'In the End ...': Reflections on the anniversary of 9/11

Yale student Sam Hussain presented the following address at the Sept. 11 ceremony honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks in 2001.

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.

Words of wisdom from our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

Over 14 years have passed since that fateful day, which I remember with yesterday’s vividness. We are here today to never forget, and to honor the departed and support the families and loved ones of those passed. Words are inadequate to salve the loss, but in their sacrifice is a tribute to all that is American. Today we remember those Americans who died at the “stern hand of fate,” as well as the brave patriots who gave their lives defending the principles upon which this nation stands. Over the intervening time we have labored together, and continue to this day to create the America that we wish to see in the world.

Long after our heroes have walked off the battlefields of wars past, still the memory of tragedy lingers in the mind politic and the body economic. Still, we strive to rebuild our collective consciousness in the guise of greatness that our forefathers envisioned. And still, we endeavor to write upon history’s tablet the lessons of freedom and truth that were hard earned in the trials by fire of our earliest forbearers, and those of modern times.

Speaker at podium with cadets in the background.
Sam Hussain at the 9/11 remembrance ceremony. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

We do more than grieve, though. We join together as Americans unified in our resolve to renew our thoughts about liberty and act with renewed resolve in its manifestation. This, after all, is the primary act differentiating us from our enemies. We build and rebuild, create and recreate, and devise elegant solutions to timeworn problems of human nature. This is the uplifting greatness of American service — the common cry of the American, well established in the fabric of Yale, is “I will do my part.”

After the Second World War ended, our nation entered a moment of unprecedented growth, imagination, and equality. The Ford motorcar buzzed along the newly paved highways of a nation recently expanded to its manifest destiny. The great American manufacturing engine never slept — and invention graced the home of nearly all citizens. Everywhere you looked, you could see the American dream, creating, forming, and becoming. …

Today, as then, many among us will go on to do the heavy work that lies ahead of our country. Even now, we have among us individuals who are grappling with the aftermath of tragedy and the ways and means of moving forward. Others here will do similar work, whether at home or abroad, doing their part in rebuilding the simple idea on which America is founded and on which it shall endure — that all men are created equal, one nation, indivisible, both under God and in the eyes of the law.

There is still such work to be done. That notion was a radical innovation at its time. Many great Americans lived for and died by this principle, and many still give long years of their lives in its pursuit. In the end, the arc of the moral universe is long and bends toward justice, as we learned from Dr. King. The notion that America will weather its storms with the ceaseless grace of innovation is one upon which we are founded — it is the innovation of thought, of action, and of endeavor that unites Americans of all races, colors, and creeds.

In the end, we will persevere as we always have, through tribulation and triumph alike, and emerge a stronger collective for having done it. We will pioneer new passages through old problems, and with our cerebral energy and ingenuity create a stronger foundation for future generations to hoist the mighty flag of liberty. In the end, we will emerge victorious, and build on the tenets of our forefathers. Through unity and concerted action, we shall stand firm. In the end, standing united as a nation of immigrants, we are all Americans. Thank you.

Sam Hussain is a student of grand strategy and political science at Yale University. As an
adviser to the DOD Special Operations Command, he has served in some of the world’s most
challenging theaters of war and internal strife. He has spent the last several years concentrating
on the Afghan insurgency and civil conflict, and in previous assignments worked on
counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

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