My fellow Americans
Two decades ago, a group of terrorists killed almost 3,000 in Washington and New York in a brazen attack they thought could break the spirit of the American people.
They were spectacularly wrong.
America came together and struck back, driving both the the Al Qaeda terrorists and their Afghan enablers out of power. Al Qaeda’s leader Osama Bin Laden and many of his henchmen now lie dead at the hands of our courageous American soldiers. Afghanistan was given an opportunity to build a new government that respected both international law and the aspirations of its own people.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban learned a lesson about the limits of their power. But, so have we.
While the United States can effectively defend itself and our values at home against our enemies, we cannot impose those values on other nations. In today’s world, there is no superpower anymore. We live in a world of independent sovereign nations, each with the right and power to defend their own values and goals so long as they do not threaten our own. Indeed, as a nation founded on the concept of e pluribus unum – out of the many, one – we have a unique ability to succeed in this new reality.
We also live in a world where traditional military force can be challenged by new kinds of power. Whether the attacks come through terrorism, cyber warfare, or other new forms of conflict, America must be ready to respond in unity and consistent with the principles of our constitutional democracy. I am prepared to discuss with Congress new ways to authorize and respond to future foreign attacks of the old and new kind.
In the end, the best way to strengthen America against these new challenges is to strengthen the American people here at home. It is time for us to unify to defeat the challenges of hopelessness, ignorance and division that weaken us here at home. We cannot be the beacon of liberty to those struggling against dictatorship if we betray our commitment to expanding the American Dream for our own citizens. It is this challenge I call you to meet now and will continue to do so in the coming months.
While the world has changed, some things remain the same. As one of the first and most powerful democracies, we must always be an advocate of human rights against those who wish to keep their people in the darkness of dictatorship. The new Afghan government must respect those rights if it wishes to be fully accepted into the community of nations. We will insist on protection of those who worked for those rights and will offer sanctuary for them and those who helped our troops in their mission. It is who we are, and we can do no less.
We learned from our experience in Afghanistan that America is not all powerful. Nevertheless, rest assured the power of our people, our ideas and our nation endures, because of you and your fellow Americans.
Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.