Good morning. This weekend we commemorate Veterans Day, a day when America honors every man and woman who has worn the uniform of our military.
In Veterans Day celebrations across our Nation, we remember those who have served in previous wars, those who are serving today, and those who did not live to become veterans. Especially in a time of war, we see in our veterans an example of people who stepped forward to serve a cause larger than themselves.
This weekend, I ask you to take a moment to thank our veterans for their service, and express your appreciation for the sacrifices they have made to preserve our freedom and way of life.
One freedom that defines our way of life is the freedom to choose our leaders at the ballot box. We saw that freedom earlier this week, when millions of Americans went to the polls to cast their votes for a new Congress. Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war. Our democratic institutions are a source of strength, and our trust in these institutions has made America the most powerful, prosperous, and stable nation in the world.
As a result of this week's elections, the Democrats now hold a majority in both Houses of Congress. After the elections, I called the Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate to congratulate them on the victory they achieved for their party. On Thursday, I had lunch with Congresswoman Pelosi and Congressman Hoyer, and on Friday I met with Senators Reid and Durbin. We had good discussions. I told them what I have told the men and women in my administration: We must put these elections behind us, and work together on the great issues facing America.
The elections will bring changes to Washington. But one thing has not changed: America faces brutal enemies who have attacked us before and want to attack us again. I have a message for these enemies: Do not confuse the workings of American democracy with a lack of American will. Our Nation is committed to bringing you to justice, and we will prevail.
Iraq is the central front in this war on terror. I look forward to listening to ideas from the new leaders of Congress on the best way to support our troops on the front lines — and win the war on terror. I also look forward to hearing recommendations on the way forward in Iraq from a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.
In the meantime, I have made an important change to my national security team. On Wednesday, I accepted Don Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense, and announced my intent to nominate Bob Gates to replace him. Bob is a proven leader who has served six Presidents — four Republicans and two Democrats. As a former CIA Director and the current President of Texas A&M University, he has experience leading large and complex organizations, and he has shown that he is an agent of change. As Secretary of Defense, he will provide a fresh outlook on our strategy in Iraq, and what we need to do to prevail.
Bob replaces the longest serving member of my Cabinet, Don Rumsfeld. History will record that on Secretary Rumsfeld's watch, the men and women of our military overthrew two terrorist regimes, brought justice to scores of senior Al Qaeda operatives, and helped stop new terrorist attacks on our people. America is safer, and the world is more secure because of the leadership of Don Rumsfeld, and I am deeply grateful for his service.
The message of this week's elections is clear: the American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences, conduct ourselves in an ethical manner, and work together to address the challenges facing our Nation. This is important work that will demand the hard effort and good faith of leaders from both sides of the aisle, and I pledge to do my part.
Thank you for listening.