Chapman discusses war, terrorism and unity

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 23, 2004

State Auditor Beth Chapman was the guest speaker for the Greenville Rotary Club Thursday to discuss her book The Power of Patriotism-The Speech Heard Around the World.

Chapman, a former resident of Greenville and graduate of Fort Dale Academy, composed the book from her experience writing a patriotic four minute speech in Feb. of 2003 at the outset of the war with Iraq. The speech was well traveled reaching all 50 states and 18 countries. It became a world-renowned Internet phenomenon.

The speech reached several aircraft carriers including the USS Kitty Hawk and USS Abraham Lincoln and was read in the Pentagon, White House and NASA.

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Soldiers in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq also read her speech.

Chapman received thousands of emails, phone calls and letters from veterans, soldiers, their family members and citizens showing their support for her speech, which praised the military and condemned the anti-American statements made by Hollywood liberals.

Chapman's book includes examples of the thousands of real life stories she received from soldiers on the battlefields, veterans and family members of servicemen and women.

Chapman said her support of the troops has garnered some criticism.

"Some people think anyone who supports the military is a war monger," said Chapman. "I assure you, I have two sons and two brothers. For me to be a war monger would be quite a foolish thing."

Chapman said she was not a war monger, but she knew war had always been a part of the world.

"I loathe war, but I think war is inevitable," said Chapman. "I think the battle of good and evil has always been since the beginning of time."

Chapman said about half the book was composed of emails from family members and others connected to 9/11. Chapman said many of the emails touched her deeply.

"About 50 percent of the book is from wives, husbands, moms and dads who lost someone in 9/11 or veterans who said they came home and someone spit on them," said Chapman. "Many nights in my home I was literally moved to tears and sat for hours reading emails. I would be crying and trying to answer every one of them."

Chapman's book was used by one Army Sergeant to boost the morale of his soldiers the first day they marched on the streets of Baghdad. She said this was one of the most dear to her heart.

"One of the emails was from a gentleman from Indiana who was his early 40's and his time was up," said Chapman. "He reenlisted and went back and his sister gave him a copy of my speech. He wrote me a handwritten letter that said, "My guys marched in Baghdad today. These were 27-year-old kids who were not prepared, were not ready and were scared to death. I read your speech and there was not a dry eye in the room. I motivated those troops with that speech and we went and marched into Baghdad for the first time."

Chapman said if she could help just one troop with her actions it was well worth it.

"If it motivates one young man or woman who served I'm proud," said Chapman. "I continue to get emails each week from troops that are coming home. I am proud to help."

Chapman said she hoped people would remember just how fortunate Americans are for the freedoms our servicemen and women fight to protect. Chapman said she was shown a very simple test to help people realize America was the greatest country in the world.

"A friend of mine the other week said take your finger and outline every country on the globe," said Chapman. "When you come back around full circle take your finger and put it on any country where you would have it better than you do right now in America."

Since 9/11 Chapman said the level of security has tightened significantly. Chapman said it was important for Americans to understand terrorism is alive and new threats are always possible. However, she also said the threat of terrorism has also created a sense of unity among Americans.

"I tell people all the time America is not immune to terrorism," said Chapman. "But at the same time we are not going to lay down. I guess if you can find anything good about 9/11 there is a unity of spirit. There is a unity people feel."

Chapman said this is perfectly clear to anyone who visits the site hardest hit by 9/11.

"New Yorkers are very nice now," said Chapman. "It's fascinating. You will see a total spiritual change among the average New Yorker. They are very changed people from what happened in 9/11."

Chapman's speech can be seen at