June 6, 1944 is indelibly imprinted in our collective, American memory. We call it D-Day. Then, under cover of darkness, Allied troops crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, pouring out of flat-bottomed boats and dropping from the sky. For too many, the sight was the last they would see.
There were thousands of Allied troops – Americans, British and Canadians – who answered the call to arms and fought valiantly to restore freedom to the European continent 75 years ago. We continue, as we must, to honor all for their valor and sacrifice.
Today, we heard President Donald Trump deliver a meaningful, heartfelt speech high above the Normandy beach. Our American history is punctuated by many moving speeches, but one, delivered by President Ronald Reagan on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, resonates with the idea that our great nation is defined by its defense of freedom, not conquest.
I heard that speech in 1984 – and its enduring message.
Then, President Reagan addressed D-Day veterans and leaders from the Allied countries in Normandy. His words rang out across the sands and fields where blood was spilled for a exceptionally just cause. His words rang out:
“The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it – that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.“
The aging men of Normandy had lived in the storm and understood the meaning of the president’s eloquent words: “You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and the others did not doubt your cause – you all knew that some things are worth dying for.”
“One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”
Once again, American men and women are answering the call to duty. The political winds may change, but the ideals and spirit of America are intact. While tyrants and terrorists still roam the world, there remains the United States of America and our powerful history which is defined by the pursuit and always the defense of liberty and freedom.
June 6 is another day to remember what came before.