Barack Obama gave this speech from Independence, Missouri. Read the complete transcript:
We do so in part because we're in the midst of war. More than 1.5 million of our finest young men and women have now fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 60,000 have been wounded. Over 4,600 have been laid to rest. The costs of war have been great, and the debate surrounding our mission in Iraq has been fierce.
It's natural in light of such sacrifice by so many to think more deeply about the commitments that bind us together as a nation and that bind us to each other, as well.
We reflect on these questions also because we are in the midst of a presidential election, perhaps the most consequential in generations, a contest that will determine the course of this nation for years, perhaps decades, to come.
Not only is it a debate about big issues -- health care, jobs, energy, education, retirement security -- but it's also a debate about values.
How do we keep ourselves safe and secure while preserving our liberties? How do we restore trust in a government that seems increasingly removed from its people and dominated by special interests?
How do we ensure that, in an increasingly global economy, the winners maintain allegiance to the less fortunate? And how do we resolve our differences at a time of increasing diversity?
Finally, it's worth considering the meaning of patriotism, because the question of who is or is not a patriot all too often poisons our political debates in ways that divide us rather than bring us together.
I've come to know this from my own experience on the campaign trail. Throughout my life, I've always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given. It was how I was raised; it is what propelled me into public service; it is why I am running for president.
And yet, at certain times over the last 16 months, I've found for the first time my patriotism challenged, at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears and doubts about who I am and what I stand for.
So let me say this at the outset of my remarks: I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.
[...]Thomas Jefferson was accused by the Federalists of selling out to the French; the Anti-Federalists were just as convinced that John Adams was in cahoots with the British, intent on restoring monarchal rule.
Likewise, even our wisest presidents have sought sometimes to justify questionable practices on the basis of patriotism: Adams' Alien and Sedition Act, Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Roosevelt's internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
All were defended at the time as expressions of patriotism, and those who disagreed with their policies were sometimes labeled as unpatriotic. In other words, the use of patriotism as a political sword or a political shield is as old as the republic.
[...]Still, what's striking about today's patriotism debate is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s, in the arguments that go back 40 years or more.
Some of you remember this. In the early years of the civil rights movement and the opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic.
Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the '60s reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases the very idea of America itself, by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and, perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day.