Former President George W. Bush called on Americans to reject politics of “fear and resentment” on the 20th anniversary the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, harking back to the unity he witnessed in the months following that fateful day.
Bush, who was president at the time of the attacks, delivered an address Saturday morning at a memorial ceremony near Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed into an empty field after passengers and crew members overtook the plane from hijackers who had planned to attack the U.S. Capitol.
“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people,” Bush said before noting that “when it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own.”
“Malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument and every argument into a clash of cultures,” the former president explained.
He went on to say that “so much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.”
Bush said that while he comes “without explanations or solutions,” he wished to remember the unity among Americans in the aftermath of the plane crashes in Pennsylvania, New York City and Arlington, Va.
“On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another,” he noted.
“That is the America I know,” he added, prompting applause from the crowd gathered at the memorial service.
Bush, who following the attacks initiated the invasion into Afghanistan that sparked America’s longest war, said he wished to speak directly Saturday to those who served in U.S. military operations over the past two decades.
“The cause you pursued at the call of duty is the noblest America has to offer,” he said. “You have shielded your fellow citizens from danger. You have defended the beliefs of your country and advanced the rights of the downtrodden.”
“You have been the face of hope and mercy in dark places,” he continued. “You’ve been a force for good in the world.”
Bush went on to say that “nothing that has followed, nothing, can tarnish your honor or diminish your accomplishments.”
“To you and to the honor of the dead, our country is forever grateful,” he added.
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