Before September 11, surely only a handful of
Americans truly appreciated just how safe and secure our country had been
throughout its first 212 years as a republic. The British invaded in 1812.
A great Civil War raged for four years in the 1860s. But great conflicts
since then have been on foreign shores. Europe. Asia. North Africa. The
South Pacific. But not here. Not in the continental United States.
Then, in a
matter of minutes on a beautiful late summer morning whose sky had the
glow of early fall, the peace and security we had always known was gone.
“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” lamented folk
singer Joni Mitchell in the 1970s about the rapid development of the
American countryside. Thirty years later, these words resonate even more
truly about the devastating loss America suffered on that Tuesday in
innocent lives, and innocence generally. Terrorism
is no longer a surreal segment on the evening news about horrific events
in Tel Aviv or Mogadishu. Terrorism has had a United States address
since September 11. First, terrorists attacked the very symbols of
American military might and commercial power in the Pentagon and the World
Trade Center. Next, and since then, terrorists have attacked our peace of
mind, our daily routines, our health. Letters with anthrax. Threats of
smallpox, and who-knows-what-else.
and wherever freedom has been threatened, Americans have responded. In
the foxholes of France in World War I. On the beaches of Normandy and
dozens of islands across the Pacific Ocean in World War II. In Korea and
Vietnam. In Kuwait 10 years ago. And today, we’ve been called to engage
in a war both abroad and, for the first time, here at home. Rooting out
the world’s most insidious and odious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, is
only the first part of what will be an ongoing campaign against terrorism.
Democracy and decency have always accompanied America in all our military
and political endeavors around the globe. And because of these values —
on behalf of these values — we’ve always fought and won.
America will prevail in this fight as well. But it
will likely require more of a universal effort than we’ve ever seen
before. Volunteering to give blood, or to help a local rescue squad or Red
Cross unit are the visible things we can do. Perhaps
just as importantly, we all should try to make sure that we win the mental
battle as well. By not giving in to fear. By not panicking at every
rumor or threat. By being cautious and vigilant and supportive of each
other. In short, by exhibiting the very best traits that Americans are
As we enter this holiday season, let’s all be
especially thankful for the many blessings we have inherited as Americans.
The blessing of freedom to live, work and worship where we want. The
blessing of abundant food from the rich natural bounty of this land.
Perhaps most of all, the blessing to move about freely, to laugh openly,
to see and hear and do what we please when we please with whom we please,
as long as it doesn’t break any laws or infringe upon the freedom or
safety of others.
The terrorists won’t win the military war that’s
being fought. Let’s all make sure
as Americans that they don’t win the psychological war either.
So, happy holidays to all members of Virginia’s 13
consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which have been democratically owned
and controlled by our members for three generations. And most of all, God bless our men and women in uniform here and abroad,
and may God continue to bless America.