George W. Bush
Forty-Third President (2001 to 2009)
Holiday Season Address
December 24, 2008
"Good morning. This week, millions of Americans gather with loved ones for Christmas. This is a season of hope and joy. And it is an occasion to remember a humble birth that has helped shape the world for more than two thousand years. One of the things that makes Christmas special is that it allows us to step back and take stock of what is truly meaningful in our lives. As years pass by, we often forget about the gifts and the parties, but we remember special moments with families and friends.
This year, as you spend time with those you love, I hope you'll also take time to remember the men and women of our armed forces. Every one of them has volunteered to serve our Nation. And with their incredible sacrifices, they preserve the peace and freedom that we celebrate during this season.
This tradition of service is as old as our Nation itself. In 1776, it looked as if America's first Christmas as an independent Nation might also be its last. After a series of crippling defeats by the British, George Washington's army was exhausted and disheartened. With their terms of service expiring in just a few weeks, many soldiers were planning on leaving the army. And it seemed that without a miracle, America's fight for freedom would be doomed.
That miracle took place on Christmas night, 1776. George Washington planned a surprise attack on the enemy forces camped across the Delaware River in Trenton, New Jersey. Under the cover of darkness, he led a few thousand soldiers across the icy waters in the midst of a driving snowstorm. Most generals would not have taken such a risk. But the commitment of Washington and his men was absolute. They headed into battle with a bold password -- "Victory or death."
In a matter of hours, victory was theirs. Morale immediately improved. And the American people began to believe that our Nation possessed the perseverance and courage to protect our liberty. The turnaround that began that night would end with the United States' triumph in the American Revolution -- and the permanent establishment of a free Nation.
Two hundred and thirty-two years have passed since George Washington crossed the Delaware. But on this Christmas, his legacy lives on in the men and women of the United States military. Some of them are spending this holiday helping defend emerging democracies like Iraq and Afghanistan. Others are spending it in lands where we defeated tyranny long ago, such as Germany or Japan. And some of them are spending it stateside, recovering in places like Bethesda National Naval Medical Center or Walter Reed.
Regardless of where they are, our men and women in uniform and the families who support them remind us of a clear lesson: Defending freedom is a full-time job. Our enemies do not take holidays. So the members of our armed forces stand ready to protect our freedom at any hour. For their service, they have the thanks of a grateful Nation -- this Christmas and always."