WASHINGTON -- "At this place, at this Memorial, we acknowledge a debt of long-standing to an entire generation of Americans: those who died; those who fought and worked and grieved and went on. They saved our country, and thereby saved the liberty of mankind. And now I ask every man and woman who saw and lived World War II -- every member of that generation -- to please rise as you are able, and receive the thanks of our great nation."
So said President George W. Bush at the dedication of the World War II Memorial last weekend in the nation's capital. Those members of what has been called the Greatest Generation rose and proudly received a long and sustained applause from an estimated 500,000 or more who were on the National Mall to honor them. From a distance, they also received the gratitude of millions of Americans who watched on television from their homes or attended simultaneous broadcasts of the dedication ceremony in dozens of communities around the country.
They waited 60 years for this day, and their pride was palpable. Despite aching backs and stiff joints, these men and women of the World War II generation stood tall and saluted smartly because their time had finally come. The generation that saved the world from tyranny was finally feted by a grateful nation.
"Well worth the wait." "Inspiring." "Finally!" "They deserve it." These were just some of the positive reviews from citizens of all stripes about the historic event on Memorial Day weekend. It occurred to me as I was making my way along the Mall to the Fox News broadcast booth last weekend that the reviews were all positive. There was no complaining. There were no protests. In the days that followed, police reported no arrests, no trouble.
It was a day of celebration and national pride. And that is what made it different from so many other events that have taken place on our National Mall in the shadows of Washington and Lincoln.
Unfortunately, in recent years, our National Mall has been used more often by leftist interest groups whose angry members show up with an attitude and an axe to grind. In the Vietnam years, rowdy, bawdy crowds came to protest the war. They burned bras and draft cards and "got high." From their public address systems, uplifting rhetoric and positive commentary was never to be heard. They denounced America's leaders, bad-mouthed our uniformed military and embraced only those Vietnam vets who threw their ribbons over fences. In the years since, activists have stormed the Mall to demand the "right" to have abortions, engage in homosexual activity, restrict ownership of firearms and peddle wacky environmental theories and liberal causes.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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