It gave birth to the musical, the motion picture, The Western, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the skyscraper, the suspension bridge, the assembly line and the mighty American automobile. It led our citizens to push the bounds of medicine and science to save the lives of millions.
Here with us this evening is Dr. Emmanuel [Emil] Freireich. When Emmanuel began his work, 99% of children with leukemia died. Thanks largely to Dr. Freireich’s breakthrough treatments, currently 90% of those with the most common childhood leukemias survive. Doctor, you are a great American hero. Thank you.
Americans always take care of each other. That love and unity held together the first pilgrims. It forged communities on the Great Plains. It inspired Clara Barton to found the Red Cross, and it keeps our nation thriving today.
Here tonight from the Florida Panhandle is Tina Belcher. Her selfless generosity over three decades has made her known to all as Mrs. Angel. Every time a hurricane strikes, Mrs. Angel turns her tiny kitchen into a disaster relief center. On a single day after Hurricane Michael, she gave 476 people a warm meal. Mrs. Angel, your boundless heart inspires us all. Thank you. Thank you very much.
From our earliest days, Americans of faith have uplifted our nation. This evening we’re joined by Sister Deirdre Byrne. Sister Byrne is a retired Army surgeon who served for nearly 30 years. On September 11, 2001, the sister raced to Ground Zero, through smoke and debris, she administered first aid and comfort to all. Today Sister Byrne runs a medical clinic serving the poor in our nation’s capital. Sister, thank you for your lifetime of service. Thank you.
Our nation has always honored the heroes who serve our communities — the firefighters, first responders, police, sheriffs, ICE, Border Patrol, and all of the brave men and women of law enforcement.
On this July 4th, we pay special tribute to the military service members who lay down their lives for our nation. We are deeply moved to be in the presence this evening of Gold Star families whose loved ones made the supreme sacrifice. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Throughout our history, our country has been made ever greater by citizens who risked it all for equality and for justice. 100 years ago this summer, the women’s suffrage movement led Congress to pass the constitutional amendment, giving women the right to vote.
In 1960, a thirst for justice led African American students to sit down at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was one of the very first civil rights sit-ins and it started a movement all across our nation. Clarence Henderson was 18 years old when he took his place in history. Almost six decades later, he is here tonight in a seat of honor. Clarence, thank you for making this country a much better place for all America.
In 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. stood here on these various steps and called on our nation to live out the true meaning of its creed and let freedom ring for every citizen all across our land.
America’s fearless resolve has inspired heroes who defined our national character, from George Washington, John Adams, and Betsy Ross, to Douglass, you know, Frederick Douglass, The great Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson, and of course, John Glenn.
It has willed our warriors up mountains and across minefields. It has liberated continents, split the atom, and brought tyrants and empires to their knees. Here with us this evening is Earl Morse. After retiring from the Air Force, Earl worked at a VA Hospital in Ohio. Earl found that many World War Two veterans could not afford to visit their Memorial on the National Mall. So Earl began the very first honor flights that have now brought over 200,000 World War Two heroes to visit America’s Monument. Earl, thank you, we salute you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Our warriors from a hallowed roll call of American patriots running all the way back to the first souls who fought and won American independence. Today, just as it did 243 years ago, the future of American freedom rests on the shoulders of men and women willing to defend it.
We are proudly joined tonight by heroes from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, including three recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Thank you. Today thousands before us served with immense distinction, and they loved every minute of that service.
To young Americans across our country, now is your chance to join our military and make a truly great statement in life, and you should do it.
We will now begin our celebration of the United States Armed Forces, honoring each branch’s unique culture, rich history, service song, and distinct legacy. I invite Acting Secretary, please, Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman Dunford, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Please join me.
In August of 1790, by request of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, Congress established a fleet of 10 swift vessels to defend our shores. These revenue cutters would fight pirates, stop smugglers and safeguard our borders. They are the ancestors of our faithful Coast Guard. When our ships were seized and sailors kidnapped by foreign powers in 1812, It was a revenue cutter, the swift schooner Thomas Jefferson, that swept in to capture the first British vessel of the war.
In 1897, when 265 whalers were trapped in ice, and the ice fields of Alaska were closing up, courageous officers trekked 1,500 miles through the frozen frontier to rescue those starving men from certain death.
In 1942, the Coast Guard manned landing craft for invasions in the Pacific. When the enemy attacked U.S. Marines from the shores of Guadalcanal, Coast Guard Singleman first class Douglas Monroe used his own boat to shields his comrades from pounding gunfire. Monroe gave his life, hundreds of Marines were saved. As he lay dying on the deck, his final question embodied the devotion that sails with every Coast Guardsman: “Did they get off?”