September 15, 2001
Thank you very much. At a time like this, one’s thoughts naturally turn homeward. For Betty and me, that means Grand Rapids. This week, all Americans are neighbors. All of us are New Yorkers. All of us are Washingtonians. Most important, all of us are patriots.
All week we’ve heard repeated references to December 7, 1941. No doubt for most of you Pearl Harbor is just a name in the history books. For my generation, of course, it was a defining moment. From time to time, it’s been suggested that those who survived the Great Depression, overcame the hateful doctrines of Hitler and avenged the attack on Pearl Harbor represent America’s Greatest Generation. In fact, we were ordinary Americans confronted with some of the greatest tests in American history.
Now we confront another such test. I have not the slightest doubt that today’s Americans will show every bit as much courage and character and resilience and determination as we were called upon to display 60 years ago. I know as well, that everyone within the sound of my voice will join me in saying a prayer for all the victims and their families; for those who remain tortured by uncertainty as to the whereabouts of their loved ones; for those who have risked their own lives in rescue attempts; and for those ministering to our grieving neighbors.
I would also ask your prayers for the President of the United States. Take it from me, there is no lonelier or more responsible position on earth. Especially at a time like this, when our President confronts questions of life and death, war and peace. Make no mistake: whether or not we declare war, war has been declared on us. As President Bush has said, it is a different kind of war that we are called upon to wage. We are by nature a peace loving people. But we have been violated – savagely, without warning, by a foe whose cunning is equaled only by his cowardice.
We have taken the worst that terrorists have to offer. Now we will show them the best that America has to give.
That includes reaching out to all our fellow citizens in a loving embrace, whatever their nationality or religion. For any of us to give in to mindless hatred or bigotry at home would only ratify the evil that was inflicted from abroad. And that is something we can never permit. Betty joins me in thanking you for your extraordinary outpouring of generosity and patriotism. May God bless you all, and may God bless America.