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Biden says democracy "begins with each of us" in speech at Pointe du Hoc D-Day memorial
Posted by Temmy
Sat, June 08, 2024 2:45am

Biden says democracy
President Biden delivers remarks at the World War II Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument following the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Normandy, France, June 7, 2024. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / REUTERS

President Biden on Friday drew on the heroism of the U.S. Army Rangers who scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc on D-Day in 1944, urging Americans to think of their nation's cause as greater than themselves and cautioning against isolationism.

The president spoke against the backdrop of the cliff, a heavily fortified German position captured by the Rangers during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. Mr. Biden drew a connection between the Allied powers' fight for freedom 80 years ago and supporting Ukraine amid Russian President Vladimir Putin's war.

"Does anyone doubt that they would want America to stand up against Putin's aggression here in Europe today?" Mr. Biden asked his audience. "They stormed the beaches alongside their allies. Does anyone believe these Rangers would want America to go it alone today? They fought to vanquish a hateful ideology in the '30s and '40s. Does anyone doubt they wouldn't move heaven and earth to vanquish hateful ideologies of today?"

Warning against isolationism and emphasizing the cost of not standing up to dictators has been a recurring theme this week for Mr. Biden. He's in France to observe the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the massive seaborne invasion that put the allies on the road to ending World War II.

Biden's speech at Pointe du Hoc
"When we talk about democracy, American democracy, we often talk about the ideals of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness," Mr. Biden said Friday. "What we don't talk about is how hard it is. How many ways we're asked to walk away, how many instincts are to walk away. The most natural instinct is to walk away — to be selfish, to force our will upon others, to seize power, never give it up. American democracy asks the hardest of things — to believe that we're a part of something bigger than ourselves.

"So democracy begins with each of us, begins when one person decides there's something more important than themselves," the president continued. "When they decide the person they're serving alongside of is someone to look after. When they decide the mission matters more than their life. When they decide that their country matters more than they do. That's what the Rangers at Point du Hoc did. That's what they decided. That's what every soldier, every Marine who stormed these beaches decided."

During the U.S. assault on the Omaha and Utah beaches on D-Day, U.S. Army Rangers scaled 100-foot cliffs and seized German artillery that could have targeted American troops as they landed. The operation's success came at a high cost — out of the 225 Rangers deployed on the mission, fewer than 75 were still in fighting condition by its end — but the assault resulted in a successful defense against Germany's counterattacks.

"All they could hear was the crack of bullets hitting ships, sand, rocks, hitting everything," Mr. Biden said. "All they knew was time was of the essence. They had only 30 minutes, 30 minutes to eliminate the Nazi guns high on this cliff, guns that could halt the allied invasion before it even began."

The World War II Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument was built to honor those men.

"The Rangers who scaled this cliff didn't know they would change the world, but they did. I've long said that history has shown that ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things when challenged," Mr. Biden said. "There's no better example of that in the entire world than right here at Pointe du Hoc. ... They came to a shoreline that none of them would have picked out on a map. They came to a country many of them had never seen, for a people they had never met. But they came. They did their job. They fulfilled their mission, and they did their duty.

"I stand here today as the first president to come to Pointe du Hoc when none of those 225 brave men who scaled this cliff on D-Day are still alive, none," Mr. Biden continued. "But I am here to tell you that with them gone, the wind we hear coming off this ocean will not fade. It will grow louder. As we gather here today, it's not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery on that day, June 6, 1944. It's to listen to the echoes of their voices. To hear them. Because they are summoning us. And they're summoning us now. They ask us, what will we do? They're not asking us to scale these cliffs. But they're asking us to stay true to what America stands for."

Biden's trip to Normandy
Ukraine has been a key focus for Mr. Biden, both in his speech and as he meets with world leaders in France.

"The price of unchecked tyranny is the blood of the young and the brave," Mr. Biden said in a speech at Normandy on Thursday. "In their generation, in their hour of trial, the Allied forces of D-Day did their duty. Now the question for us is, in our hour of trial, will we do ours?"

Mr. Biden met Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was at Omaha Beach for an international event commemorating D-Day.

"The unity that defines history," Zelenskyy tweeted Thursday. "Today in France, alongside our allies, we honored the bravery of the Allied forces who landed in Normandy 80 years ago. We remember. We thank them. We uphold the values of the defenders of life."

As they met Friday, Mr. Biden issued his first public apology to the Ukrainian people for the months of uncertainty over whether $61 billion in additional U.S. assistance for Ukraine's war effort would actually come. That aid was held up by conservative Republican members of Congress attaching domestic border issues to the foreign assistance package, which finally passed at the end of April and was quickly signed by Mr. Biden.

The U.S. president also announced a new $225 million assistance package for Ukraine, which the State Department said in a statement would including "urgently needed weapons and equipment" to help Zelenskyy's forces repel Russia's offensive around the northeast Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

The State Department said the package would include "air defense interceptors, artillery systems and munitions, armored vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and other capabilities."

"We will move this new assistance as quickly as possible to bolster Ukraine's defense of its territory and its people," the State Department said.

Mr. Biden assured Zelenskyy that the American people were committed to standing with Ukraine in the face of Russia's aggression for the long haul, telling him: "We're still in. Completely. Thoroughly."

"It's very important that in this unity, United States of America, all American people stay with Ukraine like it was during World War II," Zelenskyy told the U.S. leader. "How the United States helped to save human lives, to save Europe. And we count on your continuing support in standing with us, shoulder to shoulder."

Mr. Biden was expected to discuss the future of support for Ukraine with French President Emmanuel Macron later during his state visit to France.

Pointe du Hoc is pictured on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, near Caen, Normandy, France. It was the highest point during WWII between Utah Beach and and Omaha Beach
Pointe du Hoc is pictured on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, near Caen, Normandy, France. It was the highest point during WWII between Utah Beach and and Omaha Beach. DAVID VINCENT / AP


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