Henry V and Bush II
Scripps-Howard News Service 10.10.01
My first column for 2001
commented on the remarkable change in the demeanor of then president-elect
George W. Bush, a transformation from uncertain winner to man-in-charge.
The spectacle invited an historic parallel and, because the events
of the last days confirmed the validity of that parallel, I shall
begin by reproducing the relevant passages.
"Students of history might contemplate the life of Henry,
Prince of Wales, son of King Henry IV, affectionately known as Hal
- one of Shakespeare's favorite characters.
"In his early years, Prince Hal got into some questionable
company and engaged in activities best forgotten, much of it connected
with the excessive enjoyment of intoxicating beverages.
"When suddenly, upon the death of his father, he became King
Henry V, many who had known him during his years of abandon thought
little of the event. They figured only that they would now have
an old crony on the throne. 'King Hal, my royal Hal!' exclaims Sir
John Falstaff, expecting to encounter the same person who had spent
countless rowdy nights in the tavern he calls home.
"The young king's stunning answer to Falstaff is commended
to the attention of friend and foe: 'Presume not that I am the thing
The event to test the mettle of the young king arrived in the form
of tennis balls sent by the Dauphin of France, accompanied by sarcastic
reminders of Henry's youth. The message carried to the king by the
French ambassadors was tantamount to a declaration of war. Henry
V responded on Saint Crispin's Day in what is known as the Battle
True, the battle he won was against overwhelming odds. The French
armies, led by highly experienced knights, vastly outnumbered the
British. But George W. Bush had to overcome forces highly organized
and pitched against him in his own land - forces that no president
in living memory had to face. He was treated not only with hostility,
but with contempt.
And then the hour struck, and George W. Bush faced Congress and
the People of the United States. "He to-day that sheds his
blood with me shall be my brother, be he ne'er so vile..."
exclaims King Henry as dawn breaks over the fields of Agincourt.
I do not know whether the president's speech writers study Shakespeare,
and President Bush does not command the delivery of a Lawrence Olivier.
Yet the world fell silent when he extended the call, even to the
ever-so vile, to join him. And none could fail to hear the warning
issued to those who would choose the other side. All understood
there was a decision to be made, one time, irrevocable.
Lessons of history used to guide us in times of need. Certainly,
the men who wrote America's charters would have been lost without
But history, our own and that of the world, has been systematically
taken from us. Disguised as "National Standards for U.S. History,"
the effort was spearheaded by the history department of the University
of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the ideology provided by one
Gary Nash whose political views appear indistinguishable from the
ones I had been fed while growing up in Soviet-occupied Hungary.
Since 1995, the "Standards" have taken over history instruction
everywhere in the land with devastating results. Even valiant efforts,
such as the Gilder Lehrman Institute's High School for American
History, are hostage to books that represent a collection of the
irrelevant, the untrue, the downright anti-American.
As we slowly regain our common American identity, we must also
reconnect ourselves to History. Our young need to understand that
we are defending more than a sense of security when we go to a ball
game, or the choice of a dozen fast foods on every corner. They
need to become aware of America's place in the larger scheme of
It has taken the entire length of mankind's existence to create
a land in which people can travel societies' avenues up, down, and
sideways, with nothing to stand in the way of someone who swept
floors yesterday to split atoms tomorrow. It has taken a most unusual
propensity for living by the law to have avoided all the tempests
that were the undoing of other societies. It has taken the Founders'
divine inspiration and any number of minor miracles to erect an
umbrella under which the wretched of the world became saviors of
the world. Our young need to know.
And our enemies need to know. Godspeed, Mr. President. You have
found the ways to let everyone know.