Inauguration Day

Inauguration Day is a special day in America, whether your candidate wins or not. 

On 21 January 2013 I served as the deputy tactical commander for US military medical forces at the 57th Presidential Inauguration, opening the second term for President Barack Obama. All told, nearly 200 military and hundreds of civilian medical personnel provided care to the estimated 800,000 spectators and 10,000 participants. Hundreds of patients ultimately found their way to the dozens of medical tents, aid stations, roving medics, and others involved. Most people were simply cold and aching but a few had heart problems and other more serious conditions. Our National Capital is a beautiful place and the parade was a panoply of music and color. Regardless on one’s political convictions or voting record, everyone on our team was proud to have been a part of this event.

This was my third inauguration; I was the deputy commander of forces from Dewitt Army Community Hospital in 2009 and a spectator at the Bush Inauguration in 2001. In each case I was struck by how many people stayed to watch the presidential motorcade and how few to watch the parade. Even though the motorcade was delayed by over 30 minutes yesterday most of the people lining the route remained. After the president’s armored limo, preceded by press trucks and surrounded by Secret Service, passed by, thousands of spectators disappeared. It was as if the highlight of the day was a chance to see the President.

Two women, African Americans in their early 20s, jumped with joy as he passed, shouting to him and blowing kisses. They had been Democratic campaign volunteers, having spent hours on the phone and door to door grind. Some other black women argued, albeit good naturedly, with each other about which of them Obama had actually waved at. As the limo crept past shouts erupted from the onlookers. Many donned Obama hats, wore Obama T-shirts and carried Obama bags.

I could not help but puzzle at the fascination; almost worship, shown by many in the crowd to the president. Presidents are not generally exceptional in other things that generate such adoration, such as appearance, wealth, or talent in drama, sports or music. Though Obama has a unique standing among African Americans, who were very well represented yesterday, Bush also enjoyed such attention. What is it about the President of the United States that engenders such devotion? How does this feeling continue, though diminished, into the second term despite the inevitable disappointments?

From an economics standpoint, scarcity is a factor. The country needs a president, there are 330 million Americans and there is only one American president, so the supply and demand curve is heavily skewed in his favor. This is certainly one advantage that the president has over Congress and the Courts.

From a success standpoint, simply becoming president makes a person more successful, at least in the eyes of the world, than most people will ever be. Though presidents rarely have movie-star looks or talent, they have been reasonably well appointed and gifted. Success breeds success, and people feel more successful when they are around a successful person.

From an historical standpoint, presidents are part of history, no matter how good or bad, and people with a sense of history, no matter how small, want their fleeting lives anchored in something bigger than themselves. In 2005 I was deployed to Fort Polk to assist with the rebuilding after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While there I visited the Los Adaes State Historic Site and met a worker whose ancestor had been the commander of the Presidio Los Adaes in the early 18th century. When visiting Antietam for the sesquicentennial my son and I were guided by a Park Ranger whose ancestor had fought in the battle. Their history had given these men direction and even purpose, and being a part of presidential history can do that for some.

From a personal interest standpoint, the President, more than any other single individual in America, can advance the interests of one person or party over another. Between the bully pulpit, the appointment of judges, the enforcement of legislation, and the control of the massive executive bureaucracy, the President of the United States can heavily influence who wins and who loses in many fights.

The single greatest factor in the appeal of the presidency is power. While the President exerts control on the domestic scene, he also exerts tremendous power internationally. The American president controls the most powerful military on earth, and the most powerful in human history. Insofar as he can work with Congress he holds vast wealth to distribute to whomever he sees fit. Those who claim that the President of the United States is the most powerful man on earth are probably not too far off the mark. Whether he is too powerful (or some might say not powerful enough) will be the topic of a future article.

All of these factors help us understand the fascination of the onlookers yesterday with the president. But in some cases even more is at play.

The president might be the closest thing to God that some accept. Many refuse to believe in the Biblical God and yet understand that they cannot personally make the world as they wish it to be. So they try to find someone else who can do it for them. Perhaps this is the real reason that Americans are giving their presidents more and more power. Perhaps that is why some Americans make their president an object of veneration.

Those who refuse to accept any reality beyond the physical world must attribute to this world the highest priority. Governing this world then gains the highest urgency. Could this be why zealots left and right seem to hate those who disagree with them, even though they are fellow Americans? Could this explain “gridlock in Washington?” Finally, could this explain the emergence of what many have called The Imperial Presidency?

President’s Day – Christians and the President

American Presidents are extraordinary, and they are ordinary. We should value, and can learn from, them all. 

This President’s Day, it is reasonable for Americans who follow Jesus to consider the President of the United States, the man and the office, and to commit ourselves to praying for him, for the rest of our government at every level, and for our nation.

“The conclusion of a brief speech made by Gen. Garfield at a mass meeting in front of the Merchants’ Exchange in New York City, April 15, 1865, the day of President Lincoln’s death. The excited throng was demanding vengeance upon certain newspapers for utterances considered treasonable; two men lay dying in the street for exulting in assassination, and telegrams from Washington gave intimations of other probable victims of a general conspiracy. At this critical moment, a man known to but few stepped forward, and, beckoning to the crowd with a small flag, spoke these words in a clear and impressive voice:

‘Fellow-citizens,—Clouds and darkness are round about Him. His pavilion is dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. Justice and judgment are the establishment of his throne. Mercy and truth shall go before his face. God reigns, and the government at Washington still lives.’
The effect was instantaneous. The crowd listened, and became calm, and the meeting afterwards was quietly dissolved (http://www.bartleby.com/344/187.html).”

The Power of the President

The President of the United States is considered the most powerful man in the world; primarily because the United States is the most powerful nation in the world. He has command of a military of over 3,000,000 and influences a federal budget of nearly $4 trillion dollars. There are over 310 million Americans, almost 5% of the world’s population, and the US gross domestic product is over $15 trillion, over double that of China, who has the second biggest economy. For the brief time that he is in office, the man who is the President is the personification of America. His may be the most recognizable face on the planet, with people everywhere seeing his face on television, on the Internet, in magazines, and in a thousand other venues.

Within the United States, the power of the President is unequaled. He has what Theodore Roosevelt called a “bully pulpit”, the ability to be heard, but not necessarily agreed with, nationwide on any issue of his choosing. The president will always be more popular than Congress or the Supreme Court because, unless he is an idiot or a sadist, it is always easier to like and harder to dislike an individual than an organization. From 1975 to 2010, Congress’ job approval rating averaged about 35% (http://www.gallup.com/poll/145238/Congress-Job-Approval-Rating-Worst-Gallup-History.aspx) while the President’s, though much more variable, has most often been in the 40-50% range (http://www.gallup.com/poll/124922/Presidential-Approval-Center.aspx). The president has the power to unilaterally modify legislation through signing statements and Federal rulemaking, and can move the executive branch through executive orders. He can also decide to enforce certain laws and disregard others. Congress and the Supreme Court can do little except by consensus and the courts can decide on only what comes to them.

The Demands on the President

We have had good presidents and we have had poor presidents, but regardless of the qualities of the man the American people, and many others throughout the world, put great faith in him. Making the world safer in an age of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, encouraging the equitable distribution of scarce resources, protecting the Earth’s climate, and helping safeguard human rights for all is a nearly impossible task, but we expect our president to do all of these things. Simultaneously he needs to laugh when we laugh, cry when we cry, and grow angry when we are angry. Americans expect the president to inspire them when they are discouraged and point the way to a brighter future. It is a burden no man can fully bear, but the best among us can handle for a time.

No one who has never been president understands the diamond-crushing pressure, the microscopic scrutiny, the impossible expectations, and the gravity of the decisions inherent to the office. When Truman was sworn in as the 33rd president of the United States after the death of Franklin Roosevelt in Warm Springs, Georgia in April 1945, he famously asked Eleanor Roosevelt what he could do for her. Eleanor replied “Is there anything that we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”

The Limitations of the President

Though presidents have tremendous power and control an impressive array of resources, people, money and expertise, they are not able to do whatever they wish. The Founders specifically limited the power of the presidency to prevent tyranny. Government was and is limited, and the citizens of America have a vital interest in keeping it that way. This is because government is comprised of people, and we all have the same corrupt nature. James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

Unlike more autocratic nations, the United States has multiple centers of power which limit the president. Corporations and other organizations can and do vigorously oppose him at times. Citizens vote every four years to keep or replace the president, and the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution ensures that no one can ever be president more than 10 years.

Putting Hope in the President

Too many people put too much hope in a president. For reasons good and bad, his power is always limited. Presidents and other political figures, no matter how good they are, will always disappoint. Presidential satisfaction levels are nearly always high when he first takes office, and drop off significantly thereafter. Presidents are men, and even the best, like Lincoln or Washington, sometimes failed. King David, one of the best leaders in history, failed spectacularly. And as noted in the introduction, presidents die. Through natural processes, accidents or the hands of others, the Great Equalizer strikes down even the most capable, the most likeable, and the most powerful.

What should Christians Do?

As Christians, we must pray for the president, both the office and the man. We must pray for Congress, the Supreme Court, and all of the other executives and legislative bodies that govern our land. Shortly before the 2012 Presidential Election, a woman in my church told me in passing that she was praying for the presidency, but not the president, with whom she vehemently disagreed. Though that opinion might sound good to some Christians, to whom Barack Obama’s policies are anathema, Jesus would have vehemently disagreed. He commanded His followers to “pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).” The Apostle Paul wrote “Bless those who persecute you (Romans 12:14).” No U.S. President in history can compare to Herod or Nero.

Believers in Christ should be active in all aspects of life, including politics, to try to “form a more perfect union.” If governments at all levels in the United States are truly governments of the people, by the people and for the people, such governments are not our enemy. When they do wrong, however, the Church must oppose them, as Friedrich Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer did against Hitler.

But we must never place our hope in a man or in any group of men. Psalms 146:3-4 reminds us “Put not your trust in princes, [nor] in the son of man, in whom [there is] no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Though governments seem to have so much power, God still reigns (Psalm 2). When Pontius Pilate, the appointed governor of Judea in the Roman Empire, told Jesus that he had the power to free Him or condemn Him, Jesus replied “you would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above (John 19:11).”

James Garfield, on that somber day in April 1865, got it exactly right: “God reigns, and the government at Washington still lives.”

Veteran’s Day

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, the holiday proclaimed by US President Woodrow Wilson on 11 November 1919 to mark the end of the “Great War”, also known as the “War to end all wars”, World War 1. Sadly, the very fact that the number one follows the words “world war” reminds us that another, even more terrible war followed only 20 years later. On 1 September 1939, World War 2 began. After the carnage of this second disaster, veterans petitioned the US government to change the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day, honoring all veterans of all American wars. On 1 June 1954, this change became law.

Violence, evil and war are sad but real parts of the fallen world in which we live. Police protect us as individuals from violence at home, and soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines protect us from the greatest earthly threats, personal and even national destruction in time of war. Veteran’s Day is a time to remember those who have stood in the gap between America and her enemies. These men, and increasingly women, have guarded our freedoms and won the freedoms of others through their sweat, their tears, and their blood. All Americans must honor their sacrifice, and must consider what we as individuals can do for our country. All must be good citizens, paying taxes, obeying the laws, and working hard to contribute to their families and communities. Some must take the mantle of military service, taking the place of those who have gone before.

The following letter demonstrates the spirit of a man who truly understood the nature of his life and the necessity of sacrifice. It is one of my favorites. The letter was written in 1940 by the copilot of a Wellington bomber in Britain’s Royal Air Force, Flying Officer Vivian Rosewarne. He was killed in action shortly afterwards.

An Airman’s Letter to His Mother

Dearest Mother:

Though I feel no premonition at all, events are moving rapidly and I have instructed that this letter be forwarded to you should I fail to return from one of the raids that we shall shortly be called upon to undertake. You must hope on for a month, but at the end of that time you must accept the fact that I have handed my task over to the extremely capable hands of my comrades of the Royal Air Force, as so many splendid fellows have already done.

First, it will comfort you to know that my role in this war has been of the greatest importance. Our patrols far out over the North Sea have helped to keep the trade routes clear for our convoys and supply ships, and on one occasion our information was instrumental in saving the lives of the men in a crippled lighthouse relief ship. Though it will be difficult for you, you will disappoint me if you do not at least try to accept the facts dispassionately, for I shall have done my duty to the utmost of my ability. No man can do more, and no one calling himself a man could do less.

I have always admired your amazing courage in the face of continual setbacks; in the way you have given me as good an education and background as anyone in the country: and always kept up appearances without ever losing faith in the future. My death would not mean that your struggle has been in vain. Far from it, it means that your sacrifice is as great as mine. Those who serve England must expect nothing from her; we debase ourselves if we regard our country as merely a place in which to eat and sleep.

History resounds with illustrious names who have given all; yet their sacrifice has resulted in the British Empire where there is a measure of peace, justice and freedom for all, and where a higher standard of civilization has evolved, and is still evolving, than anywhere else. But this is not only concerning our own land. Today we are faced with the greatest organized challenge to Christianity and civilization that the world has ever seen, and I count myself lucky and honoured to be the right age and fully trained to throw my full weight into the scale. For this I have to thank you. Yet there is more work for you to do. The home front will still have to stand united for years after the war is won. For all that can be said against it, I still maintain that this war is a very good thing: every individual is having the chance to give and dare all for his principle like the martyrs of old. However long the time may be, one thing can never be altered – I shall have lived and died an Englishman. Nothing else matters one jot nor can anything ever change it.

You must not grieve for me, for if you really believe in religion and all that it entails that would be hypocrisy. I have no fear of death; only a queer elation … I would have it no other way. The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice. We are sent to this world to acquire a personality and a character to take with us that can never be taken from us. Those who just eat and sleep, prosper and procreate, are no better than animals if all their lives they are at peace.

I firmly believe that evil things are sent into the world to try us; they are sent deliberately by our Creator to test our mettle because He knows what is good for us. The Bible is full of cases where the easy way out has been discarded for moral principles.

I count myself fortunate in that I have seen the whole country and known men of every calling. But with the final test of war I consider my character fully developed. Thus at my early age my earthly mission is already fulfilled and I am prepared to die with just one regret: that I could not devote myself to making your declining years more happy by being with you; but you will live in peace and freedom and I shall have directly contributed to that, so here again my life will not have been in vain.

Your loving son

The nature of life is that sacrifice never ends on this side of the grave. Parents sacrifice money, time, and much of themselves for their children, and this does not end when the children grow up and leave home. Children sacrifice for their aging parents, and we all sacrifice for the ailing in our family and friends. The rich give to the poor (Leviticus 23:22). Even the sick and disabled are not exempt; they give what they can for the benefit of others. Abraham was preeminent over Lot, but he still gave the younger man the first choice of the land (Genesis 13:8-12). The prophet Jeremiah sacrificed marriage and family for the sake of his ministry (Jeremiah 16:2). The widow had little, but she gave what she had (Mark 12:41-44). On the cross, the dying Jesus cared for the thief (Luke 23:42-43) and for His mother (John 19:26-27). No one is exempt from the requirement of sacrifice for the benefit of others, and that sacrifice has no end.

Flying Officer Rosewarne’s sacrifice ended on the next mission, but thankfully most veterans’ sacrifice does not. America has thousands of veterans who survived despite terrible injuries such as the loss of multiple limbs. Each of us must do our part to help them in their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. We do this in part in gratitude for what they have done, but even more to help them prepare for sacrifices yet to come. Soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan for the benefit of their countrymen know something about sacrifice; that is why they serve. This does not change when they are injured. Though most can no longer serve in uniform, they can serve as teachers, businessmen, fathers, husbands, and in a thousand other ways. The same is true for injured female veterans. Like all of us, they will continue to sacrifice for the benefit of others to their dying day.

Veteran’s Day highlights the sacrifices of those who have served in uniform. Let us remember their sacrifices, and the sacrifices that we all must make, as we travel life’s highway.

9/11 Carson City 2011 Commemoration – America’s Strength

America’s Strength

Introduction

On a day none of us shall ever forget, September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, flew them into the two World Trade Center buildings in New York City, the Pentagon outside Washington DC, and tried to fly the last plane into the US Capitol. Over 3,000 people died. One witness who was descending from the North Tower of the World Trade Center wrote:

“Regular people, like me, and people from the upper floors who were badly burned – no skin, no hair, just burned – they were coming down, walking or carried down helped by people.”

He saw security and firefighters and continued “and while there was no panic whatsoever in the stairwell, those people were concentrated, focused on doing their job…and while I was walking down they were going up to their death.”

On that day 17 Islamic terrorists tried to destroy the United States of America. They failed because America is strong.

Sixty years earlier the Japanese Empire also tried to destroy America, killing over 2,400 in the process. They also failed because America is strong.

For two centuries enemies have tried to eliminate this great nation and in every circumstance they have failed because America is strong.

Shortly after the attacks I saw an article claiming that America’s weaponry is her strength. Later I heard an interview stating that America’s economic might is her strength. Still later another source opined that America’s culture is her strength. None of these tell the whole story.

What then, is the real source of America’s strength?

America is strong because her government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

America is strong because soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen do not rule over us but live among us, and they fight for freedom, not personal gain.

America is strong because of her people.

Body

America is strong because her government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

James Madison told us that “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” It should be clear to everyone that people are not angels, and so the system of government they choose reflects how strong the people perceive themselves to be. Ultimately, it influences how strong they are.

People who see themselves as foolish and weak need a king to take care of them and tell them what to do. Those who are strong and wise govern themselves.

People who have a king take care of them end up more foolish and weaker. Those who govern themselves become stronger and wiser.

The first lines of the Declaration of Independence hold the power to stir any American heart:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Let us consider what Americans mean when we say these words. Let us then consider what these words mean to those who, like the hijackers on that fateful day, wish to destroy us.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident”

The principles on which America is founded require no justification. We do not need someone else, at home or abroad, to tell us that only they are smart enough to lead our nation.

“that all men are created equal”

Americans are not so foolish as to believe that we are all equally strong, equally skilled or equally good looking. I don’t have the same strength or skill as the Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Michael Phelps. And my mother tells me that I have exactly enough good looks to be a radio celebrity.

What, then, does “all men are created equal” mean?

1. That we are equal in having been created.

2. That we are equal in value before our Creator

3. That we have equal rights and equal responsibilities as rulers of our own land.

4. That we are equal in the strengths and weaknesses common to humanity.

People do not have to gain equality. They are equal by nature.

Osama Bin Laden and Mohamed Atta believed that people were not equal; some were lions born to rule and others were sheep born to be used…or slaughtered.

“that they are endowed by their Creator”

Our Founding Fathers knew that the Creator who made the world made the people in it, and He made them the final earthly authority in their land.

King George III believed that he ruled by Divine Right, and the nations of the Barbary pirates were ruled with raw power. Both believed that only the rich and powerful had the final authority.

“with certain unalienable rights”

We are the heirs of the Founders, and we understand that no one can take these rights from the people, because no man gave them in the first place. The same One who created us gave us these rights, and the responsibilities that go with them.

Leaders in Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Soviet Russia were the final authority. They believed that the ruling group gave rights to the common people at their whim, and the same group could take them away.

“that among these are life”

The right to existence is the fundamental right. All other rights are contingent on that one.

Tyrants like Mao Zedong believed that they alone had the right to decide who lives and who does not.

“liberty”

Liberty is the freedom to do what you want, but it is also the freedom NOT to do what you want. Liberty means that a man can decide the direction of his life, worship where he chooses, and live where he pleases.

Liberty also means that an alcoholic does not have to take another drink, a man does not have to strike back in anger at someone who wrongs him, and a woman can forgive the pain and hurt she has suffered in her past.

“and the pursuit of happiness”

Only people who know that they have been created equal and who understand their inherent rights and responsibilities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can have a government which is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

And such a government makes America strong.

America is strong because soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen do not rule over us but live among us, and they fight for freedom, not personal gain.

Our service members are not rulers over American citizens…they come from among us and live among us.

The government of the French republic in August of 1793 ordered “all Frenchmen are permanently requisitioned for service in the armies.” America has never done that, and never will.

In other nations, the military controls the government, or at least wields powerful influence over civilian life. America does not have a professional military elite threatening the rights of citizens; we have a military composed of citizens. America is the land of the citizen-soldier.

The citizen soldier is an ordinary American who, in times of national need, gives his or her time, and if need be life, to defend our nation. George Washington was a planter, Joshua Chamberlain was a college professor, Harry Truman was a haberdasher, and Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta worked at Subway before they took up arms. I count myself blessed to have been a part of this tradition for over 22 years.

I mowed lawns, bussed tables, and worked as an Emergency Medical Technician before I joined the Army. Since joining I have worked with thousands of other fine American citizen soldiers:

When I was a major commanding the US Army clinic in Schweinfurt, Germany, an elderly gentleman came to see me for care. He had scaled the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc on D-Day with the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

When I was a lieutenant colonel serving as deputy division surgeon for the Task Force 1st Armored Division in Baghdad in 2003, my team provided medical care and public health protection for over 37,000 soldiers, hundreds of friendly Iraqis and many enemy combatants.

What our soldiers fight for:

When King George III heard Washington would resign his commission to a powerless Congress, he told the painter Benjamin West: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

George Washington did exactly that, and so exemplified the spirit of the American people. Washington did not fight for personal power or glory, he fought so that his countrymen could be free; that they could govern themselves. He knew that for a government of the people, by the people and for the people to work, leaders, especially those in the military with the physical power to rule, needed to restrain their personal ambitions and do what is best for others.

Though our record is far from perfect, for the next two hundred years Americans fought for liberty, democracy, and rights of people around the world. While giving a speech on Valentine’s Day 2002 then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said:

Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam; all in the interest of preserving the rights of people.

And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, “Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us”? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead.

And that is the kind of nation we are.

Even those Americans who have not worn a uniform are a part of our defense. Whether by pen, by ballot or by sword all Americans stand for our nation against the forces of tyranny. Harriet Beecher Stowe defended America against the cancer of slavery. Every citizen defends America, a nation of the people, by the people and for the people, every time we vote.

Ultimately, America is strong because of her people.

America is a government of the people, by the people and for the people because Americans developed such a government. America rules her military and fights for principles that are greater than self because Americans made it that way.

In our battles against enemies, both internal and external, for over 200 years, we have always prevailed. As Lincoln said:

All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

This is our choice, to remain strong and continue to be a beacon to the world, or to let ourselves be weak and divided, dying by suicide and putting out the last light of liberty.

Let us choose to be strong.

America is strong when men and women, armed with courage, intelligence and freedom, follow their own dreams in their own ways to make our country better for all.

America is strong when we look not only to our own prosperity and well being but that of our neighbors and our descendants.

America is strong when we live to produce, not to consume.

America is strong when we worship our Creator in our own way, all the while recognizing that implicit in such worship is the notion that someone or something is greater than ourselves.

America is strong when we live in freedom, not only from the tyranny of other men but also from the tyranny of our selfish wills.

America is strong when, after the tragic killing of National Guardsmen in this very city just a few days ago, we choose justice and healing rather than fear and bitterness.

America is strong when we live boldly in the light of day, fighting for the right in our chosen arena, rather than living in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Conclusion

No enemy, not Bin Laden, not Hussein, not Ho Chi Minh, not Hitler, not Tojo, not Kim IL Sung, not the Kaiser, nor anyone before has been able to overcome the United States of America. They have not because America has been strong.

America is strong because her government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

America is strong because soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen do not rule over us but live among us, and they fight for freedom, not personal gain.

America is strong because of her people.

Each generation of Americans is responsible to keep America strong. Our forefathers have accomplished their mission, and now it is our turn.

It is for us to decide whether America will continue to be the beacon of light and liberty that it was designed to be, or to fall into oblivion, defeated and discouraged, in a threatening world. Lincoln was right – As free men and women, we must truly live forever or die by suicide.

We are at a confusing and discouraging time in our history. Enemies outside rattle sabers and enemies inside whisper lies. The fainthearted fear that our greatest days lie behind us, and the cynic questions the very heart of our beliefs and our history.

We will have none of that. My countrymen, let us join together in this mission. Let us always keep America strong.

Thank you