Third Memorial Day Keynote
I am especially grateful for the chance to speak out during these difficult times. Last Memorial Day, our nation enjoyed relative peace. Since then, we have been thrust into a war testing whether a nation such as ours can long endure.
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 all. However, if we should cease striving for those ideals defined by our founding fathers, what would it matter that our borders were secure?
Let us start with the defense of our nation.
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 finds us, we are up to the challenge. The gravestones of those we honor today are testament to the sacrifices we are willing to make when we are threatened.
Today, we are under siege again. After we showed extraordinary restraint in the face of repeated provocations, we were attacked in a manner so vicious and so senseless, that we were left with no choice but to meet this threat and destroy it.
Our enemies despise us. They believe we are weak because we love peace and 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.
It is our collective will which makes those individual rights possible.
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 some 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 will not be easy. Our enemies are well trained, well armed, fanatics. They are filled with the strength born of hate. The fight is going to be long and difficult. It will require fortitude and perseverance from us all. We do not yet know the names of the places or the faces the heroes that will be engraved on our hearts. We do not know who will be called to make difficult sacrifice to assure the survival of our great Republic. We do know they will come forth when our nation calls. Future Memorial Days will see names added to the rolls of our honored heroes. This saddens us. But it does not weaken our resolve.
Our fanatical and suicidal enemies believe themselves martyrs. If so, they are martyred to an evil cause. The honored dead we mark today are the true martyrs. They stepped forward willingly, risking their lives, to defend our American dream, our Constitution, and all the rights and liberties that go with them. 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. 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 will be 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.