Capt. Mark Turner's July 4th address hit all the right notes
Like everything else, the 2020 edition of Bristol's Patriotic Exercises were different. Choked with emotion, speaker after speaker celebrated the coup that was the fact that Bristol was having a …
Capt. Mark Turner's July 4th address hit all the right notes
Like everything else, the 2020 edition of Bristol's Patriotic Exercises were different. Choked with emotion, speaker after speaker celebrated the coup that was the fact that Bristol was having a celebration at all, let alone one that was so celebratory and enjoyable. Captain Mark Turner, USN Ret, was this year's Patriotic Speaker, the event's keynote speaker. He is a gifted orator, and it was a privilege to attend and hear his words. He didn't shy away from the many troubling and complex issues the nation is facing at this time; he addressed them head on, but with hope and optimism that there are brighter days ahead.
Bristol Patriotic Exercises
Remarks by Capt. Mark Turner, USN, Ret
July 4, 2020
It is my distinct privilege to stand before you in America's most patriotic town on this special day. Michele Martins and Chuck McDonough, the entire Bristol 4th of July Committee, Dick Devault and all those who continue to make this event possible, words cannot express my gratitude. To Suzanne Magaziner and Keri Davock, it is people like you and the examples you set that make this community stronger. Thank you for your leadership and compassion. You both are so very worthy of the honors given.
Thank you for allowing me to wear my nation's cloth; and an opportunity to be among patriots like all those mentioned and all of you, is not something that comes along every day. But nothing prepared me for the overwhelming sense of pride and heritage that emanates from this town, nestled along the bay.
From homes of former governors, historic buildings, streets named Constitution, Franklin, and Washinton….to the churches, some founded in the earliest days of Rhode Island, celebrating religious freedom….there is nothing that compares to a place like Bristol, Rhode Island on the Fourth of July. I am humbled, and consider this one of the great honors of my life.
I was told by my new friend Lou Cirillo the secret success of Bristol patriotic speeches is to be personal. Since one of my beliefs is that leadership is personal, it seemed to fit. Nothing worthwhile is achieved without passion, so for the next few minutes I will give you my best. Here we go.
I want to reintroduce myself with the title I am most proud of. I am the son of World War II veteran Electrician Mate 1st Class Robert and Shirley Turner. The foundation of my patriotism was formed at the dinner table with my family and other members of the Greatest Generation. I know we are blessed to have World War II and Korean Veterans present and listening. Please know this….when the world needed heroes you stood up and saved humanity. Your patriotism serves as a touchstone for all of us.
God bless you and all veterans here who swore an oath to the Constitution and this great nation;
Who fought for freedom;
Who forever carry the heavy burden and scars of war, both seen and unseen.
I would like to start with a story of courage on 9-11, not my personal experience at the Pentagon, but this one starts in 1776. The fledgling United States had declared its independence, the same one we celebrate today, just two months earlier.
The British Army had routed the Continental Army and occupied Manhattan Island. Lord Howe, Commander of the king's forces, called for a meeting with American officials to offer a truce — a truce with one small catch — the colonists had to end the rebellion and surrender their quest for freedom.
John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Edward Rutledge traveled from Pennsylvania to meet with Lord Howe in New York. They were met by the world's greatest superpower of the time. Surrounded by hundreds of Royal Navy ships and thousands of British soldiers, instead of faltering, succumbing to the reality of the overwhelming task in front of them, they stood tall for freedom and liberty. They refused Lord Howe's terms.
These leaders understood their action and this cause of liberty was the foundation for a new nation that would become a beautiful mosaic and a beacon of hope for the world. Based on a simple concept: your life, your beliefs, your aspirations matter. The destiny of this new experiment was past but it was far from the last time it faced adversity.
Another crossroad of who we are as a nation came nearly 80 years later. In one of the finest Independence Day speeches ever given in history, Frederick Douglass stated that the 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.
Born a slave, this man was able to hold a mirror up to this nation and remind us that we were not living up to our ideals created by our founding documents that all men are created equal, blessed with inalienable rights. I suspect for many it wasn't easy to hear the imperfections of a country you loved so dearly, but when faced with the challenges of the times, this nation rose to free a race from the morally bankrupt institution of slavery.
Since then, this nation has met the challenges of world wars, slipped the surly bonds of earth, enacted civil rights legislation, stood firm when great buildings shook and fell on September 11th and the wars that followed. Through all of the events of this nation's history, the good and less so, symbols of freedom and hope continued to stand their watch.
Old glory stood guard over the greatest military power in the world, giving hope to nations at their darkest moments.
A statue stood proudly in New York Harbor offering a place of refuge for the tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
In our undeveloped destiny, we find ourselves again in the midst of civil unrest. We are again at a crossroads of defining our new colossus.
There are many uncomfortable with the instability and the vitriol that seems to be grasping the moment. Let us all understand that we are all a part of this great experiment called democracy and we are still much closer to its beginning than we are to its end.
Patriotic towns like Bristol remind us it is essential that we as a nation continue to recognize our imperfections, never falling prey to the notion that we are a perfect nation.
We must never cease striving to ensure our tomorrows are better than our yesterdays. That all people of this nation experience their inalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For 235 years on this date, Bristol allows us to reflect and celebrate the part already traveled.
Churchill stated that all great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honour, duty, mercy, and hope. A nation is a reflection of what it chooses to honor.
I love this town. You choose to honor independence, the symbols of freedom, whether it is our flag, or those who preserve it. Yes, you have streets named Constitution, Franklin, and Washington…but my favorite, my favorite by far, is the street of Hope.
For the younger folks that are here I hope you remember today for many reasons….
Never forget the lessons and heritage bestowed on you by being a proud member of this community and what it chooses to honor.
Always remember the independence we celebrate today….it was hard fought and its freedom and liberties are never guaranteed.
But most importantly, I hope you never forget this moment because today you are surrounded by heroes, veterans, first responders, essential workers, and people like Michele Martins, Chuck McDonough, Suzanne Magaziner, and Keri Davock.
The torch of freedom will soon be passed to you. You are blessed to have both a tradition and a future — ensure you look with a great deal of pride and confidence in both directions.
One final thought, if you will allow this old sailor a few more moments. Today, from Covid-19, social unrest, or political divisiveness, the fabric of the nation seems tested. Some may question the durability of this great ship of democracy.
America's ship was built to be seaworthy, able to avoid the perilous shoals that could harm her.
She weathered storms when waves have crashed over her bow. There were times before when this nation had to raise the Yellow Jack quarantine flag.
Yes, today the waters seem less tranquil.
The sails seem to be luffing in the wind, as if our rigging broke away from the mast. But take solace….following seas will return and safe harbors await.
Let all of us, and this nation, listen to our better angels and turn these times and their issues into our finest hour.
Let us use today to reignite our patriotism and vow to continue to build this new colossus into the finest version of itself.
Let us ensure this nation remains the great marketplace of ideas.
As we sit in a beautiful park, on the edge of a beautiful bay smelling the salt air and, on this weekend, spend time with those we love. Let us never forget that, like the street, we are a nation of hope, and let us be grateful we live in this great country that celebrates the day we declared independence as one nation forever.
Thank you for this opportunity and may God always bless this great land, and always bless Bristol, Rhode Island.