Honorable President and First Lady; ministers, members of parliament , and government representatives; High Commissioners and representatives of the diplomatic corps, including my good friend Tsuguyoshi Hada from the Embassy of Japan in Suva; General Salene and Admiral Kreitz; Marines, soldiers, and sailors; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen:
Mauri, and a very good morning to you all! And it is a very good morning indeed, with a glorious sunrise to greet us. I am honored, on this very special morning, to be here to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Tarawa, here with you all.
I was reviewing my notes on the flight from Suva yesterday. And as I looked out the window at the vast Pacific, I reflected on what has brought people, over the centuries, to these shores. The earliest inhabitants were inspired by a sense of exploration, curiosity, and wonder. Later arrivals were motivated by trade and empire. 75 years ago, it was conquest, war, and, ultimately, liberation. And today, we are brought here out of a sense of respect, reconciliation, friendship. As we join together to mark the Battle of Tarawa, 75 years ago to this very morning, two themes come to mind: remembrance and thanksgiving.
Remembrance. This past week, November 11 – Armistice Day – marks another significant anniversary: the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of the War to End All Wars. Twenty-five years later, almost to the day, a new generation of young men found themselves here – on Red Beach 1, 2, and 3; on Green Beach; on the USS Liscome Bay; and in the pillboxes and fortified bunkers of Betio.
I am heartened to have met so many students of history here and to see them in the audience today. I am also honored to be here with dedicated professionals, military and civilian, whose jobs, whose passion, is devoted to the recovery of the fallen. And I will be privileged this afternoon to once again participate in the repatriation of remains of fallen Marines from Betio to the United States. We bear witness and remember, together.
Thanksgiving. It is important to remember. It is also important to give thanks. The day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a holiday that has a special place in the hearts of many Americans. And the spirit of thanksgiving is resonant here today. For this is an opportunity to give thanks. For the sacrifice and memory of the fallen. And for the world that they helped create – a world where implacable foes have grown to become steadfast allies. A world where we can come together in solidarity, peace, and friendship, even as we remember and honor those who never lived to see that world, but whose sacrifices made it possible.
Thank you all.