The Corner

What a Scene

This is from the pool report (from a New York Times reporter, no less)  coming out of the president’s Cuba speech today:

The president’s motorcade to the State Department was on time and uneventful. He spoke in the Ben Franklin Room, one of the department’s ceremonial rooms on the 8th floor. Five Cuban women and a young lady, relatives of jailed dissidents, arrived on a temporary dais a few moments before him and were greeted by a long standing ovation. The president spoke of each in the speech, which you’ll see, but they were from left to right, according to the list provided by the press office: Damaris Garcia, Mirta Pernet, Olga Alonso, YamileLlanes Labrada, Miss Melissa Gonzalez and her mother, Marlenis Gonzalez. The audience included several members of Congress, ambassadors and members of the Cuban-American community, whom the president thanked for attending.

 

To the president’s right sat Stephen Hadley, John Negroponte and Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary, as well as Condoleezza Rice, who introduced the president and thanked him for his dedication to the “nonnegotiable demands of human dignity.” Her introduction ended with a standing ovation. His remarks were interrupted nearly two dozen times by applause and/or standing ovations, some of them lengthy. This was a distinctly receptive and friendly audience. He spoke several phrases and sentences in Spanish, and there was a simultaneous translation, which appeared to be for at least Ms.Labrada and Miss Gonzalez, since they held the translation receivers.When he spoke of the Gonzalezes, the daughter began to cry. Her mother, also teary, passed a tissue to her at one point.

 

The last part of the speech was a direct appeal to the Cubans, including the military, police and government officials, which he noted was being broadcast into Cuba via Radio Marti. He ended with: “Vive Cuba libre.”

 

After another prolonged ovation, he turned to each of the women behind him and spoke  briefly to them. He kissed Ms. Gonzalez on the forehead. She began crying again. He then moved off the dais to the front row, waving his hand from the hip at Miss Gonzalez as he passed, and worked his way down the line, shaking hands as the pool had to leave.

 

The motorcade returned to the White House uneventfully, arriving at 1:55.

God bless them. 

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