No one spoke more eloquently or passionately on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks than did former President George W. Bush at the Shanksville, Pa., memorial service. These are excerpts from his remarks. -Editors
Let me speak directly to veterans and people in uniform. The cause you pursued at the call of duty is the noblest America has to offer. You have shielded your fellow citizens from danger. You have defended the beliefs of your country and advanced the rights of the downtrodden. You have been the face of hope and mercy in dark places. You have been a force for good in the world. Nothing that has followed, nothing, can tarnish your honor or diminish your accomplishments. To you and to the honored dead, our country is forever grateful.
In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people. When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own. Malign force seems at work in our common life, that turns every disagreement into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures. So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear, and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.
I come without explanations or solutions. I can only tell you what I’ve seen. On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.
At a time when religious bigotry might have flowed freely, I saw Americans reject prejudice and embrace people of Muslim faith. That is the nation I know.
At a time when nativism could have stirred hatred and violence against people perceived as outsiders, I saw Americans reaffirm their welcome to immigrants and refugees. That is the nation I know.
At a time when some viewed the rising generation as individualistic and decadent, I saw young people embrace an ethic of service and rise to selfless action. That is the nation I know.
This is not mere nostalgia. It is the truest version of ourselves. It is what we have been and what we can be again.