Franklin Delano Roosevelt was correct when he declared that December 7th, 1941 would be a day that will live in infamy. The brutal Japanese attack on the US bases at Pearl Harbor shocked what had been just before a naive and isolationist nation into realizing the reality of the state of the world and plunged it into three and a half years of some of the most brutal warfare the world has ever known.
Yet, 75 years later, it is easy to forget the lessons Americans needed to learn from that event and to imagine lessons that should be forgotten.
The fact is that we should not remember Pearl Harbor out of some sense of xenophobia or bigotry or fear. It is easy to imagine that we should be suspect of those different from us and cast them as enemies, but if we were to do so, we would be wrong. The attack on Pearl Harbor was about far different lessons.
Instead, we should remember Pearl Harbor, and indeed all of World War Two, for what it represents about the world. The world is an unsettled, dangerous place, and it always has been. There has never been a time when the price of liberty is not eternal vigilance, and even when we are most vigilant, those who oppose us retain the ability to strike.
But, instead of despairing and fearing that reality, it should prompt us to adhere even more fully to the ideals that should define us. We should advance liberty even more. We should protect the oppressed with more zeal. We should prove to the whole world why we are a beacon rather than a blight.
It is by remembering the nature of our darkest days that we remember who we are. We must take hold of the ideals those events woke and put them into action. We must not let the darkness overcome the light. This is why we remember.