Leading the grieving, President Barack Obama on Friday honored the four Americans killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, recalling their lives in deeply personal terms and declaring the United States will never pull back on its principles or "retreat from the world."
"Their sacrifice will never be forgotten," Obama said as four flag-draped cases rested near him. He had come to witness the return of those slain in the assault on the American diplomatic mission, including the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens.
In the heat of a presidential election year, the scene was a gripping reminder of the danger facing Americans in diplomatic and military service every day around the world. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's voice broke as she spoke, and she appeared to be fighting tears after she listened to Obama.
"They knew the danger, and they accepted it," Obama said. "They didn't simply embrace the American ideal. They lived it."
Said Obama of all four men: "They embodied it: the courage, the hope and yes the idealism, that fundamental belief that we can leave this world a little bit better than before. That's who they were, and that's who we are. If we want to truly honor their memory, that's who we must always be."