6 June 2009
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Our host President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Brown, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, President Obama, veterans, fellow parliamentarians, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
We are standing on hallowed ground. Today it is quiet, peaceful, serene, but on this day exactly sixty-five years ago this fifty-mile stretch of coastline was the scene of the largest seaborne invasion in human history.
The Allied troops from our four great nations who crossed the Channel to launch the liberation of Europe and rescue civilization from the darkness of fascism had no uncertainty about their purpose or duty. In the words of Captain Jack Fawcett of the First Canadian Scottish battalion, Scottish regiment, "We were so intent of getting to the beach that even if the engines had stopped or broken down, sheer willpower would have driven the craft ashore."
The iron will of those troops, the careful planning of their commanders, and the unwavering support of their fellow citizens back home resulted in victory that day and in the eventual triumph of good over evil in the months that followed. This was the most spectacular achievement of what has famously and rightly been described as the Greatest Generation; the fathers and mothers of today’s leaders, the fathers and mothers of my childhood.
It was their most spectacular achievement but it was certainly not their only achievement. For having fought against oppression, racism and cruelty here in Europe, they would return to Canada and turn their resolve to building a society more fair, more equal and more compassionate than the one they had left behind. And with similar commitment but this time greater patience, they would also win the Cold War and overcome the tyranny of communism as well.
As the numbers of this, our Greatest Generation, dwindle, we ask ourselves how are we to honour them? How can we ever truly thank them? As every Canadian schoolchild has been taught, from the time of our nation’s presence in Flanders nearly a century ago, there is only one answer: To take the torch from their failing hands and carry it high.
Our own world reminds us constantly of the crying need to safeguard and to advance the vision and values for which our parents’ generation fought, for
And today, just as we remember the lives of Canadian, French, American, British and other Allied soldiers who lie beneath these sands, so we think of the courageous men and women of our enduring alliance who serve shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan to bring light and hope to a people who have long known only darkness and despair. And we remember that our peace and prosperity have come not only with a price but also with an obligation to do what we can to share our good fortune with others, including those elsewhere who to this day endure violence, oppression and privation.
So let us resolve today, on behalf of our honoured veterans, on behalf of those young people so full of hope for a safer, better world, on behalf of the heroic souls who came to liberate these shores to never forget, to never surrender, to never waver in our determination to defend freedom, to advance democracy, and to seek justice for all people.