SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Secretary Mabus. The Navy has always been at home in New York and I am very proud that New York is once again at home in the Navy. It is a pleasure to be here with so many distinguished leaders – Governor Patterson, Mayor Bloomberg, all of the leaders of the United States Navy and the Marine Corps, and so many others who gather here for this exciting and meaningful commissioning.
I also want to recognize and thank Commander Curt Jones, a native New Yorker who will steer this ship wherever there are adversaries to confront or friends in need. He is an accomplished and decorated officer and all New Yorkers can be proud that he is at the helm of this ship and its crew.
To the crew of the USS New York, the men and women who will keep her running fast and true, we salute your service to our nation. There are many New Yorkers on board, and by now, I am sure that the rest of your shipmates are sick of your bragging about the Yankees. (Laughter.) So just remember people from Philadelphia and Boston make good sailors too.
Our thoughts and our prayers will be with you when you sail out of this harbor and turn into the open ocean. This ship is the heir to a long and proud tradition, the first New York, small and outgunned, fought courageously on Lake Champlain to fend off invasion during the American Revolution. The battleship New York served in both World Wars and fought at Iwo Jima. It survived torpedo and kamikaze attacks and earned three battle stars. When our nation was attacked and our freedom threatened, the New York was there.
Today, our security is once again at risk. And once again, the USS New York is sailing in the service of our country. A rivet from its predecessor and sand from Iwo Jima are welded to its mast. And in its bow are those 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from Ground Zero. As we have heard so eloquently expressed, this ship carries with it the searing memories of September 11th – lives cut short, families ripped apart, a nation attacked. And in that steel, burned but unbroken, lives the spirit we saw on 9/11 and the days that followed – the bravery of the rescuers, the resolve of the survivors, the compassion of this city, and the patriotism of this great country.
None of us will ever forget the image of twisted girders and shattered beams looming above the smoldering pile, a lone steel column, the Last Column, covered in tributes to the fallen, standing tall amid the ruins. Today, the steel that once held up two of the world’s great buildings serves as memorials in town squares, police stations and firehouses across America. Pieces will be housed here in New York at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. In these warped relics, we see the strength that came through the fire, through smoke and ash and senseless violence. That is the strength we see in New York and in the ship that now proudly bears its name.
The motto of the USS New York is “Strength Forged through Sacrifice – Never Forget.” By commissioning this ship today, we reaffirm the best and the worst of humanity that we have seen from September 11th to Fort Hood. Many people here with us today need no reminder. For the families who lost loved ones, for the first responders who lost comrades and partners, for all those who were injured on 9/11 or who have suffered the health effects in the years since, the memory is undimmed.
I have been very honored to stand with many of you these last eight years, and I have watched you rebuild your lives, your families, your communities out of the wreckage of that terrible day. There are some wounds that never fully heal that we carry around with us for the rest of our lives. But sometimes, we truly are stronger in the broken parts. Sometimes, our pain can lead us to new purpose.
And you have shown us that. You have shown us the strength borne out of suffering and the service out of sacrifice. You fought for better equipment for our first responders, more sensible protections for our country, healthcare for those who grew sick breathing the toxic air. You collected funds for the children who lost fathers and mothers. And you started service programs that encourage volunteerism and work to improve people’s lives.
Well, the USS New York is now part of that legacy. The brave men and women who serve on the New York have left their homes and their families to defend our nation. They will join the fight against terrorism and violent extremism that threatens free people across the globe. They will sail on missions of mercy, providing vital humanitarian assistance in the wake of disasters like the Asian tsunami or the earthquake in Pakistan. And they will not only support our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, but carry forward those marines who will be part of the fight. They will go wherever their country needs them, wherever they can save lives, and wherever they can stop the spread of terrorism. And on every ocean and in every port, they will carry that refashioned steel, a symbol of our unshakable resolve.
Like the USS New York, this is a city built of steel, from the crown of the Chrysler Building to the pylons of the GW Bridge, from the shipyards of Brooklyn to the stadium in the Bronx. But the strongest steel in New York has always been in the spines of its people. Unmatched in ambition, talent and energy, New Yorkers are strivers and seekers, immigrants from every country, speakers of every language, firefighters who rush into the burning building to rescue people they’ve never met, families who honor the memories of their loved ones by working to prevent the perversions and the evil that they experienced from ever striking anyone else.
And they are indeed the young men and women who enlist in the service of a nation we love. That is, New York. That is the spirit that this ship carries. And that is the spirit in the hearts of its crew. We wish you Godspeed, and we wish blessings on this ship and on the nation and people it serves. God bless you all. (Applause.)
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