On behalf of Secretary Rumsfeld, I’d first like to welcome some Michiganders—I hope I got that pronunciation right—Senator Stabenow and Congressman Stupak. And Chairman Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, let me say it is a pleasure to welcome someone to the Pentagon who’s been such a true friend and advocate over many years on behalf of America’s men and women in uniform. In light of that fact, we are especially pleased that, now when you visit us, you can see a little bit of Michigan growing right here. Or—as I understand it, the way these trees grow, you may be able to see quite a lot of Michigan growing here one day.
David Milarch and members of the National Tree Trust, especially the Champion Tree Project, who have brought us these beautiful trees and are helping to preserve America’s living heritage, welcome. General Cates, ladies and gentlemen; and our most honored guests: the families and friends of those we remember today.
Thousands of people pass by this spot each day on their way to work, on their way to visit places that belong to every American, or to come to work here at the Pentagon. In this place of such energy and purpose, it is fitting we remember co-workers, family members and friends who lived their lives with energy and purpose, with trees whose roots will grow deep and whose branches will reach, literally, toward heaven.
While it is painful to recall our sadness and the lives we lost so tragically on that Tuesday last September, we can remember with joy that while they lived on earth, they labored to build a just and peaceful world. That is their living legacy.
Like the great forests across America, their legacy of strength and resilience and endurance lives on in the men and women who serve us today—here in the Pentagon, where patriots gave their lives, and in other places near and far—places where others who love freedom labor at this very moment, some in harm’s way—to preserve and defend liberty. They are men and women dedicated, as the President put it so powerfully, "to building a better world beyond terror."
It is important we remember that the impact of selflessness, virtue and strength go far beyond a single lifetime and survive despite tragedy and trial—just as, through the ages, out of fire, flood and destruction, a tree will always grow. The prophet Isaiah teaches us the same timeless lesson: that out of suffering and hardship, we will one day know strength and peace: "Yes," writes the prophet, "in joy shall you depart, in peace shall you be brought back. All the trees of the countryside shall clap their hands. In the place of thorns, the cypress shall grow, instead of nettles, the myrtle. These trees shall stand as a testimony to the Lord, as an everlasting sign that shall not perish."
Because of Americans like those we remember today, the ideals for which America stands—freedom and justice—shall not perish. These ideals shall not perish—indeed, they shall flourish. Freedom and justice, like these trees, will endure as a living testament to a great nation under God. Thank you.