Thank you, Ray [DuBois, Director, Washington Headquarters Services], Secretary [of the Interior Gale] Norton, [President, National Congress of American Indians] Tex Hall. Thanks to everyone who made the time to join us for this ceremony today. It’s been a powerful ceremony. And judging from this magnificent weather, I think the Great Spirit is smiling down on us today.
On behalf of all of us who work here at the Pentagon, I’d like to express deep gratitude to Master Carver Jewell James and his team of talented artists and those powerful words you spoke that clearly came from the heart. I think it explains the spirit that is represented so powerfully in those poles, those magnificent poles.
To Lummi Chairman Darrell Hillaire, to the entire Lummi Nation, thank you for this wonderful carving and for the gift of healing that it brings to us.
I’d like to also take a moment to thank all of the other Native Americans across this great country who added their own blessings and prayers as the poles made their long trip from Washington State to Washington, D.C.
As you know, they’ve arrived here just in time for another special occasion—the grand opening of the National Museum of the American Indian just across the river. That new museum will be a showcase for Native American art and history. And it is long overdue.
I look forward to visiting that very special museum, but there’s something truly special about these totem poles here today. They bring us together, just the way 9/11 did, and that makes them very special indeed.
In his remarks, Ray DuBois mentioned the memorial ceremony a week ago at Arlington National Cemetery, marking the third anniversary of the attacks of 9/11.
I was privileged to be there. And as you might imagine, a lot of thoughts went through my head that morning. About our colleagues who died at their workstations in this building. About the thousands of other innocent people—Americans and many others—who died in New York and Pennsylvania. About the First Responders who rescued people with so little thought for their own lives and who did so much to care for the injured. About the families who lost loved ones. And about the men and women in uniform who today are serving so bravely and, in some cases, making the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live here in liberty and freedom, the very values represented in these totem poles.
I want to thank you for coming today to join us in honoring those heroes, as well as the people who died on September 11th. By the devotion and service of our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan and Iraq and in other places around the world, they are making America safer. In the process, they have also liberated 50 million people—most of them Muslims—from the cruelty of dictatorships that denied them those values of liberty and freedom while providing terrorists with safe haven and support.
I was at the White House a few weeks ago when President Bush met with four of our wounded servicemen—two men, two women—from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and their families. Also in the Oval Office that day was a delegation of Iraqi women leaders who had come to Washington to learn about the ways of democracy. When those women saw our wounded servicemen and women, they couldn’t stop thanking them. With tears, the Iraqi women told them that it was their sacrifices that had made freedom possible in Iraq, and it was their sacrifices that made it possible for these women to be here in the United States learning about democracy.
On 9/11, I doubt if anyone could have imagined that that would be one of the outcomes of the attack on America.
Another unexpected outcome is the way that tragedy has brought Americans together. The terrorists didn’t plan for that either. As Secretary Rumsfeld put it, they thought that “by killing thousands of our citizens … they could shake the trust we have in each other, and they could weaken the glue that holds our society together.”
Instead, as President Bush said a few days ago, and I quote, “On this third anniversary of September 11th, we feel the warm courage of national unity—a unity of grief and a unity of resolve.”
The history of Native Americans in this country is full of grief and full of resolve. But as I look at the courageous role Native Americans have played in our Armed Forces, in that history that several speakers before had referred to, it is impossible not to be moved by their willingness to fight for the ideals that represent the best of this country.
I had the privilege two years ago to meet with some of the survivors of that remarkable group of World War II veterans called the “Code Talkers.” Their belief in what this country can become, despite the mistreatment of their ancestors, remains a powerful symbol of national unity at a time when in this country freedom and liberty themselves are under attack.
And I can’t think of a better example of those values of that unity than today’s event and the beautiful poles that bear the blessings of so many Native Americans.
So, Master Carver Jewell and all of you who participated, thank you, once again, for your gift to our nation. Thank you for honoring our countrymen and women who lost their lives on 9/11, and thank you for remembering our veterans and the brave servicemen and women who wear the uniform of the United States today. Perhaps it would be appropriate to conclude this ceremony with just a moment’s silence, in honor of all those heroes. Please join me. [Moment of silence] Thank you. May God bless you all. May God bless America. [Applause]