ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 11 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama pointed to the nation's veterans Friday as an example of unity in the divisive wake of this week's presidential election.
Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery, a Veterans Day tradition, the president said the nation's veterans exemplify what it means to be American -- and the holiday, more often than not, immediately follows political elections in the United States.
"We owe you our thanks. We owe you our respect. We owe you our freedom," he told veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. "Veterans Day often follows a hard-fought political campaign.-- an exercise in the free speech and self-government that you fought for. It often lays bare disagreements across our nation.
"And when the election is over, as we search for ways to come together -- to reconnect with one another and with the principles that are more enduring than transitory politics -- some of our best examples are the men and women we salute on Veterans Day."
After having laid a wreath at the tomb for the final time as president, Obama noted ways in which American veterans have facilitated unity in history -- like U.S. service men and women immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"As first responders ran into smoldering towers, [young Americans] ran to a recruiting center and signed up to serve," he said.
Obama also quoted a Missouri middle school student, who years ago was asked to write an essay about why veterans are special.
"This is what he wrote: 'When I think of a veteran, I think of men or women who will be the first to help an elderly lady across the street. I also think of someone who will defend everyone, regardless of their race, age, gender, hair color, or other discriminations.'"
The president, in his speech, as he did at the White House Thursday, appealed to voters disappointed in Donald Trump's election.
"Whenever the world makes you cynical; whenever you seek true humility and true selflessness, look to a veteran," he said. "The person you pass as you walk down the street might not be wearing our nation's uniform today. But consider for a moment that a year or a decade or a generation ago, he or she might have been one of our fellow citizens who was willing to lay down their life for strangers like us. And we can show how much we love our country by loving our neighbors as ourselves."