Saturday, June 06, 2009

President Reagan's Tribute at the U.S. Cemetery Above Omaha Beach

President Reagan was a master of stagecraft. But this speech transcends appearances and breaths with sincere and powerful emotions no other President can match.

Reagan's Pointe Du Hoc speech delivered on the 40th anniversary of D-Day from the cliffs overlooking Normandy beach in France is widely cited as his best D-Day speech.

As powerful and emotional as that speech is, there is a second address he delivered later in the day that is even more touching. The speech delivered on the grounds of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial centered around the story of Private Robert Zanatta, of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion. Private Zanatta was part of the first assualt wave that hit the beach that morning 65 years ago.

The story is told by his daughter Lisa in a letter to President Reagan and ends with this:

PRESIDENT REAGAN: Lisa Zanatta Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died 8 years ago of cancer: ``I'm going there, Dad, and I'll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I'll see the graves, and I'll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I'll feel all the things you made me feel through your stories and your eyes. I'll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let anyone else forget. And, Dad, I'll always be proud.''
The entire speech (text) is nine minutes and fifteen seconds. The paragraph above begins at the 6:35 mark. You'll see President Reagan visibly choke up while reading it and I imagine many of you will do the same.

This is statecraft at it's finest!


President and Mrs. Reagan walking through Omaha Beach Cemetery, Normandy, France. 6/6/84.

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