Public Papers

Remarks at a Memorial Day Ceremony in Kennebunkport, Maine


Thank you, Stedman. Our thanks to our able State representative, Stedman Seavey. I see his family is here. And my thanks to those from Kennebunk High School, Kennebunk Junior High School, the elementary, and also the recording band back there. Thank you for this. And let me just tell you that Barbara Bush is looking forward to speaking at the Kennebunk graduation not so many days from now. I salute Wally Reid, who puts on this little piece of Americana every year, this marvelous parade that symbolizes not just for the people in Maine but for the people across the country what Memorial Day is all about. I salute the color guard; and I would like to draw the attention of those who maybe didn't notice it to the POW-MIA flag back here, this black flag with white symbols, because we must never forget those who are unaccounted for wherever they may be. And I also want to thank Reverend Pat Adams, my pastor, for her remarks.

Let me just say that on this very special Memorial Day, in a world literally crying out for peace, we have a lot to be thankful for. We should never forget the veterans, those who served their country well, particularly those who gave their lives. I can assert to you, as the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, that we have never had a better fighting force than we have today; and we should be grateful to every man and woman that wears the uniform of the United States of America.

I have a special guest with me here today who is the Secretary of Transportation; and in that role, he is, as you know, the top official for the United States Coast Guard -- Secretary Sam Skinner. I'd like him to just say hello here. And I guess everybody in Maine, certainly along the coast, is grateful to that fantastic service, the U.S. Coast Guard. And I might say that I know what a fantastic job they are doing in trying to save our country through interdiction from the threat of narcotics.

We thank God on this Memorial Day for all who served. I can assert to you that the day of the dictator is over. The day of the dictator is over, and democracy and freedom are winning all around the world. On this Memorial Day, I'm especially grateful to the young men who gave their lives in Panama. Panama -- now joining the free countries, the countries who practice democracy right here in our own hemisphere. And I'm grateful to every one of those fine kids, those who gave their lives and those who fought with such courage.

On this special day, we think of those people who are not free, and we hope that they will have the blessings that I'm afraid too often we take for granted in this country. Stedman says, and I go -- I leave here this afternoon, do a little more preparation, and then on Thursday we meet at the summit -- I meet with President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. And things have changed dramatically. There's no question that we have a better chance now for a lasting world peace, but there are still some enormous problems out there. And this country must remain strong. We must remain committed to the values that have made us great over the last 200-plus years. So, I go to the summit with open arms to welcome the President of the Soviet Union. But we must stand on our principles when we discuss world peace. We must stand on our principles when we discuss the stability in Europe or the fate of the countries around the world that yet are not free. And that's exactly what I plan to do -- refurbished, I might add, by these beautiful 4 days right here in our beloved Kennebunkport.

So, I really just came here as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of this country to thank God for those who serve with such distinction and such patriotism, and then, as one who served many years ago in World War II, to thank heavens for the veterans, those who sacrificed their lives and those who serve with such distinction and are with us here today and other such ceremonies all across the country. It is great to be an American. God bless the United States of America. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:45 a.m. at Dock Square. In his remarks, he referred to Wally Reid, retired businessman and former owner of the Green Heron Inn; and Patricia Adams, United Church of Christ minister for the First Congregational Church of Kennebunkport.