As anti-Trump protesters have taken to the streets of several major U.S. cities following the election, President Barack Obama is pointing to the nation’s veterans as an example of how to “forge unity in our great diversity … even when it is hard.”
Obama paid tribute to veterans at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday — Veterans Day — where he also acknowledged the sense of turmoil and division that has seized much of the country following the unexpected culmination of an election fraught with anger and personal attacks.
“Veterans Day often follows a hard-fought political campaign, an exercise in the free speech and self-government that you fought for,” Obama said. “It often lays bare disagreements across our nation. But the American instinct has never been to find isolation in opposite corners, it is to find strength in our common creed, to forge unity from our great diversity, to sustain that strength and unity even when it is hard.”
“And when the election is over, as we search for ways to come together, to reconnect with one another, and with the principles that are more enduring than transitory politics, some of our best examples are the men and women we salute on Veterans Day,” he continued.
Obama added that the military is the “single most diverse institution in our country” and that men and women of service “represent every corner of our country … Christian, Muslim, Jew and non-believer alike all forged into common service.”
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The president said Americans “can never serve our veterans in quite the way that they served us,” but he urged citizens to pay homage by showing respect and compassion for one another.
“We can practice kindness, we can pay it forward, we can volunteer, we can serve,” Obama said. “We can respect one another. We can always get each others’ backs. That is what Veterans Day asks all of us to think about.”
“Whenever the world makes you cynical, look to a veteran,” he added. “Whenever you doubt that courage and selflessness is better, then stop and look to a veteran.”