On Senate Floor, Portman Honors 78th Anniversary of D-Day by Reading FDR’s D-Day Prayer
WASHINGTON, DC – Tonight on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), honored the 78th anniversary of D-Day by reading the prayer that President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to the nation on the morning of June 6, 1944, now known as the D-Day Prayer.
During his remarks, Portman also discussed his legislation, the World War II Memorial Prayer Act, which authorized the Department of the Interior to install a plaque at or near the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. inscribed with the words of the D-Day Prayer. This legislation was signed into law in 2014. It requires that the plaque comply with the Commemorative Works Act and prohibits the use of federal funding. A temporary plaque was donated in 2019 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Construction of the permanent plaque is anticipated to start this July and be completed by early December 2022.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
“Mr. President, today is a very important day in American history, June 6, the anniversary of D-Day. One of the most important and consequential battles of World War II occurred on that day. Every year I have served in this body I have made it a practice of coming to the floor and reciting the famous D-Day prayer that Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to the nation on the morning of June 6, 1944. It was a consequential battle in the sense that it really marked the beginning of the end of World War II, the beginning of the end of Hitler. It is my favorite presidential statement. Seventy-eight years ago as the American people slept in their beds, the greatest naval invasion in history began and the greatest generation was born. On that fateful day, tens of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen joined allies from around the free world to begin what General Eisenhower called, ‘The Great Crusade,’ one that sought to free a continent and liberate millions from the grip of tyranny.
“They came by amphibious landing craft, by gliders, laden by men and material, by parachutes deployed deep behind enemy lines, and on the beaches called places like Omaha and Utah, the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. They struck a mortal blow to the Nazi regime. Thousands would give their lives for this cause. Over 2,500 Americans alone. Like many in this chamber, I’ve seen the American cemeteries there, the rows of white crosses and the stars of David that go on and on, a stark reminder of the price those brave heroes paid for all of us. These men did not go into battle alone, as General Eisenhower said to the allied expeditionary force, on the eve of this risky battle – the hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. As the battle was engaged, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the nation.
“He did not choose to address the American people with one of his trademark fireside chats nor did he choose to use a speech. Instead he delivered words of prayer by radio address as the fate of Europe and, indeed, the entire free world hung in the balance. It's a powerful prayer that transcended all faiths. I think it captures, perhaps better than anything else I've ever seen, what we as Americans should be most proud of. We are liberators, not conquerors. And it also talks about the righteousness of that cause. This prayer must never be forgotten, and that's why I come to the floor and that's why I'd like to recite it now.
“This is what he said, ‘My fellow Americans, last night when I spoke to you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the channel in another, and yet greater, operation. It has come to pass with success thus far and so in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer. Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day has set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion, and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true. Give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard for the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again, and we know that by thy grace and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. They will be sore tried by night and by day without rest until victory is won, the darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise and tolerance and goodwill among all thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, father, and receive them, thy heroic servants into thy kingdom. And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers – of brave men overseas whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them, help us Almighty God to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in thee in this hour of great sacrifice. Many people have urged that I call the nation to a single day of prayer, but because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer as we rise each new day and again when each day is spent, let the words of prayer be on our lips invoking thy help to our efforts. Give us strength too, strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and material support of our armed forces, and let our hearts be stout to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons where so ever they may be. And O Lord, give us faith, give us faith in thee, faith in our sons, faith in each other, faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters, of but fleeting moment, let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose. With thy blessing we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men and a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.’
“Yes, amen. What a powerful statement, one that deserves to be remembered for generations to come. By the way, to ensure its place in history, back in 2013, shortly after I was elected to this body, I introduced legislation called the World War II Memorial Prayer Act with former Senator Mary Landrieu and after her, Senator Joe Lieberman. Representative Bill Johnson took the lead in the House of Representatives. This was legislation that directed the Secretary of the Interior to install a plaque at or near the World War II Memorial on the National Mall here in Washington with these words, the words of FDR’s D-Day prayer. And we said no federal funding would be used for this. We would raise the money privately. It was the Ohio Christian Alliance President, Chris Long, who first came to me with the idea of a plaque displaying this historic prayer.
“Since that legislation was signed into law in 2014, which kicked off the lengthy commemorative works act process for siting and installing a plaque at the Memorial, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial and National Park Service have worked to develop and refine the final plaque design and receive a variety of approvals from the National Park Service, to the Commission of the Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission and others. In the meantime, we have gone ahead with a beautiful temporary plaque that has been in place since 2019, in what's called the Circle of Remembrance, which is just north of the World War II Memorial. So if you're here in Washington, go to the mall, see the World War II Memorial which is spectacular, then look to the north and go to the Circle of Remembrance and you'll see the prayer on display there. By the way, it's the only prayer on display on the National Mall.
“We hope that the final version of this plaque, and the Circle of Remembrance being remodeled, will be done by the end of this year. The process has been going on for eight years, longer than World War II itself actually, so we're eager to see that final plaque installed, and I know it will be. The temporary plaque, by the way, was generously donated to the Friends of the National World War II Memorial with the help of John Nau from Houston, Texas, a great patriot. And also the Ohio Christian Alliance and others who provided funding for this. In October 2020, the Lilly Endowment provided a $2 million grant for the construction and installation of the final plaque. And it's this committed financial support that will allow the project to get across the finish line, even with some hurdles. So I thank the Lilly Endowment for their support. I also want to recognize the tireless efforts of the Friends Group, especially Holly Rotondi, who led the effort in fundraising and coordinating the project over the past several years. Thank you, Holly.
“D-Day was a day of tremendous loss and also monumental triumph. Those who lost their lives that day did not die in vain. The fate of the free world rested on their shoulders, those brave young men, many Americans, charging the beaches of Normandy. And President Roosevelt's prayer that day helped to comfort a nation in a time of great uncertainty. I'm glad that his words will soon take their proper place in our memorial to the war that changed the course of history. Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”