The Cold War took years, but we prevailed, and it will happen. And on that day, because you’re going to achieve it, your generation will take its place
beside the greatest generations in our nation’s history. Our ideas of freedom,
democracy, respect for human rights, respect for human life, and the rule of
law—these are the principles that the human heart and the human soul yearns for. These are gifts that are given to us, not by government, not by men or women. These are gifts that are given to us by God. They’re the principles along with the strength and skill and valor of the men and women like The Citadel graduates of 2007 that make me completely confident that we’ll win the terrorist war on us. We will win. We will prevail.
The terrorists who attacked us on September 11 misjudged the character of
the United States of America. They thought that freedom makes us weak. They thought that democracy makes us decadent. They thought that our diversity made us easy to divide and conquer. It’s a mistake that tyrants have made in the past about America. All of these principles, all of these principles make us stronger. You are the leaders of the 9-11 generation and I believe that you and I have learned the same lessons from our history and from our past. Never retreat. Never wave the white flag of defeat. America doesn’t retreat. America advances.
I’d like to leave you with a memory from the September 11th day. It was
captured in the now famous photograph showing three firefighters covered in ash, raising the American flag over the rubble of Ground Zero. There were fires below their feet of 2000 degrees or more. Their actions echoed the photograph of the flag being raised over Iwo Jima a half century before. It looked very similar. In America, the heroic example of past generations are carried on and built upon by the next generation. When I saw those firefighters, I saw in their eyes, and I saw in their action the same thing that their fathers would have done or their grandfathers would have done in the same situation, and they did the same thing. In the face of being attacked, in the face of having their lives in jeopardy, in the face of watching their brothers and comrades die in front of them, what they said was, we don’t retreat. We don’t put our heads down. We don’t back up. We stand for something bigger than us. We stand for democracy. We stand for liberty. We stand for freedom. We stand for peace. And we’re going to put up our flag, and hold it there, and it is going to prevail, and it is going to wave as a symbol of freedom and democracy for us. And we don’t want to impose it on anyone else. We want to give it to them. Share it with them as a gift that isn’t ours alone, but a gift that comes from God. No one knows that better, no one understands that better than the graduates of this class. You’ve learned it. You’ve put it in your hearts. It’s been taught to you, and now we’re counting on you. We’re counting on you to be the leaders of the 9-11 generation, and if we’re going to count on you to be the leaders, I am very, very confident that we are going to prevail.
God bless you, and God bless America.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Some great words from Rudy Guilliani's commencement address at my Alma Mater: