Biden offers forceful defense of democracy in Normandy speech aimed at American audience

Biden offers forceful defense of democracy in Normandy speech aimed at American audience
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(CAEN, France) — President Joe Biden, in France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, offered a forceful defense of democracy at a site of American heroism during World War II in a speech that carried 2024 political undertones for those watching in the U.S.

Biden on Friday spoke from Pointe du Hoc, where Army Rangers scaled 100-foot cliffs to seize the German ammunition that could have been used against troops at Omaha and Utah beaches.

“As we gather here today, it’s not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery that day June 6, 1944,” Biden said. “It’s to listen to the echo of their voices. To hear them. Because they are summoning us and they’re summoning us now. They’re asking us what will we do? They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what America stands for.”

“They’re not asking us to do their job. They’re asking us to do our job,” Biden continued. “Protect freedom in our time, defend democracy, stand up to aggression abroad and at home, be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

It was the same backdrop where Ronald Reagan, the first U.S. president to visit the shores of Normandy to mark the anniversary of allied forces invading occupied France, gave an iconic speech lauding the men who fought there and warning about the dangers of isolationism in the battle against totalitarianism.

Biden similarly spoke of the soldiers’ bravery, and of the principles of American democracy and leadership on the world stage.

Biden put democracy front and center of his 2020 campaign for the White House and is doing so again in his reelection bid, pushing back against former President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

Biden didn’t mention Trump by name in his address but sought to make that contrast clear.

“When we talk about American democracy, we often talk about the ideals of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. What we don’t talk about is how hard it is … The most natural instinct is to walk away, to be selfish, to force our will upon others to seize power, never give up,” Biden said.

“My fellow Americans, I refuse to believe, I simply refuse to believe that America’s greatness is a thing of the past,” he added.

Biden also drew a connection between World War II and threats facing eastern Europe with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Hours before his speech, Biden met face-to-face with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reiterate unwavering U.S. support for the war-torn nation.

At the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, Biden said the troops who stormed Normandy decided to believe in something bigger than themselves, and that they would want the same against modern-day challenges.

“They stood against Hitler’s aggression. Does anyone doubt, does anyone doubt that they would want America to stand up against Putin’s aggression here in Europe today?” Biden said.

“They fought to vanquish a hateful ideology in the 30s and 40s,” he added. “Does anyone doubt they wouldn’t move heaven and earth to vanquish hateful ideologies of today?”

In the crowd on Friday was veteran John Wardell, a New Jersey native who became a private first class and fought in the Battle of Brest. Biden thanked Wardell for his service, prompting applause from the audience.

“You deserve that and a lot more, John,” Biden said.

Wardell told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce the experience was an “honor” and humbly insisted he was “just a small part” of that history.

Wardell said his message to the next generation was, “Let’s see what they do. I hope they honor what’s happened here in years past and are made to realize. Read a little history. I hope that they do.”

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