Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic speech to Congress would be emotionally searing and extraordinarily powerful. But Wednesday’s speech was more than that.
Zelensky’s words are not just destined for the history books. They are likely to energize support for Ukraine’s defense against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war machine and reverberate across the United States.
When America’s leading Democrats and Republicans stood side by side to give Zelensky a standing ovation, we knew the Ukrainian president had left his mark. Zelensky, reminding Americans what freedom really means after the country spent years devaluing it in petty political battles, shows that there is a new seriousness in the nation.
“Members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, Americans, friends,” he said, because he had a specific mission for each of them: a role they could play to help save not only Ukraine, but potentially the future of democracy and peace. “At this moment, the fate of our country is being decided…” he declared, “whether the Ukrainians will be free.” But this is not just his battle, he insisted. “The Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting for the values of Europe and the world.”
After showing a harrowing video of Ukrainians enduring Russia’s offensive, he switched from Ukrainian to English and spoke directly to the US president. “I am grateful to President Biden for his personal involvement, for his sincere commitment to Ukraine. and democracy around the world,” he said, noting Biden’s leadership in providing sanctions, military support and a unified international front against Russia.
“Thank you,” he told Biden and the American people, but we need more.
Grasping Biden rhetorically by the lapels, he said:
“You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I want you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”