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Two days that changed America

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Two days that changed America
By Congressman Joe Pitts

This month, America remembers two momentous days in its history.

The course of our nation was forever altered on September 11, 2001, when fanatical Islamic terrorists hijacked four passenger jets and used them to murder nearly 3,000 innocent American civilians.

The remembrance ceremonies held across the country recently have renewed our memories of that day and reminded us of the need to remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism.

But our nation marks another significant day in September. It was on September 17, 1787 that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the U.S. Constitution, giving us one of the most enduring charters of freedom and democracy the world has ever known.

In the two centuries that have passed between those momentous days, our nation has witnessed extraordinary change. Spreading word of the newly signed Constitution to the far ends of the country took weeks. Today, Congressional proceedings are broadcast to the world in real time on TV and the Internet.

But despite the countless differences between then and now, the core question for our country remains the same: Can our freedom last?

It is said that someone approached Ben Franklin as he walked out of Independence Hall that September day and asked him what kind of government had been formed by the delegates. Franklin told his questioner, "A republic sir, if you can keep it."

Franklin's reply got to the heart of things then, and it still does today. The circumstances have changed, but the foundational challenge for Americans remains the same.

At its core, America represents the idea that mankind can live free. Our Founding Fathers sought to throw off the yoke of tyranny and create a nation of liberty and self-rule. They were men of big ideas for their time. They spoke of inalienable rights and urged separation from one of the most powerful empires in the world.

The story of American history is a narrative of defending and promoting freedom. From winning independence from an overbearing British monarch, to fighting Nazism in Europe, to facing down Soviet communism, America has always been willing to pay the price for its freedom.

On September 11, 2001, we awakened to a new threat. Though the terrorists had been carrying out attacks for years, the horrific scale of that day's attacks brought this threat into clear focus.

The terrorists responsible for the death and destruction of 9/11 have a hatred for our way of life. They despise the liberty we value so greatly and seek a totalitarian world marked by autocratic rule and repression of individual liberty.

And they are deeply committed to such a worldview. In an audio tape released in April, Osama Bin Laden declared that, "death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers amongst us."

Defeating those that seek to impose such oppression on the world will be this generation's defining challenge. And like previous challenges, it will require clarity of purpose, a willingness to sacrifice, and a long-term determination to succeed.

Since 9/11, we have had some successes in fighting terrorism. We've eliminated terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power. We've rounded up many of al-Qaeda's top operatives and gleaned valuable intelligence from them. We've thwarted additional attacks planned against our people.

These successes are important, but the war against terrorism is far from over. There will be future battles to fight, and we must be committed to winning them.

Defeating radical Islamic terrorism is an enormous task, but I'm convinced that we are up to it. Americans have shown again and again that they are willing to defend their freedom when it is threatened.

We will prevail in this struggle as well, showing the world that our love of freedom is stronger than our enemy's desire for bloodshed and tyranny.

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