At the U.S.S. Fort Worth commissioning ceremony last weekend, we were fortunate enough to have my good friend Gordon England deliver the keynote address. Mr. England has served as both the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the U.S. Navy. He was instrumental in making the U.S.S. Fort Worth part of our city’s legacy, and we were all moved by his words. I wanted to share his speech with all of you.
"This is a very special and memorable day for me and for my wife, Dotty, my shipmate for the past 50 years. Together we have participated in some grand Navy commissionings but it doesn’t get any better than this! Here we are in the great State of Texas—commissioning a new Navy ship named for our hometown—and surrounded by many friends and fellow proud citizens of Fort Worth. The Republic of Texas started her own Navy in 1839 and today the city of Fort Worth is starting her own Navy—and that’s exactly how we see it!!
This is indeed a fun, exciting and memorable day. But this is also a day to reflect on America’s heritage as a free people and on our collective obligation to preserve our freedoms for future generations. In the hallowed traditions of John Paul Jones, this ship and this crew will continue to stand the watch well beyond my days.
The Blue and Gold crews of the U.S.S. Fort Worth wield one of the most advanced ships at sea, continuing a long Navy tradition. Throughout the years, the Navy has progressed from sail to steam to nuclear power, from cannonballs to cruise missiles, from battleships to carriers, from signal flags to information technology and, in so doing, has extended the reach and influence of the United States Navy—and our nation—from the high seas to distant corners of the globe.
Yet tyrants, despots, and even pirates, will not find new lines of work simply because the U.S.S. Fort Worth is taking her place in the fleet. Along with the rest of our military, she will be a vital asset, backing many other facets of national power. She will respond to international events—and she will help shape to them.
But as in the past, the strength of the Navy is her people. Sailors, their families and leadership are, and always will be, the enduring strength of the Navy. President Ronald Reagan captured this character well when he said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
Our citizens live in freedom because patriots are willing to serve and sacrifice for our way of life. For all the veterans, for all who wear the cloth of our nation and who stand the watch today, here and abroad, and especially the crew of the U.S.S. Fort Worth, we are proud of your service and we thank you.
This ship and her crew will provide for our common security in innumerable ways. She must remain ready and vigilant; I know she will. But the might and readiness of our military can only be successful when backed at home by strong national will, by firm leadership and with the economic might to prevail. Once again America finds herself being tested, this time by unstable regimes armed with nuclear weapons and others acquiring nuclear weapons; by large numbers of well organized and religiously motivated terrorists operating from many countries; and emerging powers with unknown ambitions and growing military strength.
We know from past experience that the military alone cannot deter aggression. President Harry Truman expressed the political grit and tenacity that’s needed to preserve freedom. He said: “Carry the battle to them. Don’t let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don’t ever apologize for anything.” This is a time for “Give ‘Em Hell Harry” leadership, not a time to be timid and apologetic, but a time for firm leadership that recognizes and extols American values and beliefs. Freedom is our most potent weapon and our most valuable export to influence events abroad.
You may ask, “Why us”? Why should the U.S. continue to carry the burden of bringing freedom to more millions of people in the world—and in difficult places? President George Bush, my boss for 8 years, knew this answer instinctively well. President Bush said it like this: “The best hope for peace in the world is the expansion of freedom in the world.” As more people become free, it strengthens our own security. It is also our heritage and our moral obligation to help others to be free.
Unfortunately, our country is in a financial crisis with recognized and grave economic consequences. The impact on individual American families is all too real. But the financial crisis is even more a national security issue. Economic health and national security are two sides of the same coin. Security provides the necessary environment to nurture economic health and development, but that security itself depends upon a strong and vibrant economy.
Already, when American leadership is most needed, our influence abroad is waning as our economy further stagnates. Explosive debt, uncontrolled deficits, low growth and high unemployment are unsustainable and are already affecting our national security. Cuts to the defense budget are now driven more by our economic malaise than by America’s security needs or by America’s unique and necessary role in the world. In turn, if we let international security deteriorate then worldwide economies, and ours, will further weaken.
The U.S. and our friends and allies ultimately prevailed over the evil empire of Communism. It took 40 years with different parties of the majority in congress and multiple Democratic and Republican administrations to defeat the Soviet Union. Victory then wasn’t about being a conservative, liberal, Republican or Democrat but rather it was based on a national recognition and acceptance that freedom was threatened. Patriotism won the day over ideological differences.
America is now threatened, from within and without, and we owe it to the sons and daughters, the mothers and fathers, our neighbors and friends who serve this great country to right our ship of state. The world needs a strong America, an America with economic muscle and military might.
Shortly after 9-11, a reporter asked a small nine year old girl, “What is patriotism”? She responded with a clarity that only a child could express: “Patriotism is taking care of America.” To everyone here today, I thank you for your patriotism. God bless each of you, our veterans, all who serve today and especially the crews of the U.S.S. Fort Worth, and may God continue to bless America."
Member of Congress