Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander on “American Heroes”

Posted on October 3, 2007

Mr. President, over the last several days, the Nation has watched Ken Burns' film on World War II. As I mentioned on the floor earlier, it is likely to take its place along with the series on "Roots," along with Ken Burns' own film on the Civil War, along with Super Bowls, as a part of our collective memory. I saw a preview of Mr. Burns' film about 2 months ago at the Library of Congress. My wife and I went there with some others. He showed it. We got a sense of how remarkable it was. He said that it represented the time in our history when our country pulled together more than at any other time. Of course, all of us have seen how that ability to pull together, to be one as a Nation, prepared us for so many great accomplishments over the past half century -- great universities, great military power, producing nearly a third of all the wealth in the world for 5 percent of the world's people. It also produced an era that is instructive to us on how well we as a country do when we work together. I think it is fitting this bill is on the floor at the time Ken Burns' film is on television. It is fitting because this war has been one that has divided us. We have not been able to unite on it, although I strongly believe we should speak with a single voice on it, and have said so by sponsoring – along with Senator Salazar and 15 other Senators – legislation that would give us a chance to do that by implementing the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. But I am not here today to argue the importance of what I believe the Baker-Hamilton recommendations offer us. I simply want to note it is appropriate that the pending bill is being managed by Senator Inouye and Senator Stevens. Senator Inouye is pictured numerous times during his service with the 442nd Division, which fought bravely in Europe during World War II. His heroism in that war won him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was a Japanese American. Japanese Americans were, as the film reminds us, quarantined, reviled, discriminated against, but there he was, risking his life and limb to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was in the same hospital in Italy that our former Majority Leader Bob Dole was in. They were wounded about the same time, and they served here together in the Senate for many years. Then, on the other side of the aisle, the bill manager on the Republican side, is Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. He was also in that war. He flew the first plane to land in Beijing after World War II ended. Senator Stevens was a member of the Flying Tigers, who are prominently mentioned in the film. A group of us Senators were in China last year, in a delegation led by Senator Inouye and Senator Stevens. They were received with enormous respect because the Chinese remember Senator Stevens' contribution to their country, and they know, of course, of Senator Inouye's heroism and leadership. I think it is appropriate, at a time when we are debating Defense appropriations, when we are considering the motto "E Pluribus Unum," how we take this magnificent diversity in this country and make it one Nation, that we have the debate on this bill led on this floor by two men of that greatest generation, Senator Inouye and Senator Stevens. It is appropriate that they be managing this bill. I thought it important for us to acknowledge that. I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.