By Assemblywoman Shirley Horton
On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise military attack against the United States Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This attack, which would have allowed Japan to extend their military conquests throughout Asia and the Middle East, resulted in the deaths of 2,400 Americans.
Pearl Harbor was a terrible act of aggression committed against an innocent nation. Our military rose to the occasion to protect our American ideals and preserve freedom around the world. Sixty-two years later, as we reflect upon the lives lost that day, we must never forget the bravery displayed by the brave men and women of the Pacific Fleet on that infamous day.
In his 2002 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day proclamation, President Bush said “the men and women who fought for America at Pearl Harbor not only protected our Nation, but also helped to shape its character.” This tragedy awakened a spirit of patriotism and national unity in ordinary Americans perhaps not seen until the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
In the years following World War II, that renewed sense of national purpose moved our soldiers to free the people of Europe from fascism and political and religious oppression, and rebuild the free world after the ravages of war. When the Greatest Generation returned home from war, their work ethic and strong ideals lead to the political, economic, and cultural advances that transformed the 20th Century into the “American Century.”
Following September 11th, the renewed spirit of national unity resulted in an outpouring of faith, generosity, and resolve. In recent months, this spirit has subsided as our lives have returned to normal. There is no better tribute we can offer to the members of the World War II generation than to work to better our community. Teaching children to read at a local public school, helping the needy gain the job skills necessary to get their lives in order, attending a house of worship on a regular basis, and staying abreast of current affairs are lasting contributions that everyone can make on a daily basis.
Our next generation of leaders must also learn from the surviving members of the Greatest Generation about the horrors of war and the blessings of peace. It will be incumbent upon them to further technological advances, continue to spread the ideals of freedom and democracy around the world, and maintain our national purpose. Sharing their war experiences with local students is perhaps the greatest legacy the Greatest Generation can leave behind.
On this anniversary of the great tragedy at Pearl Harbor, let us rededicate ourselves to furthering the American ideal at home and around the world.
Assemblywoman Shirley Horton represents the 78th Assembly District in the California State Assembly.