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Remarks at a World War II Commemorative Service in Honolulu, Hawaii

September 03, 1995

Thank you, Bishop, for your remarks, your service, your introduction. To all of the distinguished people who have participated in this magnificent program today, let me say that after Captain Lovell spoke and Colonel Washington sang and the Bishop made his remarks, I'm not sure there's much else to say. [Laughter] And I'm certain that the rest of us have been warmed by this ceremony beyond belief.

But I do believe—I think there are two brief things that ought to be said. One is we ought to express our appreciation to this magnificent choir for the music they have given us today. [Applause] And secondly, inasmuch as this is the last of a long and magnificent series of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, I would like to ask General Mick Kicklighter and any other members of the World War II Commemorative Commission who are here to stand and receive our gratitude for a job very well done. [Applause]

Let me ask you as we close what you believe people will say about World War II 100 or 200 or 300 years from today. I believe the lesson will be that people, when given a choice, will not choose to live under empire; that citizens, when given a choice, will not choose to live under dictators; that people, when given the opportunity to let the better angels of their natures rise to the top, will not embrace theories of political or racial or ethnic or religious superiority; that in the end, we know that Thomas Jefferson was right: God created us all equal, with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and whatever differences there are among us, we have more in common.

That was the ultimate lesson of the magnificent remarks that Captain Lovell made. And it better be the ultimate lesson we learn from the tragedy of World War II. As we move into the 21st century, as the world gets smaller and smaller, as the fragile resources we have that sustains life and permit progress have to be maintained and enhanced, we must remember that.

That was a lesson that some people knew even in World War II. And I'd like to close with a reading from this little book, "The Soldier's and Sailor's Prayer Book," that a lot of our veterans carried with them in battle in World War II. This is a prayer written by the famous American poet Stephen Vincent Benet that became known as the President's prayer because President Franklin Roosevelt prayed it on Flag Day, June 14th, 1942. I hope this is what people remember as the lesson of World War II one and two hundred years from now: "God of the free, grant us brotherhood and hope and union, not only for the space of this bitter war but for the days to come, which shall and must unite all the children of Earth. We are, all of us, children of Earth. Grant us that simple knowledge. If our brothers are oppressed, then we are oppressed. If they hunger, then we hunger. If their freedom is taken away, our freedom is not secure. Grant us the common faith that man shall know bread and peace; that he shall know justice and righteousness, freedom, and security; an equal opportunity and an equal chance to do his best not only in our own land but throughout the world. And in that faith, let us march toward the clean world our hands can make."

Amen, and God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:18 a.m. at the and bishop of the United Methodist Church; Waikiki Band Shell. In his remarks, he referred Capt. James A. Lovell, Jr., former astronaut; and to Bishop James Matthew, World War II veteran Lt. Col. D.C. Washington, vocalist.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a World War II Commemorative Service in Honolulu, Hawaii Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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