans by our beliefs, not by our ethnic origins, our race or religion. Our belief in religious freedom, political freedom, economic freedom—that’s what makes an American. Our belief in democracy, the rule of law and respect for human life.—that’s how you become an American (Giuliani).

He explains that these values are what are crucial to being American and that is what terrorists threaten. By doing this Giuliani traces this throughout the speech to create a good vs. evil rivalry. The constitutive rhetoric then is further used to discuss a “deterrent of terrorism is to spread principles of freedom, rule of law and respect for human life.” By stating this, Giuliani further makes his argument about the spreading of democracy in an, us vs. them standoff. In addition to these statements and Giuliani’s stern “no nonsense” tone and New Yorkers in the audience, contributes to Giuliani being able to inspire animosity towards the behavior of terrorists. With his definition of what an American is, he subsequently defines the converse of that being a terrorist by the Mayor’s standards. Instead of saying “American values, he states specific values that it would be difficult to go against especially anything with freedom attached to it. Instead of sounding imperialistic, Giuliani does an adequate job of gaining the attention of the audience. Giuliani furthers this when he states:

On one side is democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human life; on the other, its tyranny, arbitrary executions, and mass murder. We’re right and they’re wrong. It’s as simple as that. And by that I mean that America and its allies are right about democracy, about religious, political and economic freedom. And the terrorists are wrong and, in fact, evil in their mass destruction of human life in the name of addressing alleged injustices (Giuliani).

In turn, this constitutive rhetoric of respect for the law, economic, political freedoms and value for human life was able to form a rivalry between terrorism and democratic values. Giuliani does this seamlessly without coming off as imperialistic. It brought the European, Asian, Middle Eastern, African nations and America on the same platform. While having diverse backgrounds, much like United States citizens, onto a level playing field. Giuliani advocates that while these nations have different cultures, ones that are not necessarily “American in nature”, that it does not matter. He uses the concepts of Americans, more specifically New Yorkers, as a nation of immigrants are more connected by their values than divided by their differences and that is what Giuliani does in this speech with his constitutive rhetoric of values.

Whilst those values are at work, he adds vivid imagery to the audience’s perspective to appeal to the emotions. When discussing whether or not terrorism is a real threat he states, “the evidence of terrorism’s brutality and inhumanity, of its contempt for life and the concept of peace is lying between the rubble of the World Trade Center, less than two miles from where we meet today (Giuliani).” When the attacks on 9/11 occurred many were aware of the horrors and how many people were not recovered. Giuliani’s vivid imagery and the close proximity of it, brings to life, the reality of a terrorist attack that cannot be accessed while watching television. Giuliani also unites the audience as he claims that terror groups are against the children. Through his statements of “children growing up without fathers and mothers, and parents who have had their children ripped from them,” creates this imagery of going after the innocents in society. Giuliani strategically frames this into a collective villain, terrorists. He presents this in a manner that not only claims terrorists to go against democratic values but also children. By presenting this through an image, it not only vilifies terrorist groups but also plays on the audience’s emotions and unites them against this cause.

Giuliani throughout the speech uses many elements of ideographic nature, civil religion and shared texts. There are a multitude of shared texts that appeal to the audience. Giuliani opens the speech and describes the attacks and states:

On September 11th 2001, New York City—the most diverse city in the world—was viciously attacked… more than five thousand innocent men, women and children of every race, religion and ethnicity are lost. Among these were people from 80 different nations. To their representatives here today, I offer my condolences to you as well on behalf of all New Yorkers who share this loss with you. This was the deadliest attack—terrorist attack in history. It claimed more lives than Pearl Harbor or D-Day (Giuliani).

Giuliani who utilizes the diversity of the audience also employs his knowledge of historical allusions. Pearl Harbor and D-Day were both events that occurred during World War II. World War II is one that was regarded as one that was violent and shook the entire international discourse. Pearl Harbor was considered an attack and act of war from the Japanese on the United States Navy in Hawaii. D-Day was a major turning point during the War where the Allies gained control of the beaches of Normandy, France. The whole precipice of World War II is that it was a war between the Allies and Axis powers. The Allies consisting of the United States and England, pillars of democracy and a free society were going against Germany, Italy and Japan. The Axis was practicing under Fascist regimes and suppressing the rights of their citizens. Many of the main powers within the United Nations were involved in World War II and the fear of those events resonates to this day, in addition to those New Yorkers who are Veterans of World War II. Giuliani employs this allusion to unite the audience under a painful historical memory. By using the statistical evidence and number of deaths from 9/11 it create this anxiety that world violence is escalating. This is efficient in bringing together all the delegates under a collective memory to make the speech more effective.

In addition Giuliani praises the certain values aforementioned and praises them and the United States. He states, “Its these very principles and opportunities these principles give to so many to create a better life for themselves …to make America and New York a shining city on a hill” (Giuliani). This first Biblical allusion has appeared multiple times in the history of the United States. The Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, first uttered it during the Colonial Era. Winthrop stated, “ we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us” (U.S. History). The Massachusetts Bay Colony was filled with Puritans who escaped their European oppressors to practice freedom of religion. The goal was to have the city emulate good values that God would approve of. Massachusetts was considered part of the foundation of the United States and traces back to the roots of what America is all about. Giuliani may have mentioned this to evoke the audience in an aura of nostalgia of American values. The phrase “shining city upon a hill” was also stated during the farewell address of former President Ronald Reagan. Giuliani could have employed this in order to emulate the strength of Ronald Reagan. Reagan was notorious for his stern diplomatic relations especially during the Cold War. His utterance to “tear down this wall Mr. Gorbachev” displayed his conservative and lack of tolerance to the threatening of American values and existence. This could have presented a tough front to the international community that Giuliani, as well, was going to be tough on terrorism and threats to the American values and existence. Giuliani furthers his use of shared texts to unify the audience under the common goal of protecting democracy and shared values to combat the evils of terrorism.

An additional historical allusion Giuliani implements is the mention of Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain is known as the British Prime Minister who, “negotiated with Nazis and emerged hopeful that he had achieved peace in this time. Hitler’s wave of terror was only encouraged by these attempts at appeasement” (Giuliani). He uses Chamberlain as an example of what not to do in international discourse. If Chamberlain took a different stance similar to Giuliani’s on organized crime, Giuliani leads the audience to believe that Hitler never would have rose to power. He argues for a tough united front against terrorism one that does not placate them. In addition, this goes along with his “broken window” philosophy and by taking a stand to this type of behavior early certain violent actions can be prevented. His tough stance against terrorism not only puts forth a conservative international diplomat but one that unites the audience of New Yorkers and citizens. His historical allusions bring together the audience under one umbrella of anti-terrorism with the hopes they can unite and eradicate them together.

In one of his closing arguments Giuliani also employs the shared text “Be Not Afraid and Freedom from Fear.” Freedom from Fear is one of the basic human rights that were put forth by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to outline his war aims and to ensure that the fight in World War II was one for peace and freedom (FDR and the Four Freedom’s Speech). Be Not Afraid is a Biblical verse for those walking on a path to keep walking and God will protect and guide them. Giuliani brings these both to restore faith with the common Biblical text and to ensure that moving forward against terrorism is one that is worth the cause. Franklin D. Roosevelt is considered one of the nation’s greatest Presidents and he too brings forth a unifying voice for the audience and European diplomats that Giuliani successfully utilizes.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is remembered as one of New York City’s greatest mayors through his many accolades. He is remembered as a revered politician and lawyer who successfully took on crime in New York City. Most notably, he is known for his handling of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. He was able to unite a city under a common goal to better New York and combat terrorism. His 2001 speech to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on terrorism does that successfully. He employs multiple historical allusions, shared texts and constitutive rhetoric to not only united the New Yorkers in the audience but also the European diplomats to move forward to combat terrorism.

Works Cited

A. "Biography of Rudolph Giuliani." Biography of Rudolph Giuliani. The City of New York Office of the Mayor. Web. 5 Aug. 2015. .


B. Christensen, Jeff. "Giuliani Addresses U.N. Before Terrorism Debate." USATODAY. USATODAY, 1 Oct. 2001. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.
C. "FDR and the Four Freedoms Speech." Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum. Web. 6 Aug. 2015.
D. Giuliani, Rudolph. "Rudy Giuliani - 9/11 Speech to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Terrorism." American Rhetoric: Rudy Giuliani - 9/11 Speech to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Terrorism. American Rhetoric. Web. 6 Aug. 2015.
E. Schmemann, Serge. "GIULIANI IS BLUNT IN RARE U.N. TALK." The New York Times. The New York Times, 1 Oct. 2001. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.
F. Thomas, Evan. "Growing Up Giuliani." Newsweek. Newsweek, 24 Nov. 2007. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.
G, "The City Upon a Hill." U.S.History. Independence Hall Association. Web. 6 Aug. 2015. .





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