April 23, 1983
My fellow Americans:
In a few hours I'll undertake one of the saddest journeys of my Presidency. I'll be going to Andrews Air Force Base to meet one of our Air Force planes bringing home 16 Americans who died this week in the terrorist attack on the United States Embassy in Beirut.
I undertake this task in great sadness, but also with a tremendous sense of pride in those who sacrificed their lives in our country's efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and spare others the agony of war. Greater love hath no man. The courage and the dedication of these men and women reflect the best tradition of our Foreign Service, our Armed Forces, and the other departments and agencies whose personnel serve our nation overseas, often in situations of great personal danger.
We don't know yet who bears responsibility for this terrible deed. What we do know is that the terrorists who planned and carried out this cynical and cowardly attack have failed in their purpose. They mistakenly believe that if they're cruel enough and violent enough, they will weaken American resolve and deter us from our effort to help build a lasting and secure peace in the Middle East. Well, if they think that, they don't know too much about America. As a free people, we've never allowed intimidation to stop us from doing what we know to be right. The best way for us to show our love and respect for our fellow countrymen who died in Beirut this week is to carry on with their task, to press harder than ever with our peacemaking efforts, and that's exactly what we're doing.
More than ever, we're committed to giving the people of Lebanon the chance they deserve to lead normal lives, free from violence and free from the presence of all unwanted foreign forces on their soil. And we remain committed to the Lebanese Government's recovery of full sovereignty throughout all its territory.
When I spoke after the bombing to Lebanon's President Gemayel, he expressed his people's deepest regret and revulsion over this wanton act of terrorism. I in turn assured him that the tragic events of this week had only served to strengthen America's steadfastness as a force for peace in his country and the Middle East. To this end, I've asked Secretary of State George Shultz to leave tomorrow night for the Middle East. Secretary Shultz will now add his personal efforts to continue the magnificent work begun by Ambassadors Phil Habib and Morris Draper, bringing about the earliest possible withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon in a way that will promote peace and security in this troubled region.
The scenes of senseless tragedy in Beirut this week will remain etched in our memories forever. But along with the tragedy, there were inspiring moments of heroism. We will not forget the pictures of Ambassador Dillon and his staff, Lebanese as well as Americans, many of them swathed in bandages, bravely searching the devastated embassy for their colleagues and for other innocent victims.
We will not forget the image of young marines gently draping our nation's flag over the broken body of one of their fallen comrades. We will not forget their courage and compassion, and we will not forget their willingness to sacrifice even their lives for the service of their country and the cause of peace.
Yes, we Americans can be proud of these fine men and women. And we can be even prouder that our country has been playing such a unique and indispensable role in the Middle East, a role no other single nation could play. When the countries of the region want help in bringing peace, we're the ones they've turned to. That's because they trust us, because they know that America is both strong and just, both decent and dedicated. Even in the shadow of this terrible tragedy in Beirut, that is something to remember and draw heart from. It is also something to be true to.
I know I speak for all Americans when I reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to our country's most precious heritage -- serving the cause of peace and freedom in the world. What better monument than that could we build for those who gave their all that others might live in peace.
Until next week, thank you, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.