Biden Calls for Upholding Democracy in Normandy Cliff Speech

Biden Calls for Upholding Democracy in Normandy Cliff Speech

President Joe Biden delivers a speech at Pointe du Hoc, where U.S. Army Rangers scaled cliffs over 100 feet high on D-Day to destroy a heavily fortified German position at Pointe du Hoc, near Le Bavent, France on on June 7, 2024. (Elizabeth Frantz/REUTERS)

Emel AkanCaden Pearson

Emel Akan & Caden Pearson

6/7/2024

Updated: 6/8/2024

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NORMANDY—President Joe Biden delivered a speech in France, strategically choosing Pointe du Hoc, a key World War II site, as a backdrop to convey his message to American voters regarding the upcoming election.
Former President Ronald Reagan chose the same site to deliver one of his most memorable speeches in 1984, earning it historical significance.
In his 12-minute speech, President Biden emphasized the importance of upholding democracy, and warned against the dangers of turning away from the fight for democracy, while drawing lessons from history.
“When we talk about democracy—American democracy—we often talk big ideas like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” President Biden said. “What we don’t talk about enough is how hard it is.”
“American democracy asks the hardest of things: to believe that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves,” he said. “So democracy begins with each of us.”
President Biden was in France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion that played a pivotal role in freeing Europe from Nazi Germany’s grip.
Commemoration events in France this year were huge, marked with solemn ceremonies and large-scale re-enactments. It is also likely to be the last such grand milestone for many of the 200 veterans who attended this year, all aged 95 and above.
In a bold move, President Biden gave a speech atop a sheer cliff in front of the U.S. Ranger Monument in Pointe du Hoc on the Normandy coast, right where former President Reagan delivered his iconic D-Day memorial oration 40 years ago. That speech, honoring “the men who took the cliffs,” moved even the Republican president’s critics, according to historians.
“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” former President Reagan ardently declared. “These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”
With the specter of war haunting Europe, President Biden sought to draw comparisons with the World War II era and sought to echo former President Reagan’s speech by emphasizing the importance of fighting tyranny.
“A feared dictator [who] had conquered a continent had finally met his match because of them,” he said of the Rangers. “The war turned. They stood against Hitler’s aggression. Does anyone doubt that they would want America to stand up against Putin’s aggression here in Europe today?”
The Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument sits upon a cliff eight miles west of Omaha Beach and the Normandy American Cemetery, where President Biden delivered an address at an 80th-anniversary ceremony on June 6.
The monument was built by the French specifically to honor the U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion, who, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder, scaled 100-foot cliffs on the morning of D-Day and put out of action German artillery which posed a major threat to the American landings at Omaha and Utah Beaches.
Among the guests at President Biden’s speech was John Wardell, 99, who was one of those rangers who climbed the cliffs of Normandy nearly 80 years ago. He and his fellow soldiers from the Second Ranger Battalion scaled the cliffs during the D-Day invasion.
After two days of fighting, and with the Germans pushed back, 77 Rangers had been killed and another 152 wounded.
The monument consists of a single granite pylon on top of the original concrete bunker the Germans had constructed as part of their Atlantic Wall fortifications along the French coast.
“I’ve long said that history has shown that ordinary Americans can do the most extraordinary things,” said President Biden. “And there’s no better example of that in the entire world than right here at Pointe du Hoc. Rangers from farms, from cities, from every part of America.”
“As we gather here today, it’s not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery that day June 6, 1944,” he said. “It’s to listen to the echo of their voices. To hear them. Because they are summoning us. They’re asking 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’s Fight for Re-Election

Like President Biden, former President Reagan was also seeking re-election when he delivered his historic speech. And like President Biden, he was contending with a challenging economic situation back home.
While inflation had come off its peak of nearly 15 percent, it was still running above 4 percent when he delivered his Pointe Du Hoc speech in June 1984. Energy prices were elevated, with the average gallon of gasoline, adjusted for inflation, above $3. Despite inflation running wild, the United States economy expanded by 6.9 percent and recorded “extraordinary rates of employment growth” that year. President Reagan, too, was contending with ballooning budget deficits, an increasing national debt, and growing federal spending.
The chief difference between the presidents was the public’s attitude toward the White House. When President Biden delivered his recent address overseas, an Emerson poll showed his approval rating at 37 percent. By comparison, President Reagan’s approval rating stood at 54 percent in June 1984.
President Reagan won re-election in a landslide victory, winning 49 states, and nearly 59 percent of the popular vote.

Putin a ‘Dictator’

In an interview with ABC News, President Biden again criticized Mr. Putin.
Asked about Mr. Putin, Mr. Biden said: “I’ve known him for over 40 years. He’s concerned me for 40 years. He’s not a decent man. “He’s a dictator, and he’s struggling to make sure he holds his country together while still keeping this assault going.”
He declined to confirm whether U.S. weapons had been used inside Russia since he authorized the latest shipments to Ukraine.
“We’re not talking about giving them weapons to strike Moscow, to strike the Kremlin, to strike against, just across the border, where they’re receiving significant fire from conventional weapons used by the Russians to go into Ukraine to kill Ukrainians,” President Biden said.
Chris Summers, Andrew Moran, and T.J. Muscaro contributed to this report.
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Emel Akan

Emel Akan

Author

Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.

Caden Pearson

Caden Pearson

Author

Caden Pearson is a reporter covering U.S. and world news.

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