President Obama’s brief speech at the memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood massacre is by far the best speech that has ever been written for him. As a work of presidential rhetoric, it’s as solid as they come and should be used as a model for speechwriting.
One section in particular stands out as particularly bold and refreshing:
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It’s a chance to pause, and to pay tribute — for students to learn the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.
For history is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, all of us — every single American — must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who’ve come before.
We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.
This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in the time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and all stations — all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.
In todays wars, there’s not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops success — no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of the impact of these young men and women is no less great — in a world of threats that no know borders, their legacy will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that’s extended abroad. It will serve as testimony to the character of those who served, and the example that all of you in uniform set for America and for the world.
The veterans of World War II are often referred to as being part of the “Greatest Generation”and rightly so. Without their service and sacrifice, the modern world would be a much darker place.
However, it is also true that the veterans of our current era are the equal of any that have ever come before. Perhaps I am biased, since I had the privilege to serve alongside many of them for fifteen years. But I believe that such recognition is long overdue.
The only quibble I have with the speech is that it implies that this is a single “generation.” I’m a part of Generation X, yet during the years I served (1988-2004) my superiors were Baby Boomers and my subordinates were from Generation Y. Today’s military is cross-generational, and includes some of the best representatives from each age bracket. This is not a new “Greatest Generation” but a composition of the great men and women from all of the younger generations.
Related: My Veteran’s Day tribute, ” What a Veteran Knows “, is featured in the On the Square section.