MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Continued -- (Senate - May 22, 2008)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, at the end of the Second World War, this country thanked a generation of returning heroes for their service by giving them the chance to attend college on the GI bill. Stanley Dunham, my grandfather, was one of the young men who got that chance. More than half a century later, we face the largest homecoming since then, at a time when the costs of college have never been higher.
Senator Webb, a former marine himself, along with the leaders of both parties, have introduced a 21st century GI bill that would give this generation of returning heroes the same chance at an affordable college education that we gave the ``greatest generation.''
We have asked so much of our brave young men and women. We have sent them on tour after tour of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have risked their lives and left their families and served this country brilliantly. It is our moral duty as Americans to serve them as well as they have served us. This GI bill is an important way to do that.
I know there are some who have argued that this will have an impact on retention rates. I firmly believe--and I think it has been argued eloquently on this side--that in the long term, this will strengthen our military and improve the number of people who are interested in volunteering to serve.
I respect Senator JOHN MCCAIN's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I cannot understand why he would line up behind the President in his opposition to this GI bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the President more on this issue.
There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them. I am proud that so many Democrats and Republicans have come together to support this bill. I would also note that the first GI bill was not just good for the veterans and their families, but it was good for the entire country. It helped to build our middle class. Whenever we invest in the best and the brightest, all of us end up benefiting, all of us end up prospering.
I urge my Senate colleagues to give those who have defended America the chance to achieve their dream. I commend Senator Webb and the many veteran service organizations that have worked so tirelessly on this issue.
I yield the floor.