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Europe and Eurasia: On the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day

I join President Obama and the American people in reflecting on the end of World War II in Europe, during today's 70th anniversary of VE Day.

I had the privilege of laying a wreath at the base of the Arc d'Triomphe this morning in a small gesture to honor the millions of courageous people from all the Allied nations who made victory possible.

We also wanted to remember those lost on all sides, and to mourn the millions of victims of brutal Nazi aggression.

War affects us all. As I commemorated the day here in France with President Hollande, Foreign Minister Fabius, and other leaders, I thought of my father, who volunteered for the American Air Corps and was part of the Greatest Generation.

There is no glory inherent in war, but there is immeasurable honor in the sacrifices made by those who left their homes from the plains of North America to the heartland of the Soviet Republics, from the United Kingdom and France, from Central Europe, Greece and Serbia, and from many other countries, to unite and turn back a tide that seemed unstoppable. Equally strong were those who remained on the homefront, supporting them emotionally and with vital materiel, and providing their own beachhead against doubt.

It is vital, on this day, that we not forget why that war was fought and how it was won.

It was fought because aggression, bigotry, and hate – when left unopposed – grow stronger. It was won because decent people from across the globe came together in a common cause, before it was too late.

Seven decades have passed since the terrible sounds of war ended on the avenues of Berlin, the rubble-torn streets of Prague, the burnt out buildings of Warsaw, and the ruins of Stalingrad. Seven decades have passed since citizens gathered to celebrate a hard won victory in Allied capitals, to mourn their losses, and to begin the process of reconstruction and recovery that ushered in an era of unprecedented growth and prosperity for a war-torn continent.

Out of the war in Europe arose a new commitment to human rights, shared prosperity, and peace. There arose, as well, a shared determination to exercise vigilance against any who would abuse power to destroy others and employ violence for political gain.

Today, as we reflect on the past, we accept our responsibility to maintain that commitment to justice, to uphold the rule of law, and to work as Allies and friends to defend the rights and dignity of every human being. We owe that to those who gave so much for the cause of freedom.