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July 4, 2007

“I want to thank General Petraeus, and I want to thank all of you for allowing me the privilege of witnessing this ceremony.  I can think of no place I would rather be on the day our country celebrates our independence than with you; you who have risked everything so that we remain free; free from fear and danger; free from the grave harm our enemies wish to inflict on us. 


“I know it is not possible for even the most grateful nation to compensate you in kind for the measure of devotion you have, at great personal sacrifice, given our country.  We have incurred a debt to you that we can never repay in full.  We can offer you only the small tribute of our humility.  You are the best Americans, and our best efforts to honor our debts to you will fall far short of what you have given and what you deserve.  What you have done for us, we can never do for you.  But we are mindful of that distinction, and humbled by it.  And our appreciation for your service demands of us all to do what we can, in less trying and less costly circumstances, to help keep our nation a place and an idea worthy of the hardships, danger and sacrifices you have borne so valiantly for us.


“When a nation goes to war, a million tragedies ensue.  It is terrible thing, war, but not the worst thing.  You know that, you who have endured the dangers and deprivations of war so that the worst thing would not befall us, so that America might be secure in her freedom.  As you know, the war in which you have fought has divided the American people.  But it has divided no American in their admiration for you.  We all honor you.  We are all -- those who supported the decision that placed you in harm’s way and those who opposed it – we are all humbled by your example, and chastened in our prideful conviction that we, too, in our own way, have offered our country some good service.  It may be true or it may not, but no matter how measurable our own contributions to our blessed and beautiful country, they are a poor imitation of yours.  We know how little we have given compared to your service, and the solemn and terrible sacrifice made by those Americans who will never return to the country they loved so well. 


“It is a sad and hard thing to ask so much more of Americans who have already given more than their fair share to the defense of our country.  Yet the stakes in Iraq are so high, not only for the people of this country and the region, but for the American people.  So we have asked you to do more than we should expect of you.  And here you are, re-enlisting so that we might to continue to rely on your courage and patriotism in our hour of need.  And those of you who today become naturalized citizens of our country begin your citizenship with America already in your debt.  In this place, in this hour, you are more important to our country than many able bodied Americans, who live safe and contented lives because you protect them, and whose ancestors might have arrived on the Mayflower.  You have made our country better than it was before you came to America, and I am deeply grateful to you. 


“All of you surely miss your families.  All of you would rather spend this holiday in your own towns and communities, among your loved ones and friends.  Many of you have served multiple tours here or in Afghanistan.  And I know that we could not expect you or your families to be happy about this deployment.  I expect a few of you might not have received the news without a few appropriate complaints aimed in the general direction of people like me, who have helped make the decision to send you here again.  And then you shouldered a rifle and risked everything – everything – to accomplish your mission, to protect another people’s freedom and our own country from harm.


“It is a privilege beyond measure to live in a country served by you.  I have lived a long, eventful and blessed life.  I have had the good fortune of knowing personally a great many brave and selfless patriots who sacrificed and shed blood to defend their country.  But I’ve none braver or better than you.  You are my inspiration, and your country’s.  I pray to a loving God that He bless and protect you.  Thank you.” 

July 2007 Speeches