Tribute to Christmas

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Thursday, November 29, 2001

Mr. SCHAFFER. Mr. Speaker, Christmas during wartime is an unsettling conflict in vision and emotion for Americans. A peace-loving nation, the United States has always been resolved in the face of tyranny to crush the purveyors of terror and to vanquish the enemies of freedom; and with firm reliance upon the protection of Divine Providence. Celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace is a testimony to authentic liberty, and invigorates the spirit of a nation whose motto boldly stands "in God we trust."

America will prevail, because it always has, because it must, and because it is right.

President Franklin Roosevelt asked, "how can we pause, even for a day, even for Christmas Day, in our urgent labor of arming a decent humanity against the enemies which beset it?" Today, Americans confront the same question. The answer is, of course, the same, and so the outcome will be.

The nation's first Christmas occurred amidst the Revolutionary War. With the Continental Army poised to turn the momentum of the war, General George Washington conceived a daring tactic which would unfold on the Eve of Christmas 1776. Under cover of darkness and well after the Hessian mercenaries had consumed their Holiday feast (and drink), Washington led his troops across the Delaware River to defeat the heavy, surprised, and more numerous Hessian mercenaries who held Trenton, NJ.

A few months prior to the famous attack, Washington wrote, "the time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die."

In 1862, entering the second year of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln inspired his countrymen through the Christmas season. Before Congress, he delivered a stirring speech: "the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present," Lincoln said. "The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Roosevelt's address following the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor urged Americans to take inspiration from the sacred Holiday. "Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies--more than any other day or any other symbol. Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God's care for us and all men everywhere," he said. "It is in that spirit, and with particular thoughtfulness of those our sons and brothers, who serve in our armed forces on land and sea, near and far--those who serve for us and endure for us--that we light our Christmas candles now across the continent from one coast to the other on this Christmas Eve."

From the Christmas Eve crossing of the Delaware, to the Christmases observed in Civil War camps, the trenches of World War I, and the forests of Belgium during WWII, Americans have always been willing to fight to secure their nation and restore peace.

American men and women presently deployed in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Bosnia, Korea, throughout the world and here at home, are emblematic of the sacrifice and dedication of the proud American soldiers who preceded them. The cause of freedom, liberty and valor serves to summon the courage of those who stand in harm's way, but even more does the spirit of Christmas confirm the hope and blessing that is God's gift to America. The way to victory was shown to the world by a child whose birthday is revered around the world. America's trust in God will lead us to victory again.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).