“When you are 4 or 5 years old, and your parents and your grandparents tell you about this, it sticks with you,” said Benoit Noel, 42, who helps administer a museum commemorating what happened on Utah Beach. “Everybody in Normandy remembers the landing. We know what the Americans did for us. We haven’t forgotten.” (Thanks to Boston.com)

On the 5thof June, we were descending over the English Channel enroute to Paris, and I realized it was the eve of the 74thanniversary of D-Day.

It is estimated that 10,000 allied troops died during the invasion. They were united by a singular purpose: to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.

Three past visits to the American Cemetery at Normandy left a lasting impression on me, and as we navigated our way over the European mainland, I was moved to tears. The plan to invade Europe at the beaches of Normandy was so audacious, that had it failed, it would have been understandable.

And yet, as trite as it sounds, failure was not an option. The threat was so great, the consequences so dire, that it had to succeed. In spite of many things going wrong, it did.

We owe an incalculable debt to that “Greatest Generation.” Our world would be vastly different today had the Third Reich triumphed. It is a chilling thought. And as neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups gain a foothold in Europe and even in the United States, it should awaken within us the desire to make certain that the ultimate sacrifices of over 407,000 American troops was not in vain.

Democracy is fragile and it is not a spectator sport. The constitution will not protect us. It is we who protect the constitution and the rule of law, and we do so by voting, by making our voices heard through our elected representatives, and, when necessary, by taking to the streets in peaceful protest.

We can talk all we want about business, but if we don’t have a stable, democratic government that allows for all people, equally, to live their lives to the fullest, to be entrepreneurs or to work for whom they please so long as they are qualified, then all is for naught.

Last night, here in France, we raised a glass to salute those whose selflessness made possible the lives we all enjoy today. May we recommit ourselves to protecting and enhancing our democracy for ourselves and for future generations.