I consider myself a good public speaker, but at occasions like this, our Veterans Day service, I lack the experience and the depth of knowledge to trust only in my own words. So today I want to read from the remarks of Colin Powell, speaking as a General in 1989 to veterans of WWI. He said:
“Millions of American men and women have served the republic over the past two hundred years. Fortunately, this country has been blessed with citizens who have taken their civic responsibility seriously and have taken up arms and marched to the sound of the guns whenever and wherever the rights of man have been threatened.
These citizen-soldiers were not seeking personal gain or even fame. Their country called and they answered. Theirs was a simple, patriotic response. They recognized their civic duty and acted accordingly.
Those who survived returned home convinced that they had done something worthwhile, something to make this world a better place to live. They served in the cause of freedom for all mankind. And for them, that was reward enough.
These veterans came home to continue to serve their country in peacetime. In war, they did their best to defend liberty. In peace, they sought to build a better world. Their quest was made even more meaningful by what they had experienced in the heat of battle. Freedom -- to those who have fought for it -- is a word with a very special meaning. This love for freedom -- not just for ourselves, but for our friends and allies as well -- this unquenchable thirst for peace and freedom lies deep within the heart and soul of Americans, and it is what makes us unique among the people of the world.”
And so today the words I’ll add to this are to challenge you, as Americans, to examine your hearts and souls. I challenge you to think of those who have served, and ask yourself what can you do to serve the cause of freedom and what can you do to serve the cause of peace. Those are big questions. But the cause is too great. Our freedom allows you to worship as you see fit. Our freedom allows you to pursue the life you choose. Our freedom allows you to build communities, to seek knowledge, and to love one another as yourselves. Peace is not just two countries that agree not to fight, it is also about understanding one another despite our differences, and it is about seeking to build one another up, not tear one another down. Big questions, but questions you get to ask, and that you need to answer for yourself.
Veteran’s Day is about courage. The courage to stand up for something, to give all to defend a belief and ideal, the courage to come home again. Let us today honor that courage by finding our ways to be courageous ourselves.