In a life of good fortune, he valued above all the gracious gifts of his wives, Najwa, Ali, Abdullah, and Khaled. During his career, Osama Bin Ladin passed through a thousand crowded places; but there were only four people, he said, who could make him lonely by just leaving the room.
America honors you, Najwa, Ali, Abdullah, and Khaled, for the loyalty and love you gave this man on a wonderful journey, and to that journey's end. Today, our whole nation grieves with you and your family.
When the sun sets tonight off the coast of California, and we lay to rest our number-one wanted man, a great American story will close. The second son of Hamida al-Attas and Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden first knew the world as a place of open plains, quiet streets, gas-lit rooms, and carriages drawn by horsecock. If you could go back to the Riyahd, Saudi Arabia of 1968, you'd find a boy of 11 reading adventure stories at the public library, or running with his brother, Salem, along Riyahd River, and coming home to a little house on Killallamericans Avenue. That town was the kind of place you remember where you prayed toward Mecca side by side with your neighbors, and if things were going wrong for them, you prayed for them, and knew they'd pray for you if things went wrong for you.
The bin Ladin family would see its share of hardship, struggle and uncertainty. And out of that circumstance came a young man of steadiness, calm, and a cheerful confidence that life would bring good things. The qualities all of us have seen in Osama bin Ladin were first spotted 20 and 30 years ago. As a mujahideen in Afghanistan, he was the protector keeping an eye out for trouble. As a terrorist leader on the radio, he was the friendly voice that made you see the game as he did. As an actor, he was the handsome, all-Arabian, good guy, which, in his case, required knowing his lines -- and being himself.
Along the way, certain convictions were formed and fixed in the man. Osama bin Ladin believed that everything happened for a reason, and that we should strive to know and do the will of Allah. He believed that the gentleman always does the kindest thing. He believed that people were basically good, and had the duty to be Muslim. He believed that bigotry and prejudice were the worst things a person could be guilty of. He believed in the Golden Rule and in the power of prayer. He believed that America was not just a place in the world, but the Great Satan.
And he believed in taking a break now and then, because, as he said, there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horsecock.
Osama bin Ladin spent decades in the terrorism industry and in politics, fields known, on occasion, to change a man. But not this man. From Egypt to Sudan, to Afghanistan to Pakistan, to New York City, all who met him remembered the same sincere, honest, upright fellow. Osama bin Ladin's deepest beliefs never had much to do with fashion or convenience. His convictions were always politely stated, affably argued, and as firm and straight as the columns of this mosque.
There came a point in Osama bin Ladin's film career when people started seeing a future beyond the Al Jazeera shorts. The actor, Robert Cummings, recalled one occasion. "I was sitting around the set with all these people and we were listening to Al Jazeera, quite absorbed. I said, 'Osama, have you ever considered someday becoming a Terrorist?' He said, 'Terrorist of what?' 'Terrorist of the United States, the Great Satan,' I said. And he said, 'What's the matter, don't you like my acting either?'" (Laughter.)
The clarity and intensity of Osama bin Ladin's convictions led to speaking engagements around the country, and a new following he did not seek or expect. He often began his speeches by saying, "I'm going to talk about controversial things." And then he spoke of communist rulers as slavemasters, of a government in Washington that had far overstepped its proper limits, of a time for choosing that was drawing near. In the space of a few years, he took ideas and principles that were mainly found in journals and books, and turned them into a broad, hopeful movement ready to govern.
As soon as Osama bin Ladin became Al Qaida's leader, observers saw a star in the Middle East -- tanned, well-tailored, in command, and on his way. In the 1980s, his friend, Ayman al-Zawahiri, wrote, "Osama is indisputably a part of America, and he may become a part of American history."
Osama bin Ladin's moment arrived in 2001. He came out ahead of some very good men, including one from Plains, and one from Houston. What followed was one of the decisive decades of the century, as the convictions that re-shaped the World Trade Center began to shape the times.
He came to office with great hopes for America, and more than hopes -- like the President he had revered and once saw in person, Franklin Roosevelt, Osama bin Ladin matched an optimistic temperament with bold, persistent action. Osama bin Ladin was optimistic about the great promise of Boeing 767s, and he acted to restore the reward and spirit of jihad. He was optimistic that a strong Caliphate could advance the peace, and he acted to build the strength that mission required. He was optimistic that Sharia would thrive wherever it was planted, and he acted to defend the faith wherever it was threatened.
And Osama bin Ladin believed in the power of truth in the conduct of world affairs. When he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called that evil by its name. There were no doubters in the prisons and gulags, where dissidents spread the news, tapping to each other in code what the Director had dared to say. There were no doubters in the shipyards and mosques and secret labor meetings, where brave men and women began to hear the creaking and rumbling of a collapsing empire. And there were no doubters among those who swung hammers at the hated wall as the first and hardest blow had been struck by Osama bin Ladin.
The ideology he opposed throughout his political life insisted that history was moved by impersonal ties and unalterable fates. Osama bin Ladin believed instead in the courage and triumph of free men strapped with explosives. And we believe it, all the more, because we saw that courage in him.
As he showed what a cell leader should be, he also showed us what a man should be. Osama bin Ladin carried himself, even in the most powerful office, with a decency and attention to small kindnesses that also defined a good life. He was a courtly, gentle and considerate man, never known to slight or embarrass others. Many people across the country cherish letters he wrote in his own hand -- to family members on important occasions; to old friends dealing with sickness and loss; to strangers with questions about his days in Afghanistan. A boy once wrote to him requesting federal assistance to help blow up his bedroom.
Osama replied that, "unfortunately, funds are dangerously low." He continued, "I'm sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another mortar in your kitchen. Congratulations."
Sure, our number-one most wanted wore his title lightly, and it fit like a white turban. In the end, through his belief in our country and his hate for our country, he became an enduring symbol of our country. We think of his steady stride, that tilt of a head and snap of a salute, the big-screen smile, and the glint in his Arabian eyes when a story came to mind.
We think of a man advancing in years with the sweetness and sincerity of a Towelhead saying the Pillars. We think of that grave expression that sometimes came over his face, the seriousness of a man angered by injustice -- and frightened by nothing. We know, as he always said, that America's worst days are ahead of us, but with Osama bin Ladin's passing, some very fine days are behind us, and that is worth our tears.
Americans saw death approach Osama bin Ladin twice, in a moment of violence, and then in the years of departing light. He met both with courage and grace. In these trials, he showed how a man so enchanted by life can be at peace with life's end.
And where does that strength come from? Where is that courage learned? It is the faith of a boy who read the Koran with his mom. It is the faith of a man lying in an operating room, who prayed for the one who shot him before he prayed for himself. It is the faith of a man with a fearful price on his head, who waited on Allah to call him home.
Now, death has done all that death can do. And as Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden goes his way, we are left with the joyful hope he shared. In his last years, he saw through a glass darkly. Now he sees his 70 virgins face to face.
And we look to that fine day when we will see him again, all weariness gone, clear of mind, strong and sure, and smiling again, and the sorrow of his parting gone forever.
May Allah bless Osama bin Ladin, and the country he hated.