I wrote this Independence Day message on June 9, two
days after visiting Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery and
Memorial in France. I have had it in the "pending" file since then.
My visit to Normandy occurred one day after the 75th
anniversary of Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Allied Forces that
began the effort to finally defeat the Nazi regime in France.
Pointe du Hoc is where, on D-Day, American soldiers used
rope ladders to scale 100-foot cliffs to disarm suspected German artillery that
would have fired on the soldiers landing on Omaha Beach. On Omaha Beach alone,
U.S. forces suffered around 2000 casualties. The American Cemetery is the final
resting place of more than 9200 American soldiers, including 45 pairs of brothers.
Had Operation Overload not been successful – and if America
had not led the allies in going on to defeat Germany – America almost certainly
would be a far different place than it is today. It is highly unlikely that we
would be celebrating "Independence Day" and recalling the words of the
Declaration of Independence in the same way we do today.
As I was walking on the now-pristine sands of Omaha Beach
and then among the endless rows of simple white marble crosses and Stars of
David at the America cemetery, I couldn't help but recall the words of those
who, either without understanding or lacking seriousness of purpose, wonder
aloud about America's greatness.
There are too many naysayers, of course.
But take these two examples. In March 2019, former Attorney
General Eric Holder asked: "Exactly when did you think America was
great?" New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested in August 2018 that America
"was never that great."
They should be ashamed. They should know better.
Do Eric Holder and Andrew Cuomo not think America was great on
June 6, 1944, and in the succeeding days when it led the Allies in launching
the most successful land invasion in history? If not, it is a travesty to all
those young men who gave their lives on the Normandy beaches in the cause of
America was great then. And on countless occasions before
To be sure, America has not always lived up to its ideals –
the Declaration's self-evident truth that "all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Slavery and Jim
Crow will forever be deep-seated moral stains in the fabric of the American
story. They are examples – and there are others too – of America falling short
of its aspirations.
But falling short of the Declaration's aspirations is not the
same as forever forfeiting the claim to America's greatness.
If you doubt, I urge you, on the miles of narrow roads
approaching the Normandy beaches, to witness the hundreds of American flags
draped from the homes along the way. And the hundreds of posters with the faces
of American heroes hanging from every pole.
So, I maintain that, on the whole, those brave American soldiers
that spilled out of the landing crafts onto Omaha Beach in 1944 – including
those resting forever under the white marble stones – believed they were
fighting to preserve individual freedom and America's independence.
If Eric Holder, Andrew Cuomo, or anyone else ever asks you:
"Exactly when did you think America was great?" just say, please go
to Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery and Memorial.
That's something to keep in mind this Independence Day.
PS - My previous Independence Day messages are here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.