He is all of them. And he is one of us …
The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who by his deeds proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs not to empires and nations but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend. That is surely at the heart of the Anzac story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war. It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity.
It is a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since. The Unknown Australian is not interred here to glorify war over peace; or to assert a soldier’s character above a civilian’s; or one race or one nation or one religion above another; or men above women; or the war in which he fought and died above any other war; or of one generation above any that has or will come later.
The Unknown Soldier honours the memory of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia. His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained. We have lost more than 100,000 lives, and with them all their love of this country and all their hope and energy. We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and with it a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian. It is not too much to hope, therefore, that this Unknown Australian Soldier might continue to serve his country; he might enshrine a nation’s love of peace and remind us that in the sacrifice of the men and women whose names are recorded here there is faith enough for all of us.
Keating’s 2oth anniversary speech is here. The words ‘He is all of them and he is one of us’ were inscribed on the Tomb in 2013 in time for the anniversary speech. As Director Nelson promised in this video (mark 4.35) and as the Memorial’s website says. Dr Nelson had more or less foreshadowed the change in a speech to the National Press Club in September 2013: ‘And at the end as you walk into the hall it will say “He is one of them, and he is all of us”’. The ABC reported that speech.
There had been public controversy over whether to keep the phrase ‘Known unto God’ on the tomb; these words stayed. No-one, however, seems to have noticed the Director’s misquotation, which was repeated on 28 October but not in the video posted on 30 October.
Here is a photograph we found. It shows the words as they were when Paul Keating made his 20th anniversary speech on 11 November and as they are today.