U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama REUTERS

As America observed the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, Sunday, President Barack Obama and his predecesssor, George W. Bush, both addressed crowds as ceremonies were held at various locations.

Both men have led the decade-long "war on terror," with Bush launching the campaign and sending U.S. troops into Iraq and Afghanistan while Obama is the man who almost 10 years after 9/11 authorised the secret assault in Pakistan that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.

The two presidents, however, had very different tones throughout their speeches, which may have reflected their different time in office and different way of handling the aftermath of attacks and the strategy used to answer to it.

Ten years ago, Bush promised to hunt down those responsible, repeating publicly several times that the al-Qaida leader was wanted dead or alive. While his administration was behind the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has had to deal with the domestic impacts of the war which include the huge financial cost, the loss of life, the return of wounded veterans and the lack of security still prevalent in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite all this, Obama will be inscribed as the man who gave Americans a sense of justice by killing bin Laden.

Obama's speech seemed to focus on the domestic impacts of the war, positioning him as the leader of the people, who having defeated the country's worst enemy now calls for peace.

"Two million Americans have gone to war since 9/11 ... Too many will never come home. Those that do carry dark memories from distant places, and the legacy of fallen friends," Obama said in a speech to the invited audience at a "Concert for Hope" Sunday evening at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

"Our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace," said Obama, presaging the final withdrawal of American troops from both Afghanistan and Iraq.

On Saturday, however, Bush took center stage at the United Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pa., recalling his vision of the United States as a worldwide defender of values such as liberty and democracy.

"The temptation of isolation is deadly wrong," Bush said. "A world of dignity and liberty and hope will be safer and better for all. And the surest way to move toward that vision is for the United States of America to lead the cause of freedom."

His words seemed to imply that his "war on terror" and "promotion of democracy" may have played a part in inspiring the Arab Spring.

Bush also praised the military. "They have kept us safe, they have made us proud," he said.

While the U.S. has killed bin Laden along with numerous al-Qaida leaders, reducing its operational capabilities, the new governments in Iraq and Afghanistan are still stymied by insurgencies and rampant corruption. Also, in both countries, the condition and rights of women have been met with very little progress.