Zelenskyy Invokes Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in Impassioned Speech to Congress

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a powerful speech to Congress on Wednesday morning, invoking Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in an attempt to connect his country’s dire situation with past American struggles.

Zelenskyy, who has emerged as a Ukrainian national hero as he rallies his country from Kyiv, wore his now-trademark green T-shirt as he cast Russia’s invasion of his country, which he called “the worst war since World War II,” as an attack on western values writ large.

Pivoting to concrete demands, Zelenskyy repurposed the words of Martin Luther King Jr. to request that the U.S. declare a no-fly zone over Russia, an action that would be tantamount to declaring war against a nuclear power. The Biden administration has ruled out that possibility, and Zelenskyy seemed to concede that it was a nonstarter, requesting other forms of assistance in the next breath:

Last week, Congress enthusiastically approved a $13.6 billion spending package to help Ukraine, which includes military and humanitarian aid. Zelenskyy requested that the U.S. pass additional aid packages every week and sanction all remaining Russian officials still in the country.

Zelenskyy then played a heartrending video that included photos and footage of death and destruction around Ukraine since the invasion began. Many members of Congress were in tears.

(Warning: graphic content.) 

The Ukrainian president ended his speech in English, reflecting on the toll the invasion has taken on his country and himself: “Now, I’m almost 45 years old. Today my age stopped when the hearts of more than 100 children stopped beating. I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths.”

He addressed his final remarks to President Biden: “To be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”

Congress then gave him a standing ovation.

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Zelenskyy Invokes 9/11 in Impassioned Speech to Congress