It's Memorial Day, and it's a day to give thanks for those who sacrificed their lives for this great nation. And we are a great nation, in spite of what so many other nations around the world say about us, or think of us. In many cases, I suspect they're simply envious of our accomplishments, and rightly so.
In an interview in 2002 called MTV Global Discussion, there was an exchange between General Colin Powell and a woman from Norway, in which Colin Powell (then President George W. Bush's Secretary of State) gave an eloquent response to her accusation that the United States is "Satan".
Here is part of their exchange, and Colin Powell's powerful response:
QUESTION: Hi. Hello, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POWELL: Hello, Edith.
QUESTION: I’m wondering, when I talk to my friends about the U.S., we think about how do you feel about representing a country commonly perceived as the Satan of contemporary politics
SECRETARY POWELL: Seen as what?
QUESTION: As the Satan of contemporary politics.
SECRETARY POWELL: Satan? Oh. Well, I reject the characterization. Quite the contrary. I think the American people, the United States of America, presents a value system to the rest of the world that is based on democracy, based on economic freedom, based on the individual rights of men and women. That is what has fueled this country of ours for the last 225 years.
I think that’s what makes us such as draw for nations around the world. People come to the United States. They come to be educated. They come to become Americans. We are a country of countries, and we touch every country, and every country in the world touches us.
So, far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.
And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say “Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us”? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.
So, far from being the Satan, I think we are the protector of a universal value system that more and more people are recognizing as the correct value system: democracy, economic freedom, the individual rights of men and women to pursue their own destiny. That’s what we stand for, and that’s what we try to help other countries achieve as well.
Thank you, General Powell. That is why we can honor our military dead, AND be proud of what the United States had accomplished and stood for since our founding. No, we're not perfect, individually, or as a nation. But we have, as General Powell said, given the world the gift of democracy as a vision and a reality that sets men and women free like no other nation and no other political system as ever done.
Makes me want to sing with Lee Greenwood,
...and I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up...
next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the U.S.A.!