Somebody over on CCN dug this up for me today. I'd never seen the whole text before although I quote this part all the time:
You will determine whether rage or reason guides the United States in the struggle to come. You will choose whether we are known for revenge or compassion. You will choose whether we, too, will kill in the name of God, or whether in His Name, we can find a higher civilization and a better means of settling our differences.
General Wesley K. Clark
United States Army (Retired)
Delivered Monday, 13 May 2002
Class of 2002 Commencement
It is customary at occasions such as this for some old person to pass on his accumulated pearls of wisdom and life story to the young.
But this is not a customary year. It is a year marked by distinctive tragedy and challenge, by events that no one at last year's commencement ceremony could have possibly anticipated. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took the lives of so many - Seton Hall graduates among them - and have affected us so deeply that it is impossible to speak here today without acknowledging the witness to tragedy which this University and its students have borne.
These events delivered a four-fold shock to us and our country. The shock of our country, under attack. The shock that others would hate so much that they would kill themselves to hurt us. The shock of death to the youthful and innocent. The shock that the murderers would claim to have acted in the name of God. And all of it visible to many from Seton Hall from a nearby height, looking into the City as the tragedy unfolded.
What can these events of 9-11 mean for the graduates today, completing the last rites of passage before entering the workforce, or moving on to advanced studies, or returning to employment empowered with the knowledge and credentials of this University?
Had we seen an earthquake, or the results of a powerful storm, the devastation and loss would have been awful - but our country has seen terrible tragedies before: fires, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. We prayed for the lost, rebuilt for the survivors, and strengthened our laws, dikes, weather warnings and earthquake predictors. We prepare for an eventual recurrence of acts of nature...
But 9-11 was not a natural catastrophe: these events were deliberate, conceived, organized and ruthlessly executed by human beings. And so, their significance must be assessed differently - and the actions to prepare for "next time" must be different, also.
The first shock - A strike on our country. These events marked the end of an illusion of security here, in the United States. Of course, there was always crime -- but deliberately inflicted devastation and death on the scale of 9 -11, well, that was something that you saw on CNN. Not here, not to us.
Fifty years ago we built our Strategic Air Command to deter the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, to help guard our allies in Western Europe. And when necessary, we, your parents, fought, in Korea and Vietnam, to contain Soviet or Communist-inspired aggression. Over 100,000 of us died in these wars.
Ultimately, by the strength of our political institutions, the weight of our economy, and the power of our values, we won our forty-year struggle of the Cold War. Barriers fell; old adversaries became new friends, and a new era of global communications and commerce exploded around us to bring unprecedented prosperity to America in the 1990's.
But the wealth and power we created fueled resentment, envy and hatred as old barriers to communications and culture came tumbling down. And the oceans, which provided us protection for over two centuries, have been shrunken by the same explosion in communications and travel, which brought us our recent prosperity.
Now we see it. We are vulnerable.
Some will be tempted to seek our security by raising new walls to take the place of shriveled ocean distance. They will call for restricted travel and trade, for tougher visas, fewer tourists and students, closed courts, diminished rights, and less international traffic and trade. They will want an ocean shield and a missile shield, and a society far less open than it was before.
Others will argue, and in my view correctly, that our security depends more on building windows and bridges to the outside world than in building walls. They will suggest that in the new millennium our best security lies in reinforcing others around the world that share our values, rather than shutting ourselves off from them. They will suggest that national security is far broader than national defense, and they will argue that what is ultimately a conflict of ideas and ideals cannot be won by bombs and bullets alone, but must include commitments to human rights and democratic norms.
But where is the balance here? How much must we give up to be safe? And how much will such sacrifices compromise the very freedoms we seek to protect, or the prosperity we have come to enjoy?
These are the issues with which you must grapplethey cannot be decided by "experts" and "authorities." Coming up with the balance will be your responsibility - it cannot be delegated to so-called experts - or given over in trust to elected leaders. Rather, yours is the daily responsibility of citizenship, carried on through open debate and exercised at the ballot box on a hundred different issues and candidacies. And this will require dissent, dissent that cannot be silenced through charges of comforting the enemy without surrendering the very freedoms we say we are fighting for.
Other generations have paid a heavy price in blood for the freedoms we enjoy - but no other generation will bear a heavier burden in defining the essence of our country, as you must carry in the years ahead.
The Second Shock - That others would die Yes, they killed themselves in their attacks on us. Their willingness to die makes it so much harder to defend against them. We can brand them fanatics and extremists. We can descry the brainwashing that must have led them to act so contrary to their own "best interests."
But they are not the first to believe in something so strongly that they would sacrifice their lives for it. Your grandparents generation fought in the Second World War against a Japanese soldiery conditioned to die rather than surrender, and so they did on Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and in wild Kamikaze attacks on our fleets. And our own soldiers, especially in World War One, went "over the top" in direct assaults from trench line to trench line, knowing that when they stood up they would suffer extraordinary casualties from the machine guns and cannon fire of the Kaiser's Army.
In the American Civil War, in a hundred battles, young men marched forth to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," knowing they might very well never march again. And in our own Church, thousands and thousands believed, and faced certain persecution and death, and still believed.
And so, we have to ask, if self- sacrifice seems so primitive and terrifying to us, are we really more advanced, or have we simply lost the very commitments, which gave us the world, and values we live by? Is there nothing more dear than human life itself, no higher goal or more noble calling? Does the everyday world so encase us that it shrouds the larger world of values, beliefs, and spirituality from our eyes?
You have not yet been asked to answer this question. There is no draft for the Armed Forces; you can't even accept rationing or donate aluminum as our parents and grandparents did during the Second World War. But neither can you ignore the message delivered by those nineteen terrorists against us. They counted us as soft and corrupt, doubted our readiness to risk and die for what we believe in. And, thus far, striking back with precision bombs and elite Special Forces, we have not had to answer that challenge.
History is replete with the examples of civilizations that rose and fell, gaining greatness on the character and sacrifices of their elders, falling into decay on the soft irresolution of their youth.
No generation of Americans has been given more, or asked for less than this one. We your elders know it - it was our gift to you. But now, facing an uncertain future, you must prepare to pass on this gift to your children - and like all those before you, you cannot any longer expect to be spared from the risks and sacrifices yourselves.
Third Shock - Young and innocent lives were lost. Over 3000 lives. They were not carrying arms. They were not waging war. They were just a cross section of American life, from every ethnic and racial group, income level, religious background, and from over eighty nations. It was a terrible loss. Families were devastated; so many children will grow up without fathers and mothers; so many others have lost forever their love, or a special friend. And we can never truly mend that loss, not with other people, other love, or other material comforts.
No wonder our nation has called for justice, and still does. Of course we had to act.
But death can come without warning, in war or in peace, at home or abroad, in sickness or in health. There are no guarantees, except the certainty that we are all mortal beings. As Jesus enjoins us in the book of Matthew, worry not about your life or your body seek first God's kingdom and his righteousnessdo not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. We ourselves must live everyday as if it were in fact our lastwe must live it so wellmeasuring lives by the quality, not the quantityPerhaps your generation can show us the way in this, as no other has before.
Fourth Shock - They killed in the name of God. But they are not the first. This began in pre-history; the tragedy is that it persists today.
Some would characterize the events of 9-11 as a clash of civilizations, and a conflict of religions. And to many it seems a simple and satisfying explanation.
But others would suggest, correctly in my view, that such an interpretation is both wrong-headed and dangerous. They recognize a civil war within Islam itself, as contending factions compete for power. They would argue that we must influence the struggle where we can, by supporting greater attention to the secular structures in the Islamic world, and by encouraging our own American Islamic community to speak out in support of America's democratic values.
Ultimately, your generation will have the decisive voice. You will determine whether rage or reason guides the United States in the struggle to come. You will choose whether we are known for revenge or compassion. You will choose whether we, too, will kill in the name of God, or whether in His Name, we can find a higher civilization and a better means of settling our differences.
And this is not a new choice, not for your generation - it is a choice that many others have faced throughout history. Only now, we can hope that with your help and engagement we can find a new answer.
You have not commenced your journey at an easy time. The shocks of 9-11 will follow you through the years. You will have to bear the serious burdens of decisions - how to protect our country, and what sort of nation we will become. You'll be challenged to sacrifice, probably not in the Armed Forces but likely in other service abroad, to help others gain the same good government and
prosperity that we enjoy here today. You'll have to set your own lives in order, and keep them there in living every day with a level of insecurity higher than any we faced here before. And you'll have to work to find new answers, grounded in Faith, to the challenges posed by the faiths and misinterpreted faiths of others. These are your burdens- but these are also your blessings.
As President Theodore Roosevelt said, far and away the greatest gift life has to offer is to work hard, at work worth doing. You will graduate today knowing that you have this extraordinary opportunity.
Congratulations to each of you for what you have accomplished on this very significant day - and congratulations, too, to the proud parents and families and friends who have cared and supported you.
I wish each of you all the best in years ahead - and in the challenges you will face -and I hope that your generation will, in fact, become the greatest generation.