WASHINGTON: On the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, US President Barack Obama paid tribute to the victims of 9/11 at the Pentagon in Washington. He called on Americans to protect the ideals that made their country the diverse nation that it is, and said America would never give in to fear.
“Our diversity, our patchwork heritage, is not a weakness. It is still and always will be one of our greatest strengths,” Obama said at a remembrance service at the Pentagon, one of the sites attacked on 9/11.
“This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to.”
President Barack Obama urged Americans to remain united in the face of terrorist attacks, in a barely-veiled jab at Republican White House nominee Donald Trump 15 years after 9/11.
“In the face of terrorism, how we respond matters,” Obama said in his weekly radio and online address, delivered on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.
“We cannot give in to those who would divide us. We cannot react in ways that erode the fabric of our society,” he added.
“Because it’s our diversity, our welcoming of all talent, our treating of everybody fairly no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, or faith, that’s part of what makes our country great. It’s what makes us resilient,” Obama said.
“And if we stay true to those values, we’ll uphold the legacy of those we?ve lost, and keep our nation strong and free.”
On several occasions Obama has denounced Trump’s bombastic rhetoric towards Muslims.
Following the December shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California for example, Trump called for a temporary ban on the entry to the United States of all Muslims.
Obama was speaking two months before the presidential election in which real estate magnate Trump will face Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The al-Qaida hijackings of September 11, 2001 – the first foreign attack on the US mainland in nearly two centuries – ruptured a sense of safety and plunged the West into wars still being fought today.
More than 2,750 people were killed when two passenger jets destroyed the Twin Towers, the symbol of New York’s financial wealth and confidence. Another jet slammed into the Pentagon, and a fourth jet crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after those on board tried to overpower the hijackers.
Evoking “one of the darkest (days) in our nation’s history,” Obama noted that much had changed over the past 15 years since the attacks.
“We delivered justice to (al-Qaida leader) Osama bin Laden. We’ve strengthened our homeland security. We’ve prevented attacks. We’ve saved lives,” Obama said.
But at the same time, he said, referring to attacks in Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando, Florida, “the terrorist threat has evolved.”
“So in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and beyond, we’ll stay relentless against terrorists like al-Qaida and [the Islamic State group] ISIS.
“We will destroy them. And we’ll keep doing everything in our power to protect our homeland,” Obama said.
Here are ten key points from his speech:
1. 3,000 beautiful lives
We will never forget the nearly 3,000 beautiful lives taken from us so cruelly. We honour the courage of those who put themselves in harm’s way to save people we never new.
2. Families lost a piece of their heart
15 years may seem like a long time, but for the families that lost a piece of their heart, I understand that it can seem like yesterday.
3. 9/11 survivors and their kin an inspiration
The survivors and families of 9/11—your steadfast love and faithfulness has been an inspiration to me and for our entire country.
4. Justice delivered to Osama bin Laden
Thanks to our security forces, we gave an appropriate response to al-Qaida. We have dealt devastating blows to al-Qaida. We delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden.
5. Protecting America
We resolve to continue doing everything in our power to protect this country that we love.
6. Defending ideals
We stay true to the spirit of this day by defending not just our country, but our ideals.
7. Hateful ideologies leading to violence
Fifteen years into this fight, the threat has evolved. With our stronger defenses, terrorists often attempt attacks on a smaller but still deadly scale. Hateful ideologies urge people in their own country to commit unspeakable violence. We’ve mourned the loss of innocents from Boston to San Bernandino to Orlando.
8. Al-Qaida and ISIS can’t defeat us, so they try to stoke fear
Groups like al-Qaida, like ISIS, know that they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and strong as America. So, instead they try to terrorize, in the hope that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other, that we change who we are, how we live.
9. Our diversity is a strength
And that’s why it is so important today that we re-affirm our character as a nation: a people drawn from every corner of the world, every colour, every religion, every background – bound by a creed as old a our founders – E Pluribus Unum. Out of many we are one. We know that our diversity, our patchwork heritage, is not a weakness. It is still and always will be one of our greatest strengths. This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America we must stay true to.
10. An enduring memorial
The most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America we continue to be.