In front of an audience of dignitaries, WWII veterans, and active soldiers at the harrowed grounds of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Friday, President Obama paid tribute to the heroic sacrifices made 70 years ago, assuring the dwindling number of America’s Greatest Generation that their “legacy is in good hands,” and honoring our new generation of soldiers for resisting the temptation to “pursue narrow self-interest” and “slough off common endeavor.”
In a speech met by a large audience of solemn faces, the president honored those who fought so bravely in the operation that turned the tide of the war, saying America’s commitment to liberty and equality was “written in the blood” on the Normandy beaches:
Our commitment to liberty, our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inherent dignity of every human being — that claim is written in the blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity.
In vivid detail, Obama described the daring operation that saw more than 9,000 Americans die, describing the “blood-soaked” water and rounds that “bit into flesh and sand.” This violence, he argued, the soldiers endured in hopes of a time when “we’d no longer need to fight”:
These men waged war so that we might know peace. They sacrificed so that we might be free. They fought in hopes of a day when we'd no longer need to fight. We are grateful to them.
The president argued that today we are faced more than ever with the temptation to “pursue self-interest” and “slough off common endeavor,” commending our new generation of soldiers for demonstrating selflessness and choosing to serve:
For in a time when it has never been more tempting to pursue narrow self-interest, to slough off common endeavor, this generation of Americans, a new generation, our men and women of war, have chosen to do their part as well.
The president also made sure to honor the impact women and immigrants have had in our armed forces.
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the event was when the president honored Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was severely injured in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Obama pointed to Remsburg as an example of the new generation of soldiers, saying to the WWII veterans, “Your legacy is in good hands.”
As The New York Times highlights, Obama's remarks on D-Day come amid increased skepticism about American foreign policy and his administration's ability to lead on the world stage:
The commemoration of the Normandy invasion also comes at a time when the United States is reaching rather less-satisfying conclusions to two other wars waged over the last dozen years. Just last week, Mr. Obama announced that he would withdraw virtually all forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 shortly before leaving office, much as he previously pulled out of Iraq. But neither war came with a definitive moment of triumph like that in Europe decades ago.
The president accepted the resignation of his veterans affairs secretary amid a furor over poor treatment of returning service members. And Mr. Obama reached a deal with the Taliban in which he agreed to release five of its imprisoned leaders in exchange for the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan, a trade that has touched off a roiling debate back home.
The run of Obama administration scandals, including Benghazi and the VA, and the recent highly controversial Bergdahl-Taliban deal, have left many Americans uncertain if our brave men and women serving today and their legacy are in "good hands" as well.