The life of Robert C. Byrd is a classic American story of hard work and dedication. Byrd was born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina on November 20, 1917. Byrd was orphaned when his mother died just after his first birthday. Fortunately, Byrd had an aunt and uncle in West Virginia that raised him. Byrd excelled in the classroom graduating as valedictorian of his high school during the despair of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Due to financial circumstances, Byrd was unable to afford a college education. He sought employment at various jobs learning various blue-collar skills. Byrd was fortunate enough to have learned the skill of welding; thus, he was able to work in shipyards in Baltimore, Maryland and Tampa, Florida building war ships such as the Liberty and Victory during World War II. At wars end, Byrd returned to his native West Virginia with a newfound enthusiasm and desire to lead his state to prominence. Byrd was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegate in 1946. After two terms, Byrd was elected to the West Virginia Senate then to the United States House of Representatives and finally, in 1958, Byrd was elected to the United States Senate. Byrd has been serving in the Senate for nearly 50 years and has had the privilege of serving on more leadership positions in the Senate than any other Senator in Senate history. Byrd is currently a member of numerous Senate committees including appropriations, armed services, rules, and budget committee.

    The occasion on which Senator Robert Byrd spoke was one as dreadfully depressing as the weather in Washington on the February day on which the speech occurred. This occasion was far more serious than the administrative details of office management. You see, this day, like the many before it, stood at the edge of war. The purpose of this speech was to spark debate, persuade constituents, influence presidential action, foster diplomacy, continue a method of peaceful foreign policy, and encourage public opinion. This speech was an element of the ongoing attempt to prevent a war with Iraq. This speech has not yet endured the test of time to label it as a historically significant piece of oratory; however, it does reflect an ideological standpoint of many Americans and a sizable portion of the American political system. Nevertheless, the issues discussed within the speech certainly have immediate historical significance. Senator Byrd discusses the issue concerning the current lack of support from the United Nations. Byrd’s assertion suggests a major shift in American foreign policy and military intervention. Byrd suggests that immediate action in Iraq would have a detrimental effect on long standing allied ties that would be difficult to repair. Byrd (2003) embodies this position in reference to the "doctrine of preemption--- the idea that the United States or any other nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future—is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self-defense" (¶5). Furthermore, immediate action in Iraq could possibly lead to an exorbitant amount of national debt; thus, driving the economy into deeper recession. Byrd expands this notion with examples of current financial situations within the United States. Byrd (2003) says: "This administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see" (¶8). Continuing along the pathway of dissenting remarks, Byrd offered opinion concerning the high alert of terror within America. Byrd (2003) states: "Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur" (¶6). The above examples embody the three fundamental concerns of war as proposed by the Byrd speech. As Fischer (2003 p.2) notes, Byrd has three critical concerns. Byrd is concerned about the international precedent set by attacking a sovereign nation without first being attacked. Secondly, Byrd is frightened, not just for soldiers abroad but for Americans at home who could be left open to terrorist attacks. Thirdly, Byrd worries there is little strategy or money for rebuilding a post-war Iraq.

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