A NEW RENAISSANCE
An address by Honorable Alben Hopkins, Major General, U.S. Army.
To the Members of the 65th Infantry Division
Association meeting held on 30 September 1999 at the
Imperial Palace Hotel, Biloxi, Mississippi.
Major General Hopkins:
I am very pleased to be here on this auspicious occasion of retiring the colors of the 65th Infantry Division. I am truly honored to be in the presence of those who served so gallantly in France, Germany, Austria and endured and prevailed through miles of enemy territory. Each of you represent, in my opinion, a new Renaissance Men and Women.
The pages of history have always been filled with leaders who made corrections and benchmarks for others to follow:
When the Roman Empire collapsed as a result of being overrun by the Barbarians from the northern plateaus of Europe in the Fifth Century, the entire known world was plunged into the Dark Ages that lasted a thousand years.
There was no peace, for there was constant war.
There was no food, for there was famine.
There was no learning, for there were no teachers.
There were no jobs, for there was no initiative or enterprise.
There was no hope, for there was no vision.
From the morass of indifference, indignation and ignoble performance came the blossoming of the possibility of peace and prosperity that grew from the categorical imperative of man, with God's help.
To rise above, to seek new plateaus, to advance the cause, to establish life, as eternal guidance demanded.
The pages of history refer to that time following the Dark Ages as "The Renaissance," the new beginning, the new era, the new world. It did not come easy. It was a road filled with wars, with plagues, with apathy and indifference.
From those dire and despicable times, history records the names of giants of that generation, Leonardo DiVinci, Christopher Columbus, Michelangelo, Martin Luther, Galileo, Shakespeare and Isaac Newton to name a few.
All of us, students of history, and life, marvel at where we would be today were it not for those Renaissance men and women who literally changed the world and made it a better place to live and to raise their families and to worship their God.
As a young high school student, and in college, how often I read those hallowed and historical pages about those patriots, scholars and leaders and I wished to be standing next to them for only a moment to savor what must have been an incredible aura of charismatic character at its pinnacle of existence. From our observance of those machinations of history, we learned that nothing splendid has ever been achieved, except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to the circumstances.
That same belief was present in the world in the 1920s and the 1930s when many of you were born. For you, in your youth, were plunged into the Depression and the painful remains of earlier wars, and in a society that many times you experienced over your lives, of no jobs, of poverty, of hunger, of despair and of disease that had no treatment or hope of treatment.
And, indeed, a world that later was plunged into the most despicable and destructive war of desolation that the world had ever known.
It was truly the dark ages in our world. The clarion call went out across the ages of man to bring forth "a generation of greatness" that would lift us out of the muck and the mire of a world dominated by: The Nazi regime of Germany and its leader Adolph Hitler; the Fascist regime of Italy and the leader Benito Mussolini; the Chinese regime of Mao-Tse-Tung; and the Japanese regime of Prime Minister Tojo.
Civilization as we know it was again going to be buried for thousands of years and the peace and prosperity and the liberty and the pursuit of happiness that all the world wanted, and sought, would be a hopeless expression carved on some tombstone where our forefathers died, were it not for a new Renaissance of Americans who would be defined by war. A new Renaissance of men and women who doggedly refused to be buried in the graveyard of lost hope.
You are that Generation! By 1944, 12 million of you were in uniform; war production represented 55 percent of the gross national product; there were about 19 million more workers than there had been five years earlier; and the 35 percent of them were women.
You had the burning in your guts to move 583 miles in 60 days because it was your destiny to save the free world and mark your generation as the new Renaissance of Americans.
Your generation added giants to the pages of history; General Reinhart, General Eisenhower, General Patton and each member of the 65th Infantry Division.
You took your place in American History with the generations that landed at Plymouth Rock, that wrote the Declaration of Independence, and that signed the Constitution.
I am here tonight on behalf of my generation to honor you. Your generation has been called, and rightly so, "The Greatest Generation." I like to call you "The New Renaissance Men and Women," for it was your generation that changed uncertainty into resolve; that changed into determination; that changed fear into hope; and then changed defeat into triumph.
It was your generation whose tough commitment to duty forcibly urged the world to re-examine where it was going and look beyond the horizons of the time and establish for the New Millennium a world at peace; a world experiencing prosperity; a world where we are free to work and live to raise our families and to worship our God as we desire and as we please.
It was your generation that had the leadership to translate vision into reality.
It was your generation that recognized, as you saved the British Empire and the free world, in a paraphrase of John Donne;
"That no man was an island entire of itself, that every man was a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe was the less. Any man's death diminishes you because you were involved in mankind. And therefore you never sought to know for whom the bells toll. You knew they tolled for you."
Your generation and the 65th Division heard the bells as they were announcing the death knell of free civilization, but your generation and the 65th Division made them peal the anthem of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all the world.
It was your generation and the 65th Division that recognized that you had to save the world from itself. As a result of what you did, the bells for civilization had a different ring, a ring of life, a ring of peace, a ring of prosperity, a ring of freedom.
This grateful nation shall never be able to express to you the debt of gratitude that we owe because those words lie for too deep for definition by human language.
Your towering achievements on the battlefield and at home, on your return, have resulted in a rebuilding and re-establishing of America that continues to this day and will open the door to the New Millennium.
The unparallel progress in education, industry, science, medicine and the arts had its inception in your creativeness, its progression in your unrelenting stamina, and its eminence in your vision and guidance.
I salute and agree with Tom Brokow that you are the " Greatest Generation."
You brought about the New Renaissance , you are truly the New Renaissance Men and Women. May God continue to bless you and be present with you now and forever, because you truly have the " Right to be Proud!"