On Monday, May 30, Americans will be celebrating Memorial Day. For many, the holiday marks the beginning of summer, but in between the barbecues and celebration, let us not forget the true significance of the day - one of remembrance and gratitude.
Today, in an America where we seem to be bombarded daily by divisive politics, hateful pundits, and senseless acts of violence and intolerance, I wonder whether we are witness to an emerging culture of contempt that is increasingly pitting Americans against Americans.
Our Memorial Day tradition of honoring fallen heroes has, too, its origins in a divided nation that eventually led to a great civil war. Have we simply forgotten our history and the many Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion so we might live free?
In the May 28, 1899 edition of The San Francisco Call, General Marcus P. Miller, a Union Army veteran of the Civil War, wrote an article titled “Memorial Day of the Future” where he opined on the future of Memorial Day and its importance.
The Memorial day of the future will mean much more to the American people than in the past. Its significance will be broader, deeper, more truly national. It will mean not only the commemoration of those heroes who fell fighting for the preservation of the Union, but for the first time since its institution, it will be an anniversary of a common sorrow, the surest and most effectual peacemaker in family or nation.
We would be wise to take these words to heart. That we take this day to not just honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, but more importantly, to remember what they sacrificed their lives for.
Our road to greatness has, and always will be, the road we have traveled since our founding; the road to more equality, freedom, respect, and learning. So, on this day, let us honor those who gave their life so that we could be free to pursue our own choices; let us look past our differences and embrace our common purpose; and let us recommit ourselves each and every day to the values that make our country great – our compassion, our diversity, our togetherness.
There is no better way we could honor them.
(to be continued)