White House issues guidelines for 9/11 commemorations

The Takeaway

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With the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the horizon, the Obama administration has quietly issued two sets of guidelines to all federal agencies, both domestic and abroad, about certain messages and comportment that the White House would like emphasized this year.

The guidelines are quite extensive, encouraging acts of public service and remembrance as opposed to freedom rallies or nationalistic pride. The White House's message intends to commemorate those who died in the attacks and have served the U.S. overseas since, but also call to mind the impact of terrorism around the world.

"Al-Qaida and extremist groups have carried out attacks elsewhere around the world and there are other countries and other citizens who have been victims of terrorists," said Eric Schmitt, New York Times correspondent on terrorism. Schmitt also pointed out that this year's 9/11 message intends to "honor those contributions as well."

Like the messages of other nations that have long been beleaguered by terrorism, such as the U.K. and Israel, the Obama administration wants to underscore the idea of resilience.

"The American people are still kind of new at [resilience]," Schmitt said. "So there's a concern that if there is another terrorism attack that the country not overreact to it and play into the hands of terrorists."

According to Schmitt, the duality of the two messages marks the Obama administration's desire "to strike a delicate balance between these two very important but different audiences: the foreign audience and the domestic." The guidelines will help recognize all of the U.S.'s allies in the War on Terror, while also pointing out all the measures the federal government has put forth that have kept Americans safer.

"It's trying to send the message that [9/11] is not about us altogether," Schmitt said. "The tone is to make a rather low-key approach to these commemorations."


"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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