Distinguished Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen, Good morning!
It is great to be back where I belong - in Fort Worth, Texas - and to join all of you today to inaugurate the Joint Strike Fighter – the Lightning II. She is a beauty!
A very special thanks to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, Congresswoman Kay Granger and Congressman John Culberson for their magnificent support of our military! Thanks to all the Texasdelegation for being here.
Today, I’ll put this celebration in context – my personal context and the nation’s strategic context.
On the 7th of December, 1941, I was four years old. As a kid in Baltimoreduring World War II, I still remember the blackouts, the civil defense wardens, the ration stamps, and the newsreels at the local theatre.
In my neighborhood was a grass-covered square where 4 to 5 streets came together, and where we kids used to play. One day in 1945, workers came and put up a sign that said, “Francis Callahan Jr. Square”. The Callahan family lived right there on the square. Their son, Francis Callahan Jr., had been killed at Iwo Jima, so they named the square after him.
The reason I mention these experiences is that the courage of our military in those days, and the will and determination of the United States and our allies and friends made the life I’ve lived possible – and all of your lives, too.
My personal experience in World War II has a parallel today - my granddaughter was four years old – on September 11, 2001.
It was freedom that triumphed in World War II – made possible by the extraordinary men and women in uniform, and by the extraordinary civilian men and women who were the backbone of our industrial might. Many of them were right here - in Ft.Worth- in this plant - where we stand today.
When the war ended, people felt entitled to a period of peace, but communism didn’t cooperate. Rather, the nation found itself again in conflict – in Korea, the first bloody battle of the long Cold War.
In those days, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The history of free men is never written by chance, but by choice – their choice”. During the Cold War, America’s political leaders made the choice to stand together. They disagreed about many things, but they put security first, based on a fundamental belief in freedom and liberty. And liberty did win the day, through the shared commitment of the United Statesand our allies and friends.
After the Cold War ended, most people again expected a peace dividend. Instead, on 9/11, terrorists turned civilian airliners into guided missiles, and killed 3,000 people of 60 different nationalities. Do you know why terrorists killed 3,000 people that day? I’ve concluded that the reason they killed 3,000 was that they didn’t know how to kill 30,000, or 300,000, or 3 million. But they would have if they could have – and they are still trying.
Our terrorist adversaries know no national borders. All who love liberty and freedom are fair game for them, and the conflict is likely to be a long one. What we are seeing, in Iraqand Afghanistan, is like Korea– the first battles in what will prove to be a very long war.
Once again, America and our allies face a choice. Americais choosing to help lead the way toward greater freedom -- in parts of the world that have known very little of it. President George W. Bush has said, “We will act boldly in freedom’s cause”. This is not the time for Americato pull back from the world. The greater the freedom enjoyed by other countries, the more secure our own nation, and the world, will be. This is a time for America’s bold leadership -- and for international cooperation and resolve.
Choosing the path of freedomis no easy task. As President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
One advantage we have this time is the potential for much greater unity of military effort than ever before. The US military will not go to war again as just an Army, or an Air Force, a Marine Corps, or a Navy. The military’s Services are now irrevocably interdependent in plans and operations.
And the United Statesis not likely to face adversaries alone. Together we are a formidable force for good, for freedom, and for liberty – as long as we have the collective will, determination and resolve to win.
The Joint Strike Fighter is a giant step forward for unity of effort and meeting the security challenges of the 21st century. The JSF is setting the standard for close cooperation between Government and our partners in Industry. It is a key foundation for true jointness among our military Services. And it is further catalyzing interdependence with close international friends and allies.
The vision of the President of the United States, this Administration, and the Department of Defense for the 21st century is working together nationally and internationally -- with a shared vision of freedom and liberty -- to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Napoleon said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” Today is a hopeful day – due to outstanding aeronautical leadership, manufacturing leadership, corporate leadership, the leadership of the IAM, elected political leadership, and military leadership, culminating in this day of inauguration.
To be clear - there is still a great deal of hard work ahead. But today is a day of great hope and optimism. Hope for success in this groundbreaking program, hope for ever-stronger international partnerships, hope for the prospects of freedom and liberty in more places around the world...and the true and well-founded hope that we will be able to leave a safer and better world for our children and grandchildren, just as the heroes of World War II did for us.
President Bush said, “Americais more secure when freedom is on the march”. Let me tell you – freedom is marching! I thank all of you for your patriotism and what you do every day to further freedom’s progress. God bless each of you and your families...God bless Americaand our allies...and most importantly, God bless our brave warriors around the world and their families.
Thank you for the privilege to be with you today.