Typically on the weekend of Memorial Day I post a famous poem by Edgar Guest. This year I decided to share a different message. Below is a speech by Ronald Reagan in 1982. I think a lot of what he says sums up my opinions on the observance of this day in honor of our military and those who served. I hope you enjoy it!
Speech: Remarks at Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, May 31, 1982
Thank you for reading! And special thanks to all those who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. You have my respect and my deepest gratitude.. May God bless you and your families!
America's cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in
cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor
of those whose memory we honor.
when Abraham Lincoln dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible
collision between the armies of North and South, he noted
the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was
wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those
who gave their "last full measure of devotion'' were long remembered.
But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have
become part of our national heritage -- not because of the inadequacy of
the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.
I have no
illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of
those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even
more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a
strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who
were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for
must try to honor them -- not for their sakes alone, but for our own.
And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our
actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that
led them to battle and to final sacrifice.
obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and
the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must
endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought
cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we
commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we -- in a less
final, less heroic way -- be willing to give of ourselves.
this, beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the
blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapons systems,
that motivates us in our search for security and peace. War will not
come again, other young men will not have to die, if we will speak
honestly of the dangers that confront us and remain strong enough to
meet those dangers.
just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure
of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the
value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen
to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds
understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. We must strive
to speak of them not belligerently, but firmly and frankly. And that's
why we must never fail to note, as frequently as necessary, the wide
gulf between our codes of morality. And that's why we must never
hesitate to acknowledge the irrefutable difference between our view of
man as master of the state and their view of man as servant of the
state. Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their
aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has
been so dearly won.
It is this
honesty of mind that can open paths to peace, that can lead to fruitful
negotiation, that can build a foundation upon which treaties between
our nations can stand and last -- treaties that can someday bring about a
reduction in the terrible arms of destruction, arms that threaten us
with war even more terrible than those that have taken the lives of the
Americans we honor today.
is peace. We can gain that peace by strengthening our alliances, by
speaking candidly of the dangers before us, by assuring potential
adversaries of our seriousness, by actively pursuing every chance of
honest and fruitful negotiation.
It is with
these goals in mind that I will depart Wednesday for Europe, and it's
altogether fitting that we have this moment to reflect on the price of
freedom and those who have so willingly paid it. For however important
the matters of state before us this next week, they must not disturb the
solemnity of this occasion. Nor must they dilute our sense of reverence
and the silent gratitude we hold for those who are buried here.
willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never
fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that
feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same
poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and
Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military
cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an
American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the
Doughboys, the GI's of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span
several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike,
like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly
Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the
only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great
general in that war called them our secret weapon, "just the best darn
kids in the world.'' Each died for a cause he considered more important
than his own life. Well, they didn't volunteer to die; they volunteered
to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need
be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they
must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other
generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same
honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their
sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as
God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost
to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of
young men will every have to share their experiences and repeat their
today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem
-- I can't claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the
world, but I don't know of any other that ends with a question and a
challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o'er the land of the
free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.
Labels: Memorial Day, Ronald Reagan