Sunday evening, President Obama commemorated the tenth anniversary of 9/11 at “A Concert for Hope” in Washington, DC. After a day of honoring the fallen, the President spoke at the Kennedy Center about how we’ve changed as a nation, but also how we’ve remained the same. Obama noted, “We have not succumbed to suspicion, nor have we succumbed to mistrust.” He urged Americans to “rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our nation.”
Speaking of how we have not changed, the President declared, “Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny — that belief, through tests and trials, has only been strengthened.”
The President recognized those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, saying, “The sacrifices of these men and women, and of our military families, reminds us that the wages of war are great; that while service to our nation is full of glory, war itself is never glorious.”
The President spoke of the ways in which we have upheld the ideals of our nation, “We have not succumbed to suspicion, nor have we succumbed to mistrust. After 9/11, to his great credit, President Bush made clear what we reaffirm today: The United States will never wage war against Islam or any other religion.”
Obama articulated that the 9/11 monuments would tell the story of our resilient American spirit to future generations, “And they will know that nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America. They will remember that we’ve overcome slavery and Civil War; we’ve overcome bread lines and fascism and recession and riots, and communism and, yes, terrorism. They will be reminded that we are not perfect, but our democracy is durable, and that democracy — reflecting, as it does, the imperfections of man — also give us the opportunity to perfect our union.”
Reflecting on how Americans can move forward the President urged, “(L)et us honor those who have been lost, let us rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our nation, and let us look to the future with hearts full of hope.”
I can’t think of a more hopeful note on which for the President to end a painful day. We can’t change our circumstances, but we have a choice about how we react to them and that tells us who we are as a nation.