Many American citizens are public-spirited at one time or another, but a remarkable minority of our fellow citizens—our police, firefighters, and military men and women—have made devotion to public safety and well-being their way of life, one that often bears a heavy price. In this (excerpted) speech delivered on November 13, 2010, to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis—an organization supporting U.S. Marines and their families—Lieutenant General John F. Kelly, U.S. Marine Corps (born 1950), commander of the Multinational Force-West in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, pays moving tribute to the heroism of these supreme public servants. He also makes clear the debt that the rest of us owe these dedicated men and women, whose sacrifices make it possible for us to enjoy peace, freedom, and the pursuit of private happiness. He concludes with an account of a most remarkable display of self-sacrifice on the part of two Marines. (Four days before this speech was given, General Kelly’s own son Robert was killed in action on a mission in Afghanistan, during his third tour of duty; another son remained in combat with the Marines.)
Watch Eliot A. Cohen (Johns Hopkins) and Raphael Cohen (Georgetown University) discuss the speech with editors Amy and Leon Kass.
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