August 1, 2000
The former Senator and 1996 GOP nominee discusses the contributions of America's veterans.
Leadership in the next American Century
Tonight, I have the honor, and the pleasure, of being here with no agenda, and no greater ambition, than to help give our country what she deserves: Leadership worthy of the next American Century.
Along with the former presidents, I am honored to be part of what is called the "greatest generation."
Flattering as that sounds, the truth is we were ordinary Americans who along with millions of others were called upon to meet extraordinary challenges.
Whatever we may be today as a nation, it is because many generations of Americans were willing to make the greatest of sacrifices.
Our Kansas motto is: "To the stars through difficulties." There's the American Century in a phrase.
During the bleak 1930s, it was fashionable in some quarters to see democracy as a dying faith, an exhausted creed that must give way to dictators of the right and left.
We knew better. When war was forced upon us, we left our homes to rescue civilization from those who would put the soul itself in bondage.
Many of us -- too many -- never came back. Today, they rest where they fell: in the green fields of France; beneath Italy's frowning peaks; and under the turquoise waters of the Pacific.
Speaking for voiceless heroes
Tonight I am honored to speak for these voiceless heroes, and for their comrades who survived the deadliest war ever inflicted on the human family. More than half a century after the guns fell silent, our ranks are dwindling.
Our reunions grow thin. But the memories endure, and with them, the ability to inspire unborn generations to meet their own defining tests.
May they take heart from the example of those who defended freedom in its darkest hour.
Creating a true memorial to war dead
Yet whatever our past achievements, our main obligation is to the future. Thus, our mission is incomplete until we recognize, now and for all time, the World War II generation on the Mall in Washington, D.C. There, on democracy's
We will honor their service. We will mourn their sacrifice. We will remind tomorrow's Americans that they are descended from heroes, for whom liberty is a birthright.
But in a larger sense, no group of stone pillars or arches, moving as those symbols may be, can fully recognize their contributions.
If you want to see their true memorial, look around you. It is to be found everywhere - at this convention -- and in the upcoming one in Los Angeles, and in the November election, and every time free men and women assemble to determine their destiny.
Four years ago I said I was the most optimistic man in America. I still am. In a single lifetime I have seen Americans split the atom, abolish Jim Crow, eliminate the scourge of polio, win the Cold War, plant our flag on the surface of the moon, belatedly recognize the talents of women and others once relegated to the shadows, develop the Internet, lead The Information Age, and map the human genome.
Much of this we take for granted. Yet all of this was once part of a barely imaginable America - the youngest, bravest, freest land on the planet.
Now we meet in the birthplace of American liberty to renew our social contract. We look to Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney to raise our sights, and to restore honor and civility to our public life.
The struggle to realize America's promise
Meanwhile, the struggle to realize America's promise must be waged with every generation.
Wherever I go, I meet young people who want to be part of something larger than themselves; heroes in waiting, who realize that often the only path to the stars is through difficulty. Don't be fooled by their wardrobe or their music.
They are as great a generation as this nation has ever produced. Even as we meet, they are fighting quiet wars of their own; combating poverty, prejudice, isolation and indulgence. My fondest hope is that all their challenges are posed in community service, in classrooms and research labs, not on foreign battlefields.
In the course of my life I have experienced honors such as come to a very few.
For 36 years the people of Kansas entrusted me with their voice and with their vote in Washington.
Twice this party has nominated me for the nation's highest offices. But the greatest privilege of my life has been to wear the uniform of our country in a righteous cause.
Not far from here, Lincoln at Gettysburg, said "it is for us, the living . . . to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought . . . have thus far so nobly advanced. It is . . . for us to be . . . dedicated to the great task remaining before us."
Ensuring freedom's survival
The task before us is the unending struggle to realize America's promise to build a society as decent as it is prosperous.
To ensure freedom's survival and expand the frontiers of opportunity.
To win home-front victories for justice and individual dignity.
In this struggle we shall find our strength in many places, but the ultimate source of our purpose comes from above.
And now please join me in saluting the greatest generation of veterans and EVERY generation of our armed services.
We ask that all veterans who are here with us in the hall tonight stand and be recognized as your respective service songs are played...
My fellow Americans, this proud veteran salutes you.