Sunday, June 16, 2024
80th anniversary of D-Day

Democracy begins with each of us – US President Joe Biden

by damith
June 9, 2024 1:15 am 0 comment 443 views

The full text of the speech made by US President Joe Biden at the 80th anniversary of the Normandy D-Day landings at Pointe du Hoc, France, on Friday.

“At last the hour had come. Dawn. June 6, 1944. The wind was pounding as it is today. It always has against these cliffs. Around 225 American Rangers arrived by ship, jumped in the waves, and stormed the beach. All they could see was the outline of the shore and these cliffs.

I know I will get in trouble with the Secret Service if I go to the edge and look over, but that is what we are standing on top of. A crack of bullets hitting sand, rocks. All they knew was, time is of the essence. They only had 30 minutes to eliminate the Nazi guns high on this cliff. Guns that would halt the invasion before it began.

But these are American Rangers. They were ready. They ran toward the cliffs and mines exploded around them, but still they kept coming. Gunfire, but still they kept coming. Nazi grenades thrown from above exploded against the cliffs, but still they kept coming. Within minutes they reached the base of this cliff. With ladders, ropes, and grappling hooks they began to climb.

When the Nazis cut their ladders, the Rangers used ropes. When the Nazis cut the ropes, the rangers used hands, and inch by inch, foot by foot, yard by yard the Rangers clawed — literally clawed their way up this precipice, until at last they reached the top. They breached the wall and turned the tide of the war and began to save the world.

Rangers

Yesterday I paid my respects to the American cemetery just a few miles from here, where many of those Rangers who died are buried. Today as we look out on this battlefield, one thought comes to mind. My God, how did they do it? How would these Americans willing to risk everything, and give everything? There were Americans like Sergeant Leonard from New Jersey, one of the first Rangers to jump off his ship and run toward the cliffs. He almost was shot above the hip and he wasn’t sure, but he kept going. At one point he was scaling the cliffs, another Ranger yelled “I am not sure I can make it.” He yelled back with every ounce of strength he had in him, you have got to hold on and he did, and they did.

Then there were Americans like Colonel James Rutter from Texas. He raised his hand and said, my Rangers can do the job. He knew their capacity. He knew the strength of their character. A country must be great to call for the sacrifice of such men. There are Americans like John Wardell from New Jersey. John is here. John, we love you, man. Thank you for all you have done. Just 18 years old, he was deployed to these cliffs, to replace the surviving Rangers on the D-Day invasion. He would go on to fight across France and Germany, and early December 1944 during one of those battles shrapnel pierced his skull. By Christmas he was back fighting with his unit.

Here is what he said about the notes he kept at that time. He said, knowing that my buddies and I always looked out for one another, that is why he came back, that is why he fought back. He always looked out, and his buddies looked out for one another. We talk about democracy, American democracy. We often talk about the ideals of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. But we do not usually talk about how hard it is. How many ways we are asked to walk away, the most natural instinct is to walk away.

American democracy asks the hardest of things. To believe that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. So democracy begins with each of us. It begins when one person decides that there is something more important than themselves. When they decide the person they are serving alongside is someone to look after. When they decide the mission matters more than their life and to decide that their country matters more than they do. That is what the Rangers on Pointe du hoc did. That is what every soldier and every marine who stormed these beaches decided. A feared dictator who had conquered a whole continent had finally met his match because of them. The War turned. They stood against the enemy’s aggression.

Does anyone doubt — does anyone doubt that they would want America to stand up against Russian aggression in Europe today? They stormed the beaches alongside their allies. Does anyone believe that these rangers would want America to go it alone today? They fought to vanquish a hateful ideology in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Does anyone doubt they would not move heaven and earth to vanquish the hateful ideologies of today? These Rangers put the country above themselves. Does anyone believe they would exact any less from us today? These Rangers remembered with reverence those who gave their lives in battle. Could they or anyone ever imagine that America wouldn’t do the same? They believed America was the beacon of the world.

We stand today where we stand was not sacred. But that is what it became on June 6, 1944. The rangers who scaled this cliff did not know they would change the world, but they did. I have long said that history has shown that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when challenged.

There is no better example of that in the entire world than right here at Pointe du hoc. Rangers from farms and cities and every part of America. From homes that did not know wealth and power. They came to a shoreline that none of them would have picked out on a map. They came to a country many of them had never seen, for people they had never met. But they came. They did their job. They fulfilled their mission and they did their duty. They were a part of something greater than themselves.

Brave men

I stand here today as the first US President to come to Pointe du hoc, when none of those 225 brave men who scaled that cliff on D-Day are still alive. None. But I am here to tell you, and with them gone, the wind coming off this ocean will not fade. It will grow louder, as we gather here today.

It is not just to honour those who showed such remarkable bravery on that day, June 6, 1944. It is to listen to the echo of their voices. To hear them. Because they are summoning us and they are summoning us now. They ask us, what will we do? They are not asking us to scale these cliffs. but they are asking us to stay true to what America and the Free World stands for.

They are not asking us to give or risk our lives. But they are asking us to care for others in our country more than ourselves. They are not asking us to do their job. They are asking us to do our job. to protect freedom in our time, to defend democracy, to stand up to aggression abroad and at home.

To be part of something bigger than ourselves. I refuse to believe that America’s greatness is a thing of the past. I still believe there is nothing beyond our capacity in America when we act together. We are the fortunate heirs of the legacy of these heroes – those who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du hoc. We must also be the keepers of their mission. We must bear the flame of freedom they kept burning bright. That is the truest testimonial to their lives.

Our actions every day to ensure our democracy endures and the soul of our nation endures. To come here simply to remember the ghosts of Pointe du hoc is not enough. We need to hear them. We have to listen to them. We need to listen to what they had gone through. You need to make the solemn vow to never let them down. God bless the fallen. God bless the brave men who scaled these cliffs. May God bless America.”

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