D-Day Event, Obama To Connect World War Two, Sept. 11 Veterans
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[June 03, 2014]
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack
Obama will draw a connection between the "Greatest Generation" that
fought in World War Two to the "9/11 generation" that emerged after the
Sept. 11 attacks when he marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day
invasion this week.
"There's a continuum of patriotism and sacrifice that you see in
this generation and that you saw in the 'Greatest Generation,'" said
Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.
The president is expected to use his speech to stress the importance
of the U.S-European alliance and underscore his government's
commitment to caring for U.S. veterans in the wake of a healthcare
scandal at the Veterans Administration
At the Omaha Beach landing site in Normandy, Obama will take part on
Friday in a D-Day ritual that for years after World War Two largely
took a back seat to remembrances of the Japanese attack on the U.S.
naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, that drew
America into the war.
That changed in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan at the 40th
anniversary delivered what is considered "one of the defining
speeches of the Reagan presidency," said Ken Duberstein, a former
Reagan White House chief of staff.
Historian Douglas Brinkley, who wrote a book about the Reagan
speech, said Reagan helped rekindle interest in World War Two among
Americans that continues to this day.
"Now, going to Normandy has become like going to Gettysburg was for
another generation," he said of the pivotal 1863 Civil War battle.
Reagan's widely praised speech on the bravery of the Army Rangers
who scaled the Pointe du Hoc cliffs has presented a challenge for
his successors who have marked the occasion at Normandy.
"The challenge is to adequately capture not just the events and
their meaning but the men and their legacy," said speechwriter John
McConnell, who helped write George W. Bush's speech on the 60th
anniversary in 2004.
Presidents not only hail heroism during the D-Day anniversary but
adjust their speeches at the D-Day event to send a message about
U.S. resolve during contemporary events.
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Bill Clinton said at the 50th anniversary in 1994 just after the
Cold War, that "as freedom rings from Prague to Kiev, the liberation
of this continent is nearly complete."
Bush, who formed a strong alliance to respond to the 9/11 attacks
only to see part of it splinter with his 2003 invasion of Iraq,
declared in 2004 that the U.S.-European alliance "is still needed
This year has a different kind of poignancy as there will be fewer
D-Day veterans in attendance than ever before. They are believed to
number only in the thousands and most at their youngest would be in
their late 80s.
Those who go will be joined by some veterans of the Afghanistan and
Iraq conflicts, part of what is known as the "9/11 generation"
because many volunteered for duty to fight against those who brought
down the World Trade Center towers.
"The legacy lives on," Rhodes said.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; editing by Andrew Hay)
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