President Obama Delivers Final Veterans Day Speech Calling for Unity

President Barack Obama lays a wreath during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Nov. 11, 2016

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Washington, DC – The 44th US President Barack Obama on Friday (November 11) delivered his final Veterans Day message at the Arlington National Cemetery, calling the veterans to help heal the wounds and bring national unity after a divisive bitter election. Obama delivered the speech just three days after President-elect Donald Trump won a stunning victory to succeed him.

“Veterans Day often follows a hard-fought political campaign, an exercise in the free speech and self government that you fought for,” he told veterans after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “It often lays baredisagreements across our nation. But the American instinct has never been to find isolation in opposite corners. It is to find strength in our common creed. To forge unity from our great diversity, to sustain that strength and unity even when it is hard,” said Obama.

On Veterans Day, Americans come together to express profound gratitude for the sacrifices and contributions veterans and their families made on the battlefield, at home and at outposts around the world, he noted.

A theme Obama returned to was that, whenever the world makes you cynical, look to a veteran for an example of humility and selflessness. Urging Americans to rise above the prevailing cynical thinking about the future of the country, Obama said, “When the election is over, as we search for ways to come together — to reconnect with one another and the principles that are more enduring than transitory politics — some of our best examples are the men and women we salute on Veterans Day.”

President Obama noted that veterans are the “single most diverse institution in our nation. Soldiers, sailors, Marines and coast guardsmen who represent every corner of our country, every shade of humanity, immigrant and native born, Christian, Muslim, Jew and non-believer alike, all forged in common service. That’s the example of our veterans. Patriots who when they take off their fatigues put back on the camouflage of every life of America, and become our business partners and bosses, our teachers and our coaches, our first responders, city council members, community leaders, role models, all still serving this country with a sense of duty and with valor.”

Obama spoke of a middle school student from Missouri who entered an essay contest about why vets are special. The student wrote that when he thinks of a veteran, I think someone who will be the first to help an elderly lady across the street and who “will defend everyone regardless of their race, age, gender, hair color or other discriminations. After eight years in office, I particularly appreciate that he included hair color,” POTUS said to laughs. “That middle schooler is right. Our veterans are still the first to help, still the first to serve.”

Although Obama highlighted the work his Department of Veterans Affairs has made on reducing veteran homelessness, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the alarming suicide rates saying, “It is still a tragedy that 20 veterans a day take their own lives. We have to get them the help they need. We have to keep solving problems like long wait times at the VA, we have to keep cutting the disability claims backlog, we have to resist any effort to outsource and privatize healthcare we owe America’s veterans.”

“We can never serve our veterans in quite the same way that they served us, but we can try,” Obama said. “We can respect one another. We can have each other’s backs. That’s what Veterans Day asks us to think about.”

The president addressed veterans, families and senior military and government officials at the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater, where draped American flags encircled the arena and fluttered in the morning breeze. The Inscription on the amphitheater arch says, “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” Honor guards from various wars, veterans groups, Gold Star Mothers/Families participated in parade of colors as the Navy Band played.

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