Admiral Roughead, CNO, thanks for your leadership and friendship.
Distinguished guests all…
Congressman Jefferson, Congressman Fossella, General Magnus, Mike Petters and shipbuilders of Northrop Grumman… citizens of New York…. fellow Americans.
As a former Secretary of the Navy, it’s a pleasure to be “back where I belong” surrounded by our Nation’s great Sailors and Marines … and the dedicated shipbuilders who provide the ships for the finest Naval Force in the world.
Mike Petters, thank you for inviting me to be part of this special day … for a magnificent ship that has a special place in the heart of every American.
Particular thanks to the talented people of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding who have worked to make this day possible.
It is a singular honor for Dotty and me to share this day with each of you. We have been truly blessed with the opportunity to together serve our Nation for the past seven years… and I have been especially blessed to have her as my shipmate for over 45 years.
Commander Curt Jones and I last met in Iraq on the way to Afghanistan. Curt, thank you for your selfless service to America. You are the ideal officer to lead the Sailors and Marines who will soon go to sea in NEW YORK. Command At Sea … is a privilege … and the ultimate aspiration of every American naval officer … from John Paul Jones to this day.
For this shipyard, for Commander Curt Jones and the Sailors and Marines he has been tasked to lead … and for all Americans … today is a day of reflection, remembrance and resolve.
On the day the towers fell… all Americans were New Yorkers.
Some people still question why terrorists killed 3,000 people of 60 nationalities that day. I’ve concluded that they killed 3,000 because they did not know how to kill 30,000, 300,000 or 3 million, but they would have if they could have … and they are still trying.
This is not a war of our choosing. This is not a war we can ignore. This is not a war that will end if we walk away from the battlefield.
This fight, brought to our shores that day, is a struggle that will require strong, steady and sustained leadership with the enduring need for a strong military … and ships like NEW YORK.
A ship’s name is important.
The tradition within the Naval Service is to name ships in honor of great national or military leaders … or heroes who sacrificed for the defense of freedom … or battles … fought to secure our liberties … or great American communities that represent the resiliency, vitality and spirit of America.
Ships, with names like Constitution, Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima, are also a reminder to our citizens ... that for over 230 years Americans before us … sacrificed their lives and fortunes to defend freedom and liberty … for all peoples throughout the world.
Ship names provide a legacy…and for the Sailors and Marines who sail in those ships ….they are a source of strength … and inspiration.
At the naming ceremony in New York City, about one year after 9-11, Governor Pataki said, “The USS New York will ensure that all New Yorkers and the world will never forget the evil attacks of September 11, and the courage and compassion New Yorkers showed in response to terror.”
USS New York, and her sister ships, USS Arlington and USS Somerset, will be living tributes to every hero who died at the World Trade Centers….at the Pentagon…and on United Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
We must remember all of our fallen citizens as they would have wanted us to … men and women who were free…as Americans.
These three ships … these Champions of Freedom, stand for “life, liberty … and the pursuit of all who threaten it” and will ensure that we NEVER FORGET … 11 September 2001. They will take the fight to all who threaten peace and freedom.
The ship’s motto was inspired by President Bush. I remember well when the President came to the Pentagon on 9-12 and met with the Pentagon’s senior civilian and military leaders.
The Pentagon was still burning. In the conference room, you could smell the smoke and jet fuel… and feel the soot in the air. Security was high, and the military was on full alert.
I recall the President telling us to Get Ready…. to get the military ready. He stressed that this war will be fought on three fronts…diplomatic, economic and military, but that the military must succeed for the Nation to win.
He said, “This will be a long war – not like removing a mole, but like removing a cancer.” He said that the country needed to move on and resume life as normal, but that we, who were charged with the defense of America and freedom, could never forget what happened on 9-11. The President said, “I will never forget”. He then went around the room and looked everyone squarely in the eye and said, “Never Forget…Never Forget.”
And, our military has performed magnificently.
Our brave men and women in uniform are truly the finest in the world. In this age of terrorism, I describe them as the thin line – but thick wall … that separates the lives we live in freedom every day….from chaos and fear.
Because of the courage and sacrifice of generations of Americans, more nations are freer now than ever before … but that freedom is increasingly under assault.
But military force alone will not win this war on terror. America will not lose this war on the battlefield – not with the best forces in the whole world.
But America and our friends and allies can’t win this war only on the battlefield, either.
Ultimately, what will win the war on terror – like the Cold War – are the choices people make, whether the terrorists’ path of violence, or the far better path of peace, democracy, and development.
Eisenhower said, “The history of free men is never written by chance, but by choice – their choice.”
All free nations have to provide an alternative to the terrorists’ false promises, in the form of real paths toward social and economic development, the rule of law, and freedom of choice.
People in embattled communities around the world listen to the words we use - particularly on our national stage - and they watch our actions – and choose whether and how to act -- and this could be more important than anything else in tipping the scales.
The most important message America can send to the world is our commitment to freedom and liberty for our citizens and for all people.
In his second Inaugural, President Reagan said, “Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit. People worldwide hunger for the right of self-determination.” It was that same hunger by our founding fathers over 230 years ago that provided the foundation for the way of life we so enjoy today.
The power of freedom … the power that brought down the Wall in Berlin in 1989 … the power that brought millions to the voting booths in Iraq and Afghanistan … is still the most powerful tool in our national arsenal.
The Statue of Liberty has long been a symbol of Freedom for America and all mankind. She will soon be joined by NEW YORK … and together they will be an even brighter beacon…that will send an even stronger message of America’s determination to defend freedom… throughout the world.
God bless this great ship, God bless all our veterans … and those who every day defend our freedoms and liberties, and may God continue to bless America.