Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, on Monday we will celebrate the 240th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence and the enunciation of self-evident but nonetheless aspirational truths “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As the American journalist John Gunther wrote, “Ours is the only country deliberately founded on a good idea.” When I think of “American exceptionalism,” this is what I have in mind: our Nation has a unique role in human civilization as the beacon for freedom, equality, peace, and progress. That is our destiny. That is our responsibility. That is our challenge.
I recently visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum located where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood in lower Manhattan. The Memorial and Museum are beautiful, peaceful, poignant, and solemn. They are fitting tributes to those who perished and they help us to remember and to understand what happened. They handle a difficult subject in a forthright but sensitive manner. I encourage everyone who travels to New York City to visit. The events of 9/11 are seared into our memories as Pearl Harbor was for the members of the “Greatest Generation”. Some people think that 9/11 changed America. I prefer to think that 9/11 revealed America – what we stand for, what we hope for, how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. That is all on display at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
There are people and groups and nations engaged in a twilight struggle against humankind’s self-evident truths and unalienable rights. Some of them claim they are acting on religious principles when, in fact, they are nihilists. And they will fail. The hope for freedom is stronger than the desire to destroy. As we celebrate July 4th across America, fireworks will light up the evening sky. Bold and brilliant colors will illuminate the darkness. To me, that is a metaphor which captures the essence of the United States of America. We light up the darkness. As we celebrate our freedom, let us remember we must always be a beacon to others. Franklin Delano Roosevelt died one day before delivering a Jefferson Day speech. In the last draft of the typed version of the speech, he had written, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith”. That is my wish for this July 4th: that we move forward together, as Americans, with faith and conviction in our cause and our course.