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Obama: 'Whenever the World Makes You Cynical,' Look to Our Hero Veterans

President Obama arrives to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 2016. (Ron Sachs/Pool via CNP)

ARLINGTON, Va. — President Obama advised at Arlington National Cemetery that “whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you seek true humility and selflessness, look to a veteran.”

The president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in the annual Veterans Day remembrance before speaking at the amphitheater to a variety of veterans groups, honor guards and Gold Star families.

Obama acknowledged that Veterans Day “often follows a hard-fought political campaign, an exercise in the free speech and self government that you fought for.”

“It often lays bare disagreements across our nation, but the American instinct has never been to find isolation in opposite corners. It is to find a strength in our common creed, to forge unity from our great diversity, to sustain that strength and unity, even when it is hard,” he said. “When the election is over, we search for ways to come together, to reconnect with one another and with the principles that are more enduring and transitory politics.”

“Some of our best examples are the men and women we salute on Veterans Day. It’s the example of young Americans, our 9/11 generation, who as first responders ran into smoldering towers then ran to a recruiting center and signed up to serve. It’s the example of a military that meets every mission, one united team all looking out for one another, all getting each other’s backs. It’s the example of the single most diverse institution in our country, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who represent every corner of our country, every shade of humanity; immigrant and native-born, Christian, Muslim, Jew and nonbeliever alike all forged into common service.”

Obama stressed that “our veterans are still the first to help, still the first to serve.”

“They are women, like the retired military policewoman from Buffalo who founded an AMVETS post in her community and is now building a safe place for homeless female veterans with children,” he said. “They are men like the two veterans from Tennessee, one in his 50s, one in his 60s, who wrote me to say they would happily suit up and ship out if we needed them. ‘We might be just a little old,’ they wrote, ‘but we will be proud to go and do what we were taught to do.'”

He emphasized that “whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you doubt that courage and goodness and selflessness is possible, then stop and look to a veteran.”

“…On Veterans Day, we acknowledge humbly that we can never serve our veterans in quite the same way that they served us, but we can try. We can practice kindness, we can pay it forward, we can volunteer, we can serve, we can respect one another, we can always get each others backs. That is what Veterans Day asks all of us to think about.”