Loyalty Day Speech
Distinguished guests, good friends, fellow veterans, fellow Americans: I am very honored to be here with you today. My sincere thanks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars for offering this opportunity.
I am especially grateful for the chance to speak out during these difficult times. War has been declared upon us. A war unlike any our nation has fought in the past. This war will test whether a peaceful, liberty loving nation such as ours can long endure in the face of the irrational deep seeded hate of our enemies and their cynical, opportunistic, leaders who fan the flames of hate for their own purposes. It is these leaders, attempting to gain all power for themselves who use their supporters, convincing them to commit the vilest acts against humanity, for the sole purpose of increasing their own influence and power.
This war is testing our courage and resolve in ways we could not have anticipated. At the same time, it is testing our restraint and fairness. Our ability to balance the need for aggressive violent conflict against our foes with the requirement for good sense and compassion for those who are not our enemies will determine victory or defeat.
We are faced with two distinct, but inseparable challenges: the defense of our nation; and the defense of our national values. Both are under attack, and both battles must be won. If we lose our nation, we lose everything. However, if we should cease striving for those ideals defined by our founding fathers, what would it matter that our borders were secure. We would be defeated by our own hand.
Let us start with the defense of our nation.
First let us remember the extraordinary restraint we showed in the face of repeated provocations. This war was not begun on September 11, 2001. It had already been in progress for at least two decades by that time. Let us not forget the earlier attacks upon our nation and its people. The USS Cole was bombed in October of 2000. In August, 1998 the American embassies at Nairobi Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania were destroyed; in June 1996 it was the Khobar Towers in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. The World Trade Center was first attacked in February 1993; the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in October 1983; and the US Embassy in Lebanon in April of the same year. During those two decades before 9/11 nearly 600 people died in terrorist attacks on the United States and thousands were injured. In each case our response was what many would call "measured." I don't think anybody would ever say we overreacted.
We Americans have always been reluctant to go to war. We are by nature a peaceful people. We do not seek wars of aggression or conquest. In the past, when we have been forced to fight, we have fought vigorously, won honorably, and returned to our homes. We Americans seek only to live in peace with our neighbors.
However, when war has found us, we have always been up to the challenge. On battlefields in every corner of the globe, young men and women have struggled, suffered, and died, to ensure that our nation continues to serve the world as the beacon of hope for all mankind.
The gravestones of the valiant heroes of many wars past are testament to the sacrifices we are willing to make when our liberty is threatened. Many of you here have made great sacrifice for the continuing freedom of this nation.
Today, we are called once again to defend our nation and our Dream, both on the battlefield and here at home. Our enemies despise us. They think that we are weak because we love peace and believe they are strong because they bring violence. They have vowed the destruction of our society and called for death to all Americans. They believe we are decadent because of our love of liberty and respect for the rights of each person.
However, even though we cherish our rights; although we treasure each individual life and mourn the loss of even one; we know that our cause is much greater than any single person. It is our collective will which makes those individual rights possible. We know well that our way of life cannot long endure without diligent and vigorous defense by us all. We will defend our nation, and everything it stands for.
Right now, there are valiant men and women fighting fierce battles. A few we hear about, and many others that we don't. I can tell you that those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are America's best, and they are winning. Our enemies have underestimated the skill, professionalism, and courage of the men and women of our military. They have underestimated the power of our weapons. And, most important, they have underestimated the single-minded determination of the American people.
This war is not easy. Our enemies are well armed, fanatics. They are filled with the strength born of hate. The fight will be long and difficult. It will require fortitude and perseverance from us all.
Let me just add that although we who have fought, have made great sacrifices, we would not want to be seen as victims. We have defended our nation with pride. We have always known, as our forebears did that the victories we achieve are not necessarily for us, but for our children, grandchildren and all Americans who follow us. We know when we step forward to defend our Constitution, that we may not survive the effort. But that does not make us victims. All those white crosses, stars and crescents in all those national cemeteries do not represent victims…they represent heroes of the highest order…idealists who fought to defend a great cause. The cause of liberty and the rights of the individual; the opportunity to follow whatever path we choose, and use our talents as we see fit. It is this, the American Dream, that has made us the greatest nation in the history of the world. Those heroes, coming from every religious and ethnic background, fought and died for the right of every American, regardless of heritage, to enjoy the rights won by our forefathers.
And that brings us to the second item: defense of our national values here at home.
Let me tell you just a bit of the truth of this conflict. I have been to Afghanistan and I have close friends in Iraq right now. Let me try to impress upon you how important it is that we not paint all Muslims as our enemy, or all Arabs or all Afghanis. Keep in mind, the great majority of Iraqis and Afghanis just want to live their lives as peacefully and prosperously as possible, worshiping God, raising their children, speaking their minds freely…rights that we Americans have taken for granted for centuries. In order for us to claim victory we must walk away confident that the good and peace loving majority in all the nations afflicted by terrorism, will be able to enjoy "Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And, in the process, we must be absolutely certain that we don't deny our own citizens those rights.
In this country each of us understands that if we want to enjoy those rights guaranteed by our Constitution, we must defend the right of the other person to do the same. Each time we have been called to defend our nation, we Americans of all colors, from all backgrounds, have fought with and for each other.
We Americans from every region, race and religion on the earth have formed a single, strong, unified, powerful nation. If all nations would follow our example, there would be no wars; no need for sad remembrances of our honored dead; no grieving loved ones at home.
Sadly, the rest of the world has not realized what we Americans have been learning; and struggling with; and improving upon; for the past two and a quarter centuries…that treating all people as fairly as possible, and giving each an honest opportunity, based on ability and energy, is the key to progress, prosperity and ultimately to peace.
Some of us Americans come from the same heritage as those we fight. These Americans are not our enemies. It is not the color of the skin, or the features of a face that make an enemy. Not the ancestry or the spelling of the name, or the sound of the speech. Unique traditions, or spices in the food, or the tone of the music do not make an enemy.
Those who make themselves our enemies do so by their twisted hearts and their festering hate. We will not permit their hate to drive us apart or push us into blaming our fellow Americans. We will not answer their wrong with wrong. And we will never allow them to gain victory by provoking us into destroying ourselves. We will continue to fight side by side with each other and for each other.
Generations of young men and women have heard the call to battle. Each time there has been a threat, they have risen to the challenge, stepped forward to serve, and made great sacrifice to defend the promise of our American way of life. Let us serve notice that it is no different, this time. Our enemies will learn too late that they have awakened a sleeping giant.
We American individuals, fiercely independent; protective of our rights; wanting only the opportunity to live in peace; but angered by the contemptible actions of our enemies, are united in our determination to restore orderly peace, and defeat the forces of chaos. We will be relentless in defense of our liberty. We will seek out our adversaries in the dark corners where they hide; we will hunt them down and we will destroy them. We will fight shoulder to shoulder, as hard as we must, for as long as it takes. And, ultimately, we will be victorious.
May God protect us and may God bless America.