9/11 commemoration address

US Embassy Canberra

Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)

11 September 2012

Thank you, Ambassador, for bringing us together to commemorate 9/11.

Not only as an act of remembrance, but as a recognition of its continuing relevance for us all.

9/11 reaches deep and far.

Last week, we brought home five Australians killed in Afghanistan.

They died in a war which began in the horror and terror in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, eleven years ago.

Three times as many Australian soldiers have now died in Afghanistan as the Australians who were killed in New York on that terrible day.

9/11 is one of those tragedies in human history in which the anniversary becomes a quest to understand its deeper meaning

We can't confine the impact of 9/11 to the camera lens and the images imprinted on our memories forever.

For allies like Australia, a fundamental question is always how the United States views the rest of the world and how the world sees the United States.

After 9/11, beyond the shock and grief, I was struck by the immense, almost instinctive, goodwill, gratitude and respect held for the United States and its people.

We recall President Kennedy's words in 1962, "Ich Bin Ein Berliner".

In the wake of September 11 we felt, "We are all New Yorkers now".

The outpouring of sympathy and goodwill was understandable enough in Europe, Asia, Australia.

But it also occurred in the most unexpected places.

The distinguished former Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times, David Sanger, has written:

In the hours after the World Trade Centre fell, Americans were in such shock that few paid attention to the reaction in Tehran. What they would have seen was candlelight vigils held for the victims, a reaction that was spontaneous, unanticipated, and symbolic of opportunities. (David Sanger, The Inheritance, Barton Press 2009, p. 39)

This is not the occasion to re-assess the strategies adopted by the West in response to the attack, to count the opportunity cost, to re-think policy.

Here today we do, however, remember the immense goodwill and respect enjoyed by the United States around the world – certainly not created by 9/11 but it was unforgettably demonstrated at that time.

It still runs deep.

This goodwill and respect – and the influence that comes with it – is something quite distinct from American power – military power, economic power.

It comes partly from the power of the American example and the American idea.

It flourishes best when the American leadership acknowledges what the Declaration of Independence calls "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind".

I believe that this remains the strongest foundation in which American leadership can continue to build relations with the world, not least in our great region.

Together, we have been through 11 years of global difficulty, complexity and anxiety. Yet I believe it is only a statement of fact to say that in 2012 the United States stands again on the heights:

In these things, the United States did not stand helpless in the wake of the merciless attack on innocent people delivered by Al-Qaeda on September 11.

In this way, Your Excellency, the United States and Australia among its allies and its friends around the world have given a powerful and enduring answer to the inexpungible crime of 9/11.

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