U.S. President Barack Obama reworked his historic Hiroshima speech many times as he prepared to deliver it last Friday, hoping to make it both “profoundly realist” and “idealistic,” a top aide said.

Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser and top speechwriter for the president, wrote in his personal blog that, as the first American president to pay respects in Hiroshima since the atomic bombing of the city on Aug. 6, 1945, Obama worked hard to make sure his speech would be “a broad reflection on what we must learn from history.”

“Over the course of our trip, the President continually reworked his speech, consistently making a broader reflection on what we must learn from history,” Rhodes wrote, “and combining a profoundly realist message about mankind’s impulse towards conflict with an idealistic call for nations — and peoples — to see beyond their differences to the ‘radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family.’ ”

Rhodes’ blog contains a picture of the beginning part of Obama’s handwritten speech, which reads, “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.” A few lines later, a few words were crossed out, showing how the president labored through each phrase.

Obama laid a wreath at the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and delivered a 17-minute speech in Hiroshima Memorial Park on Friday evening. The speech’s sheer length surprised many, as White House officials had said it would only be short.

The blog also carries a White House official photo of the president’s inscription in the guest book at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, with two orange paper cranes that Obama reportedly folded himself placed on the side.

The blog entry, which summarizes Obama’s visit of Vietnam and Japan last week, emphasizes the Hiroshima visit was not an apology trip. “He did not go to apologize, and Americans remain rightly proud of our defense of freedom in World War II.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.