Wednesday, August 8, 2012

President Obama on D-Day 
in France 2009

Official White House Transcript

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                        June 5, 2009


Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial 
Normandy, France

3:53 P.M. (Local)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Thank you, President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Brown, Prime Minister Harper, and Prince Charles for being here today.  Thank you to our Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, for making the trip out here to join us.  Thanks also to Susan Eisenhower, whose grandfather began this mission 65 years ago with a simple charge: "Ok, let's go."  And to a World War II veteran who returned home from this war to serve a proud and distinguished career as a United States Senator and a national leader:  Bob Dole.  (Applause.)

I'm not the first American President to come and mark this anniversary, and I likely will not be the last.  This is an event that has long brought to this coast both heads of state and grateful citizens; veterans and their loved ones; the liberated and their liberators.  It's been written about and spoken of and depicted in countless books and films and speeches.  And long after our time on this Earth has passed, one word will still bring forth the pride and awe of men and women who will never meet the heroes who sit before us:  D-Day.

Why is this?  Of all the battles in all the wars across the span of human history, why does this day hold such a revered place in our memory?  What is it about the struggle that took place on the sands a few short steps from here that brings us back to remember year after year after year?

Part of it, I think, is the size of the odds that weighed against success.  For three centuries, no invader had ever been able to cross the English Channel into Normandy.  And it had never been more difficult than in 1944.

That was the year that Hitler ordered his top field marshal to fortify the Atlantic Wall against a seaborne invasion.  From the tip of Norway to southern France, the Nazis lined steep cliffs with machine guns and artillery.  Low-lying areas were flooded to block passage.  Sharpened poles awaited paratroopers.  Mines were laid on the beaches and beneath the water.  And by the time of the invasion, half a million Germans waited for the Allies along the coast between Holland and northern France.

At dawn on June 6th, the Allies came.  The best chance for victory had been for the British Royal Air Corps to take out the guns on the cliffs while airborne divisions parachuted behind enemy lines.  But all did not go according to plan.  Paratroopers landed miles from their mark, while the fog and clouds prevented Allied planes from destroying the guns on the cliffs.  So when the ships landed here at Omaha, an unimaginable hell rained down on the men inside.  Many never made it out of the boats.

And yet, despite all of this, one by one, the Allied forces made their way to shore -- here, and at Utah and Juno; Gold and Sword.  They were American, British, and Canadian.  Soon, the paratroopers found each other and fought their way back.  The Rangers scaled the cliffs.  And by the end of the day, against all odds, the ground on which we stand was free once more.

The sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so memorable.  It also arises from the clarity of purpose with which this war was waged.

We live in a world of competing beliefs and claims about what is true.  It's a world of varied religions and cultures and forms of government.  In such a world, it's all too rare for a struggle to emerge that speaks to something universal about humanity.

The Second World War did that.  No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good.  But all know that this war was essential.  For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests.  It was a competing vision of humanity.  Nazi ideology sought to subjugate and humiliate and exterminate.  It perpetrated murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior.  It was evil.

The nations that joined together to defeat Hitler's Reich were not perfect.  They had made their share of mistakes, had not always agreed with one another on every issue.  But whatever God we prayed to, whatever our differences, we knew that the evil we faced had to be stopped.  Citizens of all faiths and of no faith came to believe that we could not remain as bystanders to the savage perpetration of death and destruction.  And so we joined and sent our sons to fight and often die so that men and women they never met might know what it is to be free.

In America, it was an endeavor that inspired a nation to action.  A President who asked his country to pray on D-Day also asked its citizens to serve and sacrifice to make the invasion possible.  On farms and in factories, millions of men and women worked three shifts a day, month after month, year after year.  Trucks and tanks came from plants in Michigan and Indiana, New York and Illinois.  Bombers and fighter planes rolled off assembly lines in Ohio and Kansas, where my grandmother did her part as an inspector.  Shipyards on both coasts produced the largest fleet in history, including the landing craft from New Orleans that eventually made it here to Omaha.

But despite all the years of planning and preparation, despite the inspiration of our leaders, the skill of our generals, the strength of our firepower and the unyielding support from our home front, the outcome of the entire struggle would ultimately rest on the success of one day in June.

Lyndon Johnson once said that there are certain moments when "¼history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom."

D-Day was such a moment.  One newspaper noted that "we have come to the hour for which we were born."  Had the Allies failed here, Hitler's occupation of this continent might have continued indefinitely.  Instead, victory here secured a foothold in France.  It opened a path to Berlin.  It made possible the achievements that followed the liberation of Europe:  the Marshall Plan, the NATO alliance, the shared prosperity and security that flowed from each.

It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only six miles long and two miles wide.

More particularly, it came down to the men who landed here -- those who now rest in this place for eternity, and those who are with us here today.  Perhaps more than any other reason, you, the veterans of that landing, are why we still remember what happened on D-Day.  You're why we keep coming back.

For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control.  You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance.  Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man and woman.  It has always been up to us.

You could have done what Hitler believed you would do when you arrived here.  In the face of a merciless assault from these cliffs, you could have idled the boats offshore.  Amid a barrage of tracer bullets that lit the night sky, you could have stayed in those planes.  You could have hid in the hedgerows or waited behind the seawall.  You could have done only what was necessary to ensure your own survival.

But that's not what you did.  That's not the story you told on D-Day.  Your story was written by men like Zane Schlemmer of the 82nd Airborne, who parachuted into a dark marsh, far from his objective and his men.  Lost and alone, he still managed to fight his way through the gunfire and help liberate the town in which he landed -- a town where a street now bears his name.

It's a story written by men like Anthony Ruggiero, an Army Ranger who saw half the men on his landing craft drown when it was hit by shellfire just a thousand yards off this beach.  He spent three hours in freezing water, and was one of only 90 Rangers to survive out of the 225 who were sent to scale the cliffs.

And it's a story written by so many who are no longer with us, like Carlton Barrett.  Private Barrett was only supposed to serve as a guide for the 1st Infantry Division, but he instead became one of its heroes.  After wading ashore in neck-deep water, he returned to the water again and again and again to save his wounded and drowning comrades.  And under the heaviest possible enemy fire, he carried them to safety.  He carried them in his own arms.

This is the story of the Allied victory.  It's the legend of units like Easy Company and the All-American 82nd.  It's the tale of the British people, whose courage during the Blitz forced Hitler to call off the invasion of England; the Canadians, who came even though they were never attacked; the Russians, who sustained some of the war's heaviest casualties on the Eastern front; and all those French men and women who would rather have died resisting tyranny than lived within its grasp.

It is the memories that have been passed on to so many of us about the service or sacrifice of a friend or relative.  For me, it is my grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who arrived on this beach six weeks after D-Day and marched across Europe in Patton's Army.  And it is my great uncle who was part of the first American division to reach and liberate a Nazi concentration camp.  His name is Charles Payne, and I'm so proud that he's with us here today.

I know this trip doesn't get any easier as the years pass, but for those of you who make it, there's nothing that could keep you away.  One such veteran, a man named Jim Norene, was a member of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Division of the 101st Airborne.  Last night, after visiting this cemetery for one last time, he passed away in his sleep.  Jim was gravely ill when he left his home, and he knew that he might not return.  But just as he did 65 years ago, he came anyway.  May he now rest in peace with the boys he once bled with, and may his family always find solace in the heroism he showed here.

In the end, Jim Norene came back to Normandy for the same reason we all come back.  He came for the reason articulated by Howard Huebner, another former paratrooper who is here with us today.  When asked why he made the trip, Howard said, "It's important that we tell our stories.  It doesn't have to be something big¼just a little story about what happened -- so people don't forget."

So people don't forget.

Friends and veterans, we cannot forget.  What we must not forget is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and the selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century.  At an hour of maximum danger, amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary found within themselves the ability to do something extraordinary.  They fought for their moms and sweethearts back home, for the fellow warriors they came to know as brothers.  And they fought out of a simple sense of duty -- a duty sustained by the same ideals for which their countrymen had once fought and bled for over two centuries.

That is the story of Normandy -- but also the story of America; of the Minutemen who gathered on a green in Lexington; of the Union boys from Maine who repelled a charge at Gettysburg; of the men who gave their last full measure of devotion at Inchon and Khe San; of all the young men and women whose valor and goodness still carry forward this legacy of service and sacrifice.  It's a story that has never come easy, but one that always gives us hope.  For as we face down the hardships and struggles of our time, and arrive at that hour for which we were born, we cannot help but draw strength from those moments in history when the best among us were somehow able to swallow their fears and secure a beachhead on an unforgiving shore.

To those men who achieved that victory 65 years ago, we thank you for your service.  May God bless you, and may God bless the memory of all those who rest here.  (Applause.)

                          END                   4:09 P.M. (Local) 

[NOTE: Be sure to read Ronald Reagan's D-Day Address kindly provided by Jez in the comments section. Comparing and contrasting the two should prove intensely interesting and revealing. - FT]


  1. Here's Reagan's speech from 1984.

    Mr. President [Mitterrand of France], distinguished guests, we stand today at a place of battle, one that 40 years ago saw and felt the worst of war. Men bled and died here for a few feet of -- or inches of sand, as bullets and shellfire cut through their ranks. About them, General Omar Bradley later said, ``Every man who set foot on Omaha Beach that day was a hero.''
    No speech can adequately portray their suffering, their sacrifice, their heroism. President Lincoln once reminded us that through their deeds, the dead of battle have spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could. But we can only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they gave a last full measure of devotion.

    Today we do rededicate ourselves to that cause. And at this place of honor, we're humbled by the realization of how much so many gave to the cause of freedom and to their fellow man.

    Some who survived the battle of June 6, 1944, are here today. Others who hoped to return never did.

    ``Someday, Lis, I'll go back,'' said Private First Class Peter Robert Zanatta, of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, and first assault wave to hit Omaha Beach. ``I'll go back, and I'll see it all again. I'll see the beach, the barricades, and the graves.''

    Those words of Private Zanatta come to us from his daughter, Lisa Zanatta Henn, in a heart-rending story about the event her father spoke of so often. ``In his words, the Normandy invasion would change his life forever,'' she said. She tells some of his stories of World War II but says of her father, ``the story to end all stories was D-day.''

    ``He made me feel the fear of being on that boat waiting to land. I can smell the ocean and feel the seasickness. I can see the looks on his fellow soldiers' faces -- the fear, the anguish, the uncertainty of what lay ahead. And when they landed, I can feel the strength and courage of the men who took those first steps through the tide to what must have surely looked like instant death.''

    Private Zanatta's daughter wrote to me: ``I don't know how or why I can feel this emptiness, this fear, or this determination, but I do. Maybe it's the bond I had with my father. All I know is that it brings tears to my eyes to think about my father as a 20-year-old boy having to face that beach.''

    The anniversary of D-day was always special for her family. And like all the families of those who went to war, she describes how she came to realize her own father's survival was a miracle: ``So many men died. I know that my father watched many of his friends be killed. I know that he must have died inside a little each time. But his explanation to me was, `You did what you had to do, and you kept on going.'''


  2. When men like Private Zanatta and all our allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy 40 years ago they came not as conquerors, but as liberators. When these troops swept across the French countryside and into the forests of Belgium and Luxembourg they came not to take, but to return what had been wrongly seized. When our forces marched into Germany they came not to prey on a brave and defeated people, but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearned to be free again.

    We salute them today. But, Mr. President, we also salute those who, like yourself, were already engaging the enemy inside your beloved country -- the French Resistance. Your valiant struggle for France did so much to cripple the enemy and spur the advance of the armies of liberation. The French Forces of the Interior will forever personify courage and national spirit. They will be a timeless inspiration to all who are free and to all who would be free.

    Today, in their memory, and for all who fought here, we celebrate the triumph of democracy. We reaffirm the unity of democratic peoples who fought a war and then joined with the vanquished in a firm resolve to keep the peace.

    From a terrible war we learned that unity made us invincible; now, in peace, that same unity makes us secure. We sought to bring all freedom-loving nations together in a community dedicated to the defense and preservation of our sacred values. Our alliance, forged in the crucible of war, tempered and shaped by the realities of the postwar world, has succeeded. In Europe, the threat has been contained, the peace has been kept.

    Today the living here assembled -- officials, veterans, citizens -- are a tribute to what was achieved here 40 years ago. This land is secure. We are free. These things are worth fighting and dying for.

    Lisa Zanatta Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died 8 years ago of cancer: ``I'm going there, Dad, and I'll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I'll see the graves, and I'll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I'll feel all the things you made me feel through your stories and your eyes. I'll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let anyone else forget. And, Dad, I'll always be proud.''

    Through the words of his loving daughter, who is here with us today, a D-day veteran has shown us the meaning of this day far better than any President can. It is enough for us to say about Private Zanatta and all the men of honor and courage who fought beside him four decades ago: We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.

    Thank you.

  3. Thank you, Jez, for posting Mr. Reagan's speech.

    Have you anything to say about the differences in style, tone and content demonstrated in the approach of these two men to the same ceremonial occasion?

    Did you even notice any appreciable difference between them?

    I have all sorts of thoughts on it, myself, but would prefer to elicit responses from you -- and hopefully others -- instead of merely imposing my own feelings and opinions before anyone else has a chance.

    By all that's holy this OUGHT to stimulate a lively, worthwhile discussion, but perhaps it requires too much effort on the part of participants to bother.

    I shall leave this up today, and wait before sharing other items in hopes of drawing the attention I believe this deserves.

    Thanks again for contributing.

    ~ FreeThinke

  4. Not possible to read either speech fully right now, but I hoped some comparisons would take place. If anyone can rustle up a Bush transcript, that'd be great too.

  5. So, who makes up these outrageous lies like the one in your previous post? Agent provocateurs?

  6. Not LIES so much, Theristes, as half-truths, gross distortions, obfuscations, and sins of omission.

    Not telling the WHOLE truth, however, is probably as bad -- and may be worse -- than telling an outright lie.

    That "everybody does it," does not make it right, of course.


    "The partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions."

    ~ Socrates (470-399 B. C. )

    It was true 450 years before Christ, and it will be equally true 450 years from now.

    Fashions change. Science and Technology get more and more complex, but regrettably human nature remains the same.

    Do take a look at both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama's D-Day Addresses. It my seem like "too much work," but I think both are revealing and worth poring over to help gain insight into what makes two entirely different personalities with opposing worldviews tick.

    ~ FT

  7. Quick comment here....

    I have watched the video of Reagan's D-Day speech many times. It always moves me to tears. Tough ol' broad that I am, Reagan's speech takes me back to the days when my cousins were alive. They served from the sea (Navy enlistee) and on the ground (Army enlistee) on D-Day. My cousins volunteered to serve right after Pearl Harbor. They were about 18 and 19 years old.

    As far as speeches go -- and I say this as one who teaches public speaking and has done so for decades -- Obama's speech is flat.

  8. I suppose that the concept of "caritas" is lost upon all, under those circumstances.

    Paul Ch 13

    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    C'est la vie.

  9. Well without reading what anyone else has said, here is my compare and contrast.

    The similarities in the content are that both speak about the enormous amount of bravery and personal sacrifice that people had to make in the effort to defeat evil.

    The difference between Obama and Reagan in that regard is that Obama talks more about the collective struggle than the individual. Reagan uses heavy imagery in the story of that private to illustrate just how harrowing it was. Obama talks more about the seemingly insurmmountable odds that the men faced.

    The biggest difference between the two (other than length) is in the vision that each man had of their contemporary world.

    Reagan's world was a "united" one, which makes sense because we were still in the Cold War. His world was not unlike the world of WWII: good vs. evil. There were two clear camps in World War II: The Axis and the Allies. Just as well, there were two clear camps during the Cold War: The commies and the capitalists. In both scenarios, two groups of people were allied to fight evil or to conquer the world.

    Obama describes a world that is deeply fractured in multiple places. There aren't two camps anymore. It's not Red vs. Blue, or the Axis vs. the Allies. It's all of the interests competing for a piece of the pie.

    There were always factions and multiple fractures in the world, but Obama's point was that despite those divides, there is something that universally binds humanity: freedom.

    And Reagan hints at that, too when he mentions the French Resistance. There's a feature of the human spirit that makes most of us choose to fight to the death rather than to be subjugated.

    In terms of style, Obama's speech seemed to have more of a cadence to it, at least in the writing. Reagan's speech is one that needs to be heard from his voice in order to pick up the cadence.

  10. Also, I had to admit that I got a little choked up when I read Obama's speech, because the notion of sacrifice and courage in the face of near certain death is something that really gets to me.

    I appreciate both speeches for what they are and what they offer.

  11. Interesting reaction, Jack. I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond as few have done.

    I'm usually full of strong opinions when I'm visiting other people's blogs, but here I have an ambition to elicit the opinions of others and hope they will share their specific knowledge that pertains to whatever issue is at hand.

    At the blogs we're in an excellent position to stimulate interest, do some teaching, share exciting news, counsel, correct, affirm, and care for each other by showing interest in what others say and the style in which they present their information.

    Instead I see too much bickering, badgering, boilerplate political invective, and name-calling which gets very tedious.

    Thanks for helping to elevate the tone by taking the questions seriously.

    ~ FreeThinke

  12. In case you had any doubt, Thersites, your reference to St. Paul was not lost in me.

    Thank you. 'Twas apt.

    ~ FT

  13. I've read them both now and I found Reagan's had more impact and was easier to read -- I guess it's the shorter -- but interesting what Jack said about the voice, I couldn't read it without hearing Reagan's voice.

    The 25 years between the two speeches are important. Jack's correct to note the evolution of world politics, but also as WWII passes from living memory, I disagree that this is "the same ceremonial occasion". In 1984, the substantial part of the audience were the veterans themselves. That's starting to be not the case.

  14. Here's W. Bush in 2002:

    Mr. President and Mrs. Chirac; Secretary Powell and Secretary Principi; members of the United States Congress; members of the American Armed Services; veterans; family members; fellow Americans; and friends: We have gathered on this quiet corner of France as the sun rises on Memorial Day in the United States of America. This is a day our country has set apart to remember what was gained in our wars, and all that was lost.

    Our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and women we honor today, and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped to live.

    This day of remembrance was first observed to recall the terrible casualties of the war Americans fought against each other. In the nearly 14 decades since, our nation's battles have all been far from home. Here on the continent of Europe were some of the fiercest of those battles, the heaviest losses, and the greatest victories.

    And in all those victories American soldiers came to liberate, not to conquer. The only land we claim as our own are the resting places of our men and women.

    More than 9,000 are buried here, and many times that number have -- of fallen soldiers lay in our cemeteries across Europe and America. From a distance, surveying row after row of markers, we see the scale and heroism and sacrifice of the young. We think of units sustaining massive casualties, men cut down crossing a beach, or taking a hill, or securing a bridge. We think of many hundreds of sailors lost in their ships.

    The war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, told of a British officer walking across the battlefield just after the violence had ended. Seeing the bodies of American boys scattered everywhere, the officer said, in sort of a hushed eulogy spoken only to himself, "Brave men, brave men."

    All who come to a place like this feel the enormity of the loss. Yet, for so many, there is a marker that seems to sit alone -- they come looking for that one cross, that one Star of David, that one name. Behind every grave of a fallen soldier is a story of the grief that came to a wife, a mother, a child, a family, or a town.

    A World War II orphan has described her family's life after her father was killed on a field in Germany. "My mother," she said, "had lost everything she was waiting for. She lost her dreams. There were an awful lot of perfect linen tablecloths in our house that never got used, so many things being saved for a future that was never to be."

    Each person buried here understood his duty, but also dreamed of going back home to the people and the things he knew. Each had plans and hopes of his own, and parted with them forever when he died.

    The day will come when no one is left who knew them, when no visitor to this cemetery can stand before a grave remembering a face and a voice. The day will never come when America forgets them. And our nation and the world will always remember what they did here, and what they gave here for the future of humanity.

    As dawn broke during the invasion, a little boy in the village off of Gold Beach called out to his mother, "Look, the sea is black with boats." Spread out before them and over the horizon were more than 5,000 ships and landing craft. In the skies were some of the 12,000 planes sent on the first day of Operation Overlord. The Battle of Normandy would last many days, but June 6th, 1944, was the crucial day.

    The late President, Francois Mitterrand, said that nothing in history compares to D-day. "The 6th of June," he observed, "sounded the hour when history tipped toward the camp of freedom." Before dawn, the first paratroopers already had been dropped inland. The story is told of a group of French women finding Americans and imploring them not to leave. The trooper said, "We're not leaving. If necessary, this is the place we die."


  15. Units of Army Rangers on shore, in one of history's bravest displays, scaled cliffs directly in the gunfire, never relenting even as comrades died all around them. When they had reached the top, the Rangers radioed back the code for success: "Praise the Lord."

    Only a man who is there, charging out of a landing craft, can know what it was like. For the entire liberating force, there was only the ground in front of them -- no shelter, no possibility of retreat. They were part of the largest amphibious landing in history, and perhaps the only great battle in which the wounded were carried forward. Survivors remember the sight of a Catholic chaplain, Father Joe Lacey, lifting dying men out of the water, and comforting and praying with them. Private Jimmy Hall was seen carrying the body of his brother, Johnny, saying, "He can't, he can't be dead. I promised Mother I'd look after him."

    Such was the size of the Battle of Normandy. Thirty-eight pairs of brothers died in the liberation, including Bedford and Raymond Hoback of Virginia, both who fell on D-Day. Raymond's body was never found. All he left behind was his Bible, discovered in the sand. Their mother asked that Bedford be buried here, as well, in the place Raymond was lost, so her sons would always be together.

    On Memorial Day, America honors her own. Yet we also remember all the valiant young men and women from many allied nations, including France, who shared in the struggle here, and in the suffering. We remember the men and women who served and died alongside Americans in so many terrible battles on this continent, and beyond.

    Words can only go so far in capturing the grief and sense of loss for the families of those who died in all our wars. For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief is recent, with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan. They can know, however, that the cause is just and, like other generations, these sacrifices have spared many others from tyranny and sorrow.

    Long after putting away his uniform, an American GI expressed his own pride in the truth about all who served, living and dead. He said, "I feel like I played my part in turning this from a century of darkness into a century of light."

    Here, where we stand today, the new world came back to liberate the old. A bond was formed of shared trial and shared victory. And a light that scattered darkness from these shores and across France would spread to all of Europe -- in time, turning enemies into friends, and the pursuits of war into the pursuits of peace. Our security is still bound up together in a transatlantic alliance, with soldiers in many uniforms defending the world from terrorists at this very hour.

    The grave markers here all face west, across an ageless and indifferent ocean to the country these men and women served and loved. The thoughts of America on this Memorial Day turn to them and to all their fallen comrades in arms. We think of them with lasting gratitude; we miss them with lasting love; and we pray for them. And we trust in the words of the Almighty God, which are inscribed in the chapel nearby: "I give unto them eternal life, that they shall never perish."

    God bless.

  16. PART ONE

    The differences between Mr. Obama's address and Mr. Reagan's and Mr. Obama's and Mr. Bush's are strikingly clear, but I had hoped to hear it articulated by someone other than myself.

    Very briefly, Mr. Obama's address is didactic, academic, and emotionally detached -- and too protracted -- to be able to touch anyone's heart.

    To me it comes across as condescending. He is showing his audience how much he has learned, how much he knows, while telling them what he thinks its significance might be, as if they had no idea.

    Mr. Obama reminds me of a pupil who studied hard, and learned many facts for the sole purpose of getting a good grade. He is able to rattle off his acquired, superficial knowledge proudly without betraying any sense of personal identification with his material. His attitude -- as usual -- is that of one who regards himself as "above it all."

    There's an element of palpable insincerity in Mr. Obama's words. He is saying what he knows is expected of him, but clearly does not have any feeling for it. The I-think-clumsy attempts to be "fair" and give due credit to everyone else in the world while putting a damper on the acknowledgement of our leadership role shows a deplorable lack of pride in his country, or appreciation for her accomplishment in literally saving the world from the the tragedy of being subjected to brutal tyranny of National Socialism and the savagery and barbarism of the Japanese. [I strongly advise anyone who wants to take exception to that terminology to read The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang]

    ~ FT


  17. PART TWO

    On the other hand in contrast to Mr. Obama's aura of chilly aloofness and condescension both Mr. Reagan and the younger Mr. Bush appear warmly human, genuinely engaged and humble enough to be largely self-effacing, yet at the same time deeply proud of our country and honestly appreciative of the sacrifices made by countless individuals.

    Both of these former Republican presidents show reverence for things they know to be far greater than themselves, and empathy for those who died and those left behind to suffer the pain of loss -- qualities notably lacking in Mr. Obama, who clearly believes he knows it all better than you or anyone else ever could.

    Mr. Obama betrays all the earmarks of someone whose knowledge is almost entirely theoretical -- i.e. it was spoon fed to him by agenda-driven mentors, and not based on real life experience. He sees the application of what he-thinks-he-knows in the terms of a tactician.

    I doubt very much if Mr. Obama is capable of being moved by the content of Great Books, and I doubt if he is aware of the importance of poetry. I am reasonably certain he would be politely indifferent at best to fine performances of great symphonic music, lyric tragedy, high comedy or brilliant satire. I imagine too that the wonders of historically important architecture and the beauty of lovingly-tended gardens, fine, hand-crafted furniture and exquisitely decorated rooms escape him completely.

    He dresses well, himself, but his poor wife -- "our" First Lady! -- betrays an embarrassing -- truly pathetic -- lack of good taste not only in her attire, which is frankly grotesque, but in just about everything she does in public. Alas! She is the consummate vulgarian run amok.

    In short Mr. Obama is a pretty dull fellow with an infinite capacity either to make audiences snore or snort with indignation at his colossal effrontery.

    I hasten to add in the interests of fairness that the same was largely true of George W. Bush, but at least he didn't burden his image with cold-hearted, pompous pretentiousness, and his wife was -- and remains -- a shining gem in the history of those who were fated to play the role of First Lady.

    I disliked Laura Bush's pronounced "country girl" West Texas accent and felt the same about her husband's uncultivated speech and poor command of English, but Mrs. Bush's performance as First Lady was exemplary -- as was that of her mother-in-law. Laura Bush is not only beautiful, she shows exactly the right blend of modesty, humility, grace and quiet competence so needed and appreciated in that difficult role.

    Well, those remarks went far beyond the boundaries of focusing on the differences among three D-Day Addresses, but I never fail to see broad implications in most specific events.

    Thanks again to Jez for troubling to supply two speeches and for taking the time to read and comment on them.

    I know EXACTLY what-I-think-he-may-mean by hearing Mr. Reagan's voice as you read his words. I feel the same.

    Jack had almost the opposite reaction, which may be as much a generational difference as anything else. Young people perceive the world from a very different perspective than most people my age.

    Jez, of course, is much younger than I, but considerably older, I think, than Jack.

    Then too no two people of any age examine an item and see precisely the same thing. All of us limited, because we can see only through the "prism" of our unique identity and the background and ethos in which we were raised.

    ~ FreeThinke

  18. Yes I think Obama's was a lot more academic, but that's not a bad thing IMO.

    I think one of the biggest problems we're facing today in American politics, and perhaps the world in general, is that we're abandoning ideas for feelings.

    I think Obama did well in highlighting the amount of sacrifice that the brave men and women had to endure. I think Reagan and Bush did well in portraying the imagery of the individual experience.

    Why must we take these speeches sepparately? Why must we rank them? All three have some truth to convey about the human experience, and they tackle that from different angles.

    Let's be clear on one thing: I'm no fan of Obama. Not even a little bit. But I read his speech with an objective mindset. I don't care about him, or his personality, or anything like that. All I cared about was his content, style, and cadence.

    Sure it was more academic, but I consider myself to be an academic. Does that make me cold and detatched?

    Can we honestly judge what was in his heart when he gave his speech? No, not at all. All we can do is assume that unless he is a monster--which I believe he is not--then he had just as much sincerity as Reagan and Bush when they delivered their speeches.

    And as for your comment about Obama shying from our leadership role--I actually got the EXACT OPPOSITE from what he said. In fact, I felt that Obama's speech was more America-centric than Reagan's. "The story of D-Day is the story of America . . ." or some such thing.

    Reagan is the one that mentioned the French Resistance and what not. So I'm at a bit of a loss as to why you think Obama didn't give due credit to America. It seemed that all he talked about was American sacrifice.

  19. well, Obama dissed the last 2 celebrations of D Day so I was pleased to see SOMETHING here!

  20. The war means different things to each of these presidents, I'm sure. I notice Reagan actually served in WWII, though he wasn't sent abroad. Naturally Obama cannot compete with 1st hand experience.

    I sometimes wonder whether any American can fully appreciate the European understanding of the war. I'm in no way diminishing the American sacrifices that were made, but it happened here, not there. It's not the same.

    We all agree that WWII is THE classic good vs evil struggle (could it really have been that simple? even I, normally attracted to the unthinkable, can't seriously doubt it), but for Europe it is the war to end all wars. We REALLy don't want to do it again.

    Maybe you feel some of what we feel about WWII about the American civil war -- losses were terrible, even higher than WWII I think. Does that awful conflict match up to the modern weapons, the bombs, rockets, the civilian targets etc. of WWII? I find myself resisting that idea.

    Obama, with his much discussed Kenyan background, may have other wars and conflicts at the forefront of his mind, conflicts I know so little about I cannot begin to speculate.

    I still have not read Bush's speech, but I have vague memories of it from the time. Did he make some offensive comparisons between WWII and ongoing conflicts? That's the danger with rousing, emotional memorial speeches, they can be used to stoke our appetite for "adventure" and "glory".
    In my opinion, a successful memorial speech makes you more reluctant to go to war, not more willing.

  21. Hi, Z,

    Did you mean to say "missed," or did you really mean "dissed?"

    I doubt if even "The Great and Terrible O" was obtuse enough to be guilty of the latter.

    ~ FT

  22. Jez,

    The D-Day Commemorative in France is "the same ceremonial occasion" in the sense that Christmas celebrates and commemorates the same event each year.

    Ceremonial occasions -- at least in the relative sanity of the pre-Post-Modern world -- never change their names, but of course, changes in interpretation and focus occur with each personality involved leading the festivities in each location.

    Christmas in Mediaeval Europe, Elizabethan England, the mind of Charles Dickens, Central and South America and the increasing exploitative commercialization and politically-motivated secularization we've experienced in the United States since I was a child show the meaning of "Christmas" to be diffuse -- to put it mildly.

    Yet, Christmas is still Christmas, is it not?

    ~ FreeThinke

  23. I have to admit I wonder -- and worry -- that considerations such as TONE, TEMPERAMENT, STYLE, CHARACTER and MOTIVATION appear to mean so little to younger generations.

    Jack seems to believe (please correct me if I misread you, Jack), that as long as the material presented is factually correct and pays lip service to the assumed gravity and significance of the occasion that qualifies the presentation as sufficiently worthy -- even meritorious.

    Do you not see -- or not care -- that Obama's speech showed no empathy or sense of personal connection to the points he rattled off like an exceedingly long laundry list? Do you not perceive Obama's lack of depth? Do you not see that from their tone that Obama's words could not possibly have been from his heart, but were merely calculated to show how "knowledgeable," how "even-tempered," how "fair-minded," and "magisterial" he would like everyone to believe he is?

    Words mean nothing -- Ideas mean nothing -- Notes on musical score paper mean nothing -- UNLESS they are interpreted and implemented with passion and a committed sense of purpose. That is what Thersites meant when he made a brief reference to St. Paul's famous passage on Charity.

    Obama's purpose appears always to be self-aggrandizement coupled with a ruthless dedication to the implementation of the false ideals his mentors programmed into his not-very-nimble brain. I say "not very nimble," because I doubt very seriously if he's ever had a idea in his head that someone else did not PUT there.

    Compared to a towering figure like Winston Churchill, modern "leaders" such as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- AND it must be said -- the men who ran against them -- seem puerile, petty, venal and jejune.

    GOOD CHARACTER and UNSELFISH MOTIVATION mean EVERYTHING. All else is vain pretense.

    Gold should never be conflated or confused with the pyrites.

    ~ FreeThinke

  24. JEZ,

    I left a two-part comment in reply to you at this week-old post.

    Saturday, August 4, 2012: The Tale of the Fisherman and His Wife

    I hope you may find time to take a look at it.

    ~ FreeThinke

  25. FT,

    Style was one of the things that I said I took into consideration. Content, style, and cadence.

    This is where you and I diverge: ideas etc. mean nothing unless they're interpreted with passion etc..

    Of course they mean something FT, and that's why you have such a hard time swallowing Obama's speech. You have an aversion to his personal character--I don't. Calling Obama arrogant, or whatever doesn't really interest me because to me it sounds like a bunch of women gossiping (sorry to your women readers).

    You asked us to read the speech and that's what I did. Unlike many, I gave Obama the chance of objectivity. And you know what? I'm a better person for it. Because I put aside my criticisms of the Obama administration, I was able to get something out of his speech.

    THere was no self-aggrandizement. Sure he mentioned himself in the speech, but only to reference his ancestors who faught and sacrificed. Obama is a human being as well, and the sacrifices of his family members is just as righteous to note as that of the woman Reagan referenced.

    You're so caught up in hating Obama that you miss the moments when he has something good to say. All he talked about in his speech was sacrifice and hardship in the face of seemingly insurmmountable odds. He talked about part of the experience, the reality of the people who lived during that time.

    Who honestly gives a shit about his interpretation or passion? The ideas he talked about, the words he wrote/spoke, mean something to me because of MY interpretation and passion. I don't need some great orator to TELL ME what to believe.

    Perhaps that's the difference between us?

  26. Thank you for your comments, Jack. They are very revealing.

    ~ FT

  27. Sorry! I mean to add that I hope lots of others will read what you have said, Jack.

    We do seem to be lacking the amount of readership I had hoped to attract.

    Letting people be themselves without fear of how others may receive unfiltered, unfettered opinion is the aim here. It can be extremely interesting, though not always "fun."

    ~ FT

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