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We Will Never Forget

We Will Never Forget

Speech by Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic, during a ceremony in Normandy, Sainte-Mère-Eglise, May 27, 2002 during President George Bush's First Official Visit to France, May 26 and 27, 2002. Source: Elysée palace and Embassy of France in the United States, Washington D.C. May 27, 2002.

It is an honor and a joy for me to welcome you to Normandy, a land of memory and emotion. In June 1944, the fate of France and Europe and the cause of freedom in the world hung in the balance here.

You are here in Sainte-Mère-Eglise, the first town to be liberated in continental France and the theatre of fierce fighting and heroic sacrifice by hundreds of American paratroopers. Everyone is familiar with the legendary action by the American 82nd and 101st airborne divisions here during the night of 6 June 1944, the night which signaled the beginning of the Liberation.

And you will be going to the cemetery in Colleville, a place for silent tribute and remembrance where thousands of young Americans rest under white crosses and stars of David. It overlooks the ocean and the beaches where the Allies landed under a hail of fire.

We will never forget. Never will we forget those who died on the field of honor, the thousands of men, many very young, who gave their lives for the Liberation in the struggle against barbarity. And I salute their memory.

I salute the veterans, many of them gathered here, American and French again together, as they were on the battlefield. I wish to express to them, in the presence of the President of the United States of America, France's debt, the free world's gratitude.

And to tell them that the sacrifice of those who died and their own victorious struggle make us indebted to them.

To the children of Normandy taking part in this ceremony, I say: always remember the heroic days of the Allied Landing. Remember that your rights, your freedoms, democracy itself are sacred values under constant threat. Be prepared to defend them; what seems as natural to you today as the air that you breathe was conquered by your fathers in the fight they waged, in their determination to fight for their ideal, for a better world.

Mr President, France knows what she owes to America. In this region steeped in history, I wish to express to you our gratitude. Gratitude for all the soldiers who shed their blood on a soil that was not their own. Gratitude for all those who came to risk their lives in defense of the values that are equally dear to our two nations: peace, freedom, democracy, human dignity, tolerance and respect for others.

More than two centuries ago, the friendship between our two countries was sealed in the founding of your great nation. The France of the Enlightenment was fired by your war of independence and she fought by your side. A new light, the light of freedom, equality and hope for a fairer world, had been lit in Boston and Philadelphia.

And then came the French Revolution, sister to your Revolution. The same familiar and glorious faces appear in both. La Fayette, the hero of both worlds. Franklin, the champion of liberty. Jefferson, United States Minister to France at the time of the French Revolution and the father of your Declaration of Independence.

On the strength of this centuries-old brotherhood, we have always since then come together, our differences notwithstanding, when our values were at stake, when our concept of man and his rights was threatened.

History bears witness to this. Whenever our essential values are in jeopardy, you can count on us, just as we know that we can count on you. This was the case during the two world wars that devastated the last century. This was the case during the major crises that followed, from the division of Berlin to our common engagement in the Balkans.

And today, again, our two countries are fighting together against the terrorist barbarity which, on the morning of 11 September, so cruelly thrust America into mourning. A barbarity which has just struck in Pakistan, killing and wounding French citizens. A barbarity which nothing can excuse, which revolts us and which we are determined to stamp out.

This fight is a fight for tolerance and humanism. We are waging it together. And together, we will win. Democracies are always stronger than brute force.

They are stronger because they embody an ideal and values which give hope to people all over the world. Because they are based on justice and law. The Americans and the French share this aspiration to universality, the deeply-rooted belief in the equal dignity of all people of every origin and in the ability of each person to find his or her self-fulfillment.

In paying tribute to those who fought for freedom in 1944 and in fighting terrorism today, we are rejecting fanaticism, the exclusion of others, racism and xenophobia. We are being true to the commitment made by our fathers as they stood united against totalitarianism. We are asserting our belief in a world which is open and tolerant. We are demonstrating confidence in the future of mankind, in the promise of a more united world, a freer world. A world which must show more solidarity, thriving on the diversity of its cultures and its peoples.

Strengthened by their long-standing endeavor to achieve peace, democracy and prosperity, the United States and France, the United States and Europe, must undertake together, as partners, to eradicate the scourges that form the breeding ground of wars and hatred. Our enemies today, let us make no mistake about it, include poverty and oppression and entrenched conflicts. They include the unconscionable ravages of AIDS and the serious harm that is being done to the ecological heritage of our planet.

This is why our weapons today also include economic progress and international solidarity, education and health for all, the invention of new modes of production and consumption. They include the assertion of international law everywhere, and the path of dialogue.

Mr President, the French are aware of the symbolic force of this 27 May, Memorial Day, the day when America pays tribute to its soldiers. France joins in this commemoration with me. I am happy to have this opportunity to express to you again the deep friendship of the French people and tell you how moved, how very moved the French are to have you here, to honour these many soldiers who died in the struggle against Nazism, these many soldiers who defeated it.

It is now our turn, together, to write a new chapter in the history of liberty. We will do it in memory of them.

Long live the United States of America,

Long live France.

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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