70 years ago, on June 6, 1944 the world changed. German General Erwin Rommel called it the “longest day of the century,” and undoubtedly it was. Last summer, my wife and I visited Normandy; spent a day at Omaha Beach, where her Uncle Carmen landed that fateful morning. High above the beach stood the American cemetery with its 9,387 white crosses marking the graves of the young men who died in the Normandy campaign. I searched for fallen comrades who might have fought alongside Uncle Carmen in the 16th Regiment of the First Division, known as The Big Red One. Then I read a gravestone with this inscription, and I froze…
HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY
A COMRADE IN ARMS
KNOWN BUT TO GOD
This was my thought then, and today, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day… How can we connect with, or at least honor, those brave young men who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the very freedom we all enjoy?
There is much debate about America’s role in the world today. It certainly is a complicated issue with far-reaching ramifications. The costs involved with being the policeman for the world are enormous and perhaps too great for our country to bear. Yet, if freedom isn’t worth fighting for everywhere, will it, over time, exist anywhere? While few questioned the morality in our decision to spearhead the liberation of Europe from tyranny in 1944, our involvement in conflicts from Syria, to Afghanistan, to the South China Sea faces growing unpopularity. The risks to the global economy, and perhaps world peace, will be heightened if the United States retreats from world leadership.
Today, the US has huge competitive advantages from a global perspective. First, our natural resources in terms of oil, natural gas, lakes and rivers, are a tremendous asset compared to most of the rest of the world. Second, our population is much younger particularly compared to our major trading partners: China, Europe, and Japan. Third, we have world class universities producing a steady flow of entrepreneurial talent. Fourth, we have the most open economic system in the world, with access to credit, information, new markets, supported by sound accounting standards and judicial systems.
The thing is, though, too many of us take all these wonderful attributes for granted. And that, in my view, is the critical challenge facing our nation.
While we are making progress in terms of natural resource conservation, we must remain committed to continual improvement. We need immigration reform to secure our borders yet remain a hopeful place for those fleeing oppression or persecution. We need to figure out how to keep a larger percentage of the talented foreign students who come to the US for a world class education but are forced to return home after graduation. And last, but not least, we need to rein in the overreach of government in order to invigorate the entrepreneurial spirit so vital to businesses and economic growth.
To whom much is given, much is expected… Perhaps we have had it too easy these past 70 years. We’ve created more wealth during that time period than any country in world history. It’s understandable that we may be coasting a bit. But the world needs us to lead. It needs us to sacrifice, to stand for something, to fight for what is right. Despite all the complexity, cost, and controversy, this remains our calling as the greatest country on the face of the earth.
Answering this call is how we honor those young men, many of them boys really, who stormed the beaches of Normandy on that Longest Day.