Editor’s note: Pat Boone delivered this speech at a 9/11 commemoration event Wednesday on the steps of the California State Capitol. The event honored the four Americans killed in Benghazi one year ago.
Long ago, when Jerusalem was under imminent threat of destruction (ironically, from Syria) the prophet Isaiah uttered this word from God: “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.”
We stand here today on 9/11. And none of us will ever hear this date spoken without feeling again the pain and seeing the searing images of what occurred to America and its people on this date, both in 2001 and 2012.
Twelve years ago, 3,000 American patriots died in the fiery destruction of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 – an unspeakable deed accomplished by terrorists who hate everything we stand for. And one year ago, four brave Americans – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods (two former Navy SEALs) – died so bravely, but unnecessarily, in Benghazi, Libya.
Unnecessarily, because they were stranded – essentially abandoned – by their government, which unaccountably denied them the security and protection they urgently asked for and which, when asked for permission by their comrades to rush to their aid, ordered them to stand down!
This has yet to be explained or satisfactorily defended by the administration. Witnesses that are known to have been present and saw what was happening have been sequestered and prevented from telling what they know to duly authorized congressional investigators. For reasons we so far can only guess at, there is an ordered darkness, a lack of “transparency” over the whole Benghazi tragedy. Surely the president himself has nothing to hide, so as the Bible declares, “all that is hidden will come to light, and that which is secret will be revealed.” And “though now we see through a glass darkly, we shall know, even as we are known.”
Meanwhile, these four brave Americans join the ranks with Nathan Hale, who regretted he had “but one life to give for his country,” Adm. David Farragut, who said “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”, George Washington praying at Valley Forge, Patrick Henry exclaiming “Give me liberty or give me death,” Davy Crockett at the Alamo, Douglas MacArthur, Adm. Nimitz, Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf, Colin Kelly and the boys who raised the flag at Iwo Jima as true American HEROES.
These courageous men weren’t just patriots, as were many of those who died on 9/11 2001; they were and will always be HEROES. Men who rose to challenges, met crisis and physical danger, stared death in the face and, not really comprehending why they were so alone, fought to the last and became legendary heroes.
I make a distinction between heroes and patriots. I think the true American patriot is a man or woman who may never make headlines, be singled out for any award or even be noticed by anybody but close family and friends. He’ll live a long, productive, quiet life and be buried with very little fanfare. But he’s a true American patriot.
He’s an accountant who supports his family, takes them with him to church or synagogue, pays every nickel of his taxes – and advises his clients to do the same. She’s a homemaker – a wife and mama – who not only raises and trains and nourishes her kids, but is active in the PTA and Brownies and Cub Scouts.
He’s a gas station attendant who walks the precincts, getting out the vote – for city councilmen, not just presidents and governors. She’s a high school civics teacher who loves her subject and her students, and actually awakens in many of them a sense of pride in America and a sense of personal responsibility!
She’s a widow, a volunteer, involved in a thousand worthy causes – political, social, humanitarian and spiritual – who gives and gives and gives some more, never expecting anything in return personally, just the satisfaction of having made a difference. He’s a local preacher, not a nationally known TV evangelist, but a gentle, loving man who is a Good Samaritan and somehow inspires his little congregation to reach out to the hurting and needy around them, not depending on “Big Brother” government.
He could be a local Muslim imam, too, in any of the hundreds of mosques across this tolerant nation, who deplores and speaks out against violence and the attempted imposition of his religious beliefs on others, anywhere, and gives us the reason to embrace him as another American patriot.
He’s a cop. He walks the beat and wears that badge, and he believes in those rules that hold a society together. He obeys and defends and preserves the Law. Oh, he can be a little tough and cynical sometimes, because he sees so much of the worst of us, but he’s risking his life every day, trying to give each of us a chance at the best in us!
Of course, he’s a fireman, like the ones who sprang into action at the Twin Towers, risking and even sacrificing their lives to save others, multiplied by the thousands in every town and village in this country. Many times the local fire station doubles as the voting place, and the firemen themselves help neighbors get to and from the polls.
She’s a neighbor from up the street who suggests to an aging singer that they and some other patriots organize a Beverly Hills Tea Party, right in front of the famous sign on Santa Monica Boulevard, and do it twice, attracting over 500 neighbors … red and yellow, black and white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Republicans and Democrats for three- and four-hour peaceful demonstrations. And then leave the park spic and span, cleaner than when they came!
These – and so many others – are my idea of the American patriot. They’re quiet, hardworking, honest, sharing, neighborly people. They vote, attend their various churches, work two or three jobs and still volunteer for worthy causes, write their congressman, buy American if they can, pray for their President (even if they didn’t vote for him) and sing the Star Spangled Banner at public functions with a lump in their throats and tears in their eyes.
In fact, right now I offer a prayer for our president. Sir, we pray for you, for God’s guiding hand to be upon you, to bless you and your family, and sir, we pray that you will show even more real compassion and support for the four heroes who were serving you in Benghazi than you’ve currently shown for those killed by Assad in Syria. Respectfully, Amen.
Friends, the rest of the world still envies America. And it’s not because of our heroes; they all have their own. It’s because of the millions of American patriots and what we’ve accomplished together. It’s because of the American Spirit – that intangible, mysterious, dynamic and contagious “CAN DO” force that ties us together, that unites us into a family of 300 million neighbors but that also influences individual behavior, even when nobody’s lookin’.
Yes, that force, that Spirit that God has breathed into us, has made us still the envy and role model for the whole world, but you can’t buy it wholesale or in quantity. It comes in individual packages – and it’s exhibited in lifelong, often anonymous commitment. And each package I call an American patriot.
How can we truly honor these four heroes who died in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012? By rededicating ourselves to be true American patriots, committed to the republic for which they stood … and died. One nation under God, determined to preserve liberty and justice for all! Not depending on Big Brother government – but being the government! Instructing those we elected to do our will, or we will replace them!
Remember the warning from Isaiah: “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.”
So, as President Lincoln proclaimed at Gettysburg:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.