Veterans Day Presidential Speeches


President Obama (2009):“Ninety-one years ago today, the battlefields of Europe fell quiet as World War I came to a close. But we don't mark this day each year as a celebration of victory, as proud of that victory as we are. We mark this day as a celebration of those who made victory possible. It's a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation -- generations of them -- who above all else believed in and fought for a set of ideals. Because they did, our country still stands; our founding principles still shine; nations around the world that once knew nothing but fear now know the blessings of freedom.

That is why we fight -- in hopes of a day when we no longer need to. And that is why we gather at these solemn remembrances and reminders of war -- to recommit ourselves to the hard work of peace.”

President G.W. Bush (2004):
“Today, we're thinking of our fellow Americans last seen on duty, whose fate is still undetermined. We will not rest until we have made the fullest possible accounting for every life.

Today we also recall the men and women who did not live to be called ‘veterans,’ many of whom rest in these hills. Our veterans remember the faces and voices of fallen comrades. The families of the lost carry a burden of grief that time will lighten, but never lift. Our whole nation honors every patriot who placed duty and country before their own lives. They gave us every day that we live in freedom. The security of America depends on our active leadership in the world to oppose emerging threats and to spread freedom that leads to the peace we all want. And our leadership ultimately depends on the commitment and character of the Armed Forces.”

President Clinton (1999):
“Finally, fulfilling our responsibility to lead for peace and freedom, and to be faithful not only to our service personnel, but our veterans, requires us to do more than prepare people to fight wars and take care of them when they come home. We must work with greater determination to prevent wars. Every American who gave his or her life for our country was, in one way or another, a victim of a peace that faltered, of diplomacy that failed, of the absence of adequate preventive strength. We know that if diplomacy is not backed by real and credible threats of force, it can be empty, and even dangerous. But if we don't use diplomacy first, then our military will become our only line of defense.

Of course, it also costs money to help struggling young democracies to stand on their feet as friends and partners of the United States, as we've tried to do from Poland to Russia to Nigeria to Indonesia. It costs money to make sure nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union are secure; for the terrorists and leaders who wish us harm do not acquire the means to kill on a more massive scale. It costs money to support the peacemakers in places like the Middle East and the Balkans and Africa, so that regional conflicts do not explode and spread.

But all of you know, better than most, that freedom is not free. And all of you know, far better than most, that the costliest peace is far cheaper than the cheapest war.”

President Reagan (1985):“It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.”

President Kennedy (1961):
“For our part, we shall achieve that peace only with patience and perseverance and courage -- the patience and perseverance necessary to work with allies of diverse interests but common goals, the courage necessary over a long period of time to overcome an adversary skilled in the arts of harassment and obstruction.

There is no way to maintain the frontiers of freedom without cost and commitment and risk. There is no swift and easy path to peace in our generation. No man who witnessed the tragedies of the last war, no man who can imagine the unimaginable possibilities of the next war, can advocate war out of irritability or frustration or impatience.”