Flashback: American unity “starting to slip away,” Defense Secretary James Mattis warns

This past May, in an appearance on Face the Nation, Defense Secretary James Mattis worried the country was splitting apart. The one institution that had been spared, he argued, was the military. But since then, President Trump has put the military at the center of two emotional political debates. He charged that professional football players were disrespecting those who had served in the military when they knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. And this week, the president sparked controversy over military sacrifice when he claimed Monday that some previous commanders-in-chief, including his immediate predecessor, did not personally call the families of fallen service members.

Mattis' reflections about the country's unity came after he had just delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on May 27.

"You look at these young people who graduated today, over 900 of them from all walks of life…every religion probably in America is represented…every state is represented," he said. "And these people come together with an enthusiasm for protecting this experiment in democracy that we call America."

"It takes people, I believe, with a fundamental respect for one another, with a fundamental friendliness toward one another that I worry is starting to slip away in our country," Mattis continued. "We still have it in the military. It's a diverse force, it's a force that can work together under the worst conditions."
 
He concluded, "I just hope we can find our way back to engaging with one another, arguing strongly with one another, and then going down and having a root beer together or something and – and having a good laugh about it as we work together for the best interests of the next generation of Americans who are going to inherit this country."

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