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At Historic WWII Site, Biden Advocates for Unity in Support of Ukraine

Pointe du Hoc, France — Standing alone atop a concrete bunker embedded in a 100-foot cliff overlooking the cold, choppy waters off Normandy's coast, U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday articulated why he had come to the French countryside to deliver a powerful speech that draws a direct line from the past to the present.

"Where we stand was not sacred ground on June 5th, but that's what it became on June the 6th," he said, referring to the battle launched by Allied forces on that day in 1944.

"The Rangers who scaled this cliff didn't know they would change the world," he said of the U.S. unit that played a pivotal role in the D-Day invasion, which led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. "But they did. I've long said that history has shown that ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things when challenged. There's no better example of that in the entire world than right here at Pointe du Hoc."

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Biden thus capped his French tour of American wartime nostalgia, which included a dramatic day of events at the main American cemetery of the battle, with a pointed message: The threat of autocratic aggression is not a relic of the past.

In fact, he argued, it is happening again in Ukraine.

That nation has spent the past two years, with substantial American military assistance, holding its ground against a fierce Russian assault. Biden has repeatedly asserted that Russia will not stop at Ukraine's borders, urging NATO members to present a strong united front.

As Biden spoke under a cloudless blue sky, he frequently met eyes with a man huddled in a wheelchair in the front row: 99-year-old John Wardell, one of the dwindling number of survivors from the Ranger battalion that scaled these rocky cliffs.

"As we gather here today, it's not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery on June 6, 1944," Biden said. "It's to listen to the echo of their voices, to hear them. Because they are summoning us. They ask us, what will we do? They're not asking us to scale these cliffs. They're asking us to stay true to what America stands for.

Biden concluded his French tour of American wartime remembrance, which included a poignant day of events at the battle's main American cemetery, with a clear message: The threat of autocratic aggression is not a thing of the past.

In fact, he argued, it is happening again in Ukraine.

For the past two years, that nation has been defending itself against a fierce Russian assault with substantial American military assistance. Biden has repeatedly asserted that Russia will not stop at Ukraine's borders, urging NATO members to present a strong, united front.

As Biden spoke under a cloudless blue sky, he frequently met eyes with a man huddled in a wheelchair in the front row: 99-year-old John Wardell, one of the dwindling number of survivors from the Ranger battalion that scaled these rocky cliffs.

"As we gather here today, it's not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery on June 6, 1944," Biden said. "It's to listen to the echo of their voices, to hear them. Because they are summoning us. They ask us, what will we do? They're not asking us to scale these cliffs. They're asking us to stay true to what America stands for."

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with WWII veteran John Wardell during a visit to the World War II Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument following the 80th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Normandy, France, on June 7, 2024.

Biden, who walked onstage accompanied by music from the popular TV series "Band of Brothers," clearly understands the significance of this moment.

Just seconds after completing his speech, Biden made his way to the front row. Wardell, with assistance from his caretaker on one side and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the other, struggled to his feet.

Atop the cliff that Wardell first scaled at the tender age of 18, he clasped hands with the president.

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