Frederick W. Smith
Founder and Chairman of FedEx Corporation
National WWII Memorial Dedication
May 29, 2004
It seems so long ago now that Senator Dole asked me to help raise funds for this magnificent memorial you have just seen. It was the summer of 1997 and he had been national chairman of the fund-raising campaign for only a few months. The campaign was in its embryonic stage, slowly picking up momentum. But it really wasn't until the summer of 1998 that we began to see solid results.
If you remember, that's when Steven Spielberg's film Saving Private Ryan put a face to the World War II generation for millions of Americans, reminding us of the selfless courage, dedication and sacrifice so common during the war years. Tom Brokaw further defined the greatest generation as ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And Tom Hanks began telling the American people that it was time to say thank you. At that point the memorial honoring the sacrifices made during the Second World War came to represent an entire generation of Americans who selflessly left their homes for battlefields, factories and farms, doing whatever it took to meet the needs of a nation at war.
Now, every family has stories to tell of those years including my own with six World War II veterans in it. The World War II themed films and books that became popular as we reached the end of the 20th century encouraged others to share those stories and generated increased awareness of our efforts to fund the World War II Memorial.
Our fund raising became a campaign across America from corporate boardrooms to school classrooms; from the largest veterans organizations to the smallest reunion groups; from state legislatures to individual homes. Many of our contributors are listed in your program. Their gifts led the way but every bit as important were individuals like young Zane Fayos from Fayetteville, New York. He gave his entire life savings of $195 to say thank you to grandma and grandpa. We sincerely thank everyone who did their part, large or small to make this memorial a reality.
Being part of this national memorial project has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional life. And it has been a special honor to work along side a man who has become the personification of America's World War II veterans. As most of you know, Senator Bob Dole was a distinguished combat leader, grievously wounded, whose incredible tenacity allowed him to come to the national stage and go on to become one of our nation's greatest leaders. It is my distinct pleasure and my great honor, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce the national chairman of the World War II Memorial Fund-raising Campaign, one of the true greats of the greatest generation, Senator Bob Dole.