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National D-Day Museum Opening, Dedication Ceremony
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen , National D-Day Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana, Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Dr. [Nick] Mueller [Chairman, D-Day Museum], we have been engaged in thanking so many deserving people here today and yesterday, but we haven’t really paid tribute to you. And I would just like to take a moment to say that without your energy and your passion this museum would not be here today. So I want to thank you for that. [Applause.]

It's a difficult task to follow Secretary [of Transportation Rodney] Slater. I will be mindful of the expression that brevity is the soul of wit. I was thinking as the previous speakers were talking about what this means to us and to all who will follow us. In the last few days we've heard Steven Spielberg referred to as the Homer of our time. Well, if Steven Spielberg is the Homer, then Steven Ambrose must be our Thucydides. I would like to talk in terms of the history just for a moment.

I recall reading some years ago a speech by Walter Lippmann to the 30th reunion of the class of 1910. Looking out at his classmates he said, look at what we've given up since World War I. He have become indifferent, we have become disengaged, we have become lazy. Whenever there was a hard task to meet, we took the easy way out.

Then he concluded, and this was on the eve of the beginning of World War II. He said that "For every right that you cherish, you have a duty you must perform; for every hope that you can attain, you have an obligation you must fulfill; for every good that we wish to achieve, we must sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer."

Shortly thereafter World War II broke out. These men in front of us, men and women, understood what he meant when he said there is nothing for nothing any longer. They gave their all and their green for every one of us. That is the lesson of what World War II should mean for all of us. That is what is embodied in this building of stone and glass, and the lesson for us to remember for the future.

Now last evening I had the chance to quote from a hero of mine, Joshua Chamberlain. I've talked about his statement that "in great deeds something abides." But I would like to quote the words of another hero of mine, also a Civil War veteran, one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He said that "the list of ghosts grows long, the roster of men grow short. Only one thing has not changed, as I look into your eyes I feel the great trial in your youth has made you different, it has made you citizens of the world."

We are the heirs of your sacrifice, citizens of the world that you made, and we can only stand in awe at your courage, at your sense of duty, and the sacred gift that you have offered to all people. To you belongs the honor of this day.

Those who have inherited the mantle of defense, the men and women of America's armed forces, many of whom are here standing with us today along with those of our allied nations, carry on your noble work, preserving what we have created, defending the victories you have achieved, and honoring the ideals for which you struggled.

So on behalf of all of our sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, on behalf of all the American people, I say thank you. [Applause.]