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Pride of a Nation

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
May 5, 2011


“So, what do you think?” The brief email from a key White House official greeted me Monday morning, along with Osama bin Laden's death notices. “It's the best I've felt about my country since 9/11,” I responded. He shot back: “It's a whole new world.”

He wasn't far off. Of course, the tremulous world hasn't changed. But the mood in America—and the confidence levels at the White House—have zoomed skyward. The skilled killing of bin Laden has united the nation behind Obama. It gives him the power to get hard things done. Just as 9/11 transformed an unpopular and divisive President George W. Bush and empowered him enormously, so 5/1 hands President Obama the rarest of chances to lead. Both great tragedies and stunning successes grant special powers—powers that can perish quickly if not wielded swiftly and confidently.

Bin Laden's dispatch was a triumph on several counts.

It is almost unanimously regarded as just. Bin Laden was a mass killer, a hero to very few. The feelings about his timely departure are unequivocal, especially here in America. What a rare unity of emotion that is. It's hard to remember a comparable moment, save for 9/11 itself.

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