A message from Truman CEO Jenna Ben-Yehuda on September 11 anniversary

Dear Truman,

This year, children born on the same day as the attacks of September 11, 2001, turn 18 years old. They will be old enough to vote in next year's elections and they will be old enough to enlist in our armed forces and fight in the ongoing wars of choice. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have drained our country of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. More than half a million civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq have died as a result of conflict, yet we are no closer to a resolution than we were 18 years ago.

Today, as we look back on nearly two decades of squandered opportunities, wasted time and treasure, and lives lost and broken we must honor the memory of those who perished by rededicating ourselves to the American values that guided our foreign policy and national security for decades and that helped maintain peace and build prosperity in that time. Our founding values, Truman’s 7 Principles, are essential to meeting those challenges successfully. When we attain preeminence in national security, these principles should form the bedrock of American security strategy.          

We must remember that:                                                                           

  • Robust military and intelligence capabilities protect American national security.
  • Strong alliances protect American national security.
  • Legitimate international behavior protects American national security.
  • Promoting democracy and freedom protects American national security.
  • Open trade protects American national security.
  • Promoting development abroad protects American national security.
  • Comprehensive policy coordination protects American national security.

This is what we’re working toward building together. This is the world we want to see. Fifteen years after Truman’s founding, we find ourselves at a crossroads, a time during which our values – and our nation’s commitment to them – are being contested in real time. Truman rose to meet the challenges of the post-9/11 moment to demand that our national security ethos have at its core respect for human rights, democratic governance, and the rule of law. Years later, those values are being challenged not just abroad, but principally, and most vociferously, by our own president. And even though the constant battering of headlines are daunting, we must remember Truman was built for this moment.

On this anniversary I am reminded of how honored I am to lead Truman National Security Project and Truman Center for National Policy, both formed in the aftermath of these tragedies. On this day and every day, Truman remains steadfast in its commitment to recruit, train, and position a new generation of national security leaders.

We all have our own 9/11 stories and for some of us this day remains especially painful. Let us all seek the comfort of our friends, family, and fellow members and also harness our collective energies to build the world we deserve. Part of the way we never forget that day is to tell those stories. We can do no greater honor to those we lost than to create a more just and peaceful world.

In peace, Jenna.