Mrs. Semar taught our high school English class to appreciate good literature, to avoid using words like ‘beautiful’, ‘great’, ‘amazing’, and ‘incredible’, and to be careful, when referring to a source, that we not twist it for current purposes contrary to the author’s intent.
Last week the White House website posted President Trump’s March 3rd Weekly Address.
“I’m joining you today from the deck of what will be our Nation’s newest aircraft carrier…. Our carriers are the centerpiece of American military might, projecting power and our totally unparalleled strength at sea.
“This beautiful new warship represents the future of naval aviation, and she will serve as a cornerstone of our national defense for decades and decades to come.”
It goes on to cite “a famous aviator [who] once wrote that to build a truly great ship, we shouldn’t begin by gathering wood, cutting boards, or distributing work, but instead by awakening within the people a ‘desire for the vast and endless sea.'”
English literary critics who have searched for the unidentified “famous aviator” author most often point to a paragraph by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (best known for The Little Prince) in Section LXXV of his work Citadelle:
“One will weave the canvas; another will fell a tree by the light of his ax. Yet another will forge nails, and there will be others who observe the stars to learn how to navigate. And yet all will be as one. Building a boat isn’t about weaving canvas, forging nails, or reading the sky. It’s about giving a shared taste for the sea, by the light of which you will see nothing contradictory but rather a community of love.”
The sea metaphor is refers to “a community of love,” a matter of poetic hope for a peaceful world. Other researchers trace “a desire for a vast and endless sea” to a number of other sources, but in no case is the poetic “desire for a vast and endless sea” used to beat the drums for military build-up.
The Weekly Address was poorly written in grandiose style, complete with capitalization of the word ‘nation’ (‘Nation’- as in the greatest, the best, the exceptional ‘Nation’ that stands alone above the lesser ‘nations’).
“Investing in the military means investing in peace, and it is an investment in the incredible men and women who serve every day to keep our country safe.
“These are exciting times and amazing opportunities are unfolding before us. If we all work together, then anything is possible.” – POTUS, 2017.
It was the President’s message of March 3, 2017, years after Mrs. Semar died, but her red pen is still in my head. “Stop using those words, Donald, and please strike the word ‘then’. No need for ‘then’ following the conditional clause that begins ‘if'”. Please show some respect for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and read The Little Prince again.
The White House needs a good editor – not Steve Bannon – and the Presidential bedroom needs better literature than Breitbart News. Where is Mrs. Semar when the President needs her?
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, March 10, 2017.