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Prepared Remarks of Governor Sonny Perdue

Tuesday, March 18, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Atlanta Kiwanis Club Luncheon
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
(NOTE: The Governor Often Deviates From Prepared Remarks)

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate the invitation to join you at the Nation's oldest Kiwanis organization.

On a normal day, I would stand here and share with you my thoughts on the State's budget situation... or the need for local control in education... or why ethics legislation is so important to restore trust in government.

But today is far from a normal day.

Last night, I did as many of you did. I listened to the President of the United States speak with determination, courage, and compassion about the impending conflict with Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

I heard him say that diplomacy had failed.

I heard him say that America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security.

And I heard him say that, "War has no certainty, except the certainty of sacrifice."

And somehow, my originally prepared remarks no longer seemed appropriate.

Today, half a world away, thousands upon thousands of young Americans are poised to enter a foreign land and free a foreign people. They are on strange and distant soil to spread the blessings of freedom to a whole country... and to protect those same blessings here in America.

Those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines don't wish for war. In fact, those who are trained to fight are usually the very ones who pray the hardest that we never have to do so.

But when that time comes - when our leaders determine that force is the only option that we have to protect our interests and to secure democracy around the world - our Armed Forces answer the call.

They answer it with bravery, nobility, and purpose.

On Sunday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the premier of a special documentary. This movie chronicled the creation and battle history of the famed 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment during World War II - the paratroopers who landed in and liberated Normandy... who played an integral role in repelling the German advance at the Battle of the Bulge... and who paved the way for the Allies to surround and eventually capture Berlin.

The documentary found its power, though, in the veterans themselves. The directors took the living members of the 507th to Normandy to visit the land for which they and their fallen brothers fought almost sixty years ago.

I cannot accurately describe the emotion of watching these elderly men cry as they walked over bridges where bodies once were stacked... as they stood on the bluffs where their friends paid the ultimate sacrifice... as they proudly showed their wives, children, and grandchildren around the now serene countryside.

Perhaps the most poignant moment was when one young boy no more than twelve years old came up to one of the veterans. The boy looked at the American hero and asked a simple question: "Why did you fight out there?"

After a short pause and with tears brimming in his eyes, the old Army paratrooper responded: "I fought out there so you could be here."

The overarching message from the veterans interviewed for that film was that freedom is not - and never will be - free.

Time and time again, our men and women in uniform - fresh in their youth - have answered the call to defend our shores.

We fight because we love our country.

We fight because it is the right thing to do.

We fight because we believe that all men are indeed created equal and are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and happiness.

Five days ago, I was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of the seminal battle of the American Civil War. As we toured the tranquil hills that once thundered with cannon and musket fire, I was amazed that 140 years ago this July, men paid the ultimate sacrifice not for land or loot or because a king ordered them to do so.

They fought because they believed in a cause higher than themselves.

And through the decades, Americans have seen that same bravery and resolve from each successive generation:

From the doughboys who fought in the trenches during World War I,

From the Marines who stormed Iwo Jima and quickened the conclusion of our war with Japan,

From the men who endured the bitter cold of the Inchon Peninsula in Korea,

From the grunts who moved from jungle to jungle in Vietnam,

And from our forces who liberated Kuwait twelve years ago.

Tonight, the men and women in the deserts of the Middle East are no different from their ancestors. And we, the Americans at home, should commit here and now that no matter our opinion of the impending conflict, that we will unequivocally back our Armed Forces. They stand ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to live in liberty. They deserve no less than our unwavering support and prayers.

And when the politicking and speechmaking is done, we should also rally around President Bush. The Constitution makes him our Commander in Chief... and he literally has the weight of the world on his shoulders tonight.

I visited with him recently and the normally chipper President was solemn and somber. He said, "Sonny, everyone around here wants to talk about war... but I'm the person who'll have to hug the grieving mothers and the widows when their sons and husbands don't return."

No matter our political persuasion or ideology, George W. Bush is the President of the United States of America. We should pray for God to bless him with a double portion of wisdom, discernment, and fortitude in the days and weeks ahead.

Everyday I thank God that I live in a Nation so blessed as the United States of America. We are truly a fortunate, favored people.

But our Nation is more than just a certain area of land bordered by oceans on both sides.

We are a Nation of beliefs - equality, justice, and self-determination.

We are a Nation of principles - representative government, the rule of law, and the freedom to express ourselves and worship as we see fit.

We are one indivisible Nation under God.

And I want the Nation in which I grew up and in which I live now to be better for my two little twin granddaughters... and my third grandchild who will be born this summer.

Today we face a crossroads in the long history of our country. Our President, after months upon months of prayerful reflection and sustained counsel, has made a decision. Now, as Americans, we must rally behind him, our leaders, and our men and women in uniform.

We must go forward and live up to our bedrock conviction that liberty and justice are truly for all.

On the eve of war, it is altogether fitting and proper to pause, remember our roots, and recommit ourselves to the hard work that lies ahead if we are to maintain our freedoms and liberties.

We know that freedom, like peace, is indivisible. In the flow of history, we cannot retain our liberty if others in the world are bound.

My friends, I've looked in the eyes of America's finest as they shipped off to foreign soil. I know their resolve. I know their determination. I know their faith that their mission is a just one.

Now I challenge you. Be in prayer for our leaders. Be in prayer for our Armed Forces who now await the ultimate order. Be in prayer for their safe return and swift, sure victory on the battlefield.

And be in prayer for our Nation as a whole.

We are a good people, and the strength of our land can be found in our people. Let us pray that our people will be united, for we are more powerful when we work together as one.

I hope that in the ensuing years, I will be able to return to your fine organization and speak to you in happier times.

Until then, may God bless you... may God bless our men and women in uniform... and may God bless the United States of America.