Obama calls for unity on 9/11 anniversary

September 10, 2011 - 5:20 AM
Sept 11

One World Trade Center and the September 11 Memorial are ablaze in lights Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 in New York. Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is calling for the nation to come together on the anniversary of 9/11 and look to a shared future, even while reflecting on a decade filled with strife.

"It's clear for all the world to see — the terrorists who attacked us that September morning are no match for the character of our people, the resilience of our nation, or the endurance of our values," the president said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address a day ahead of the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

"We're doing everything in our power to protect our people," he said. "And no matter what comes our way, as a resilient nation, we will carry on."

Obama, a little-known state senator in Illinois at the time of the attacks, now has the responsibility to help lead the nation in remembrance of a national trauma 10 years on. He and his wife, Michelle, planned to participate in a service project Saturday afternoon in the Washington area. Then on Sunday, the president is scheduled to visit all three sites where hijacked planes struck 10 years ago — New York City, Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon — before delivering evening remarks at a memorial event at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

His comments in his address Saturday were likely a preview of the message he will deliver Sunday. Obama sought to strike a balance between remembering and moving forward, while also trying to summon the feeling of unity that existed during those dark days after terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people.

"They wanted to deprive us of the unity that defines us as a people. But we will not succumb to division or suspicion," Obama said. "We are Americans, and we are stronger and safer when we stay true to the values, freedoms and diversity that make us unique among nations."

Obama also thanked American troops who have served in two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan launched after the attacks and praised the military successes that led to advances against al-Qaida and the killing of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. He also reaffirmed his commitment to winding down the conflicts he inherited.

"Yes, we face a determined foe, and make no mistake — they will keep trying to hit us again," Obama said. "But as we are showing again this weekend, we remain vigilant. We're doing everything in our power to protect our people."

Intelligence officials have been working around the clock to determine the validity of a new threat of a possible al-Qaida attack on New York or Washington timed to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary.

"But even as we put relentless pressure on al-Qaida, we're ending the war in Iraq and beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Because after a hard decade of war, it is time for nation-building here at home."

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led New York in the days after the attacks, struck some of the same themes in the GOP's weekly address. He said the terrorists achieved their goal of killing Americans — but failed to destroy the American spirit.

"The country was not broken, but rather, it was more united in the days after Sept. 11 than at any time in my lifetime," Giuliani said. "We displayed heroic spirit in many ways, but perhaps the most heroic was the unity of spirit that we shared as Americans. The American people demonstrated one of the most basic values that we share — our love of freedom and the value we place on individual human life."

But without mentioning Obama by name, Giuliani also used his address to criticize the administration's policies, saying that America is safer, but not as safe as it should be. He condemned plans to remove troops from Iraq and Afghanistan under a timetable, saying, "American security requires a long-term military presence in the part of the world, where people and organizations are plotting to kill us."

"Perhaps the most dangerous impulse we've developed since Sept. 11 is impatience demonstrated by the calls to put our armed forces on timetables," Giuliani said.

"We must not allow impatience to prevent our military from achieving its objective in Iraq and Afghanistan and the objective is the elimination of the threat to our nation," he said.

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AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller contributed to this report.

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Online:

Obama address: www.whitehouse.gov

GOP address: www.youtube.com/gopweeklyaddress