Memorial Day is a fine commemoration. Setting aside a day to recall the sacrifice made by ancestors, friends and neighbors whose willingness to fight on our behalf and suffer for the effort allows us to enjoy the fruits of our labors in relative peace.
Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day just a few years after the U.S. Civil War. President Lincoln’s words commemorating the struggles of soldiers at Gettysburg would have still been fresh in the memories of the time. Indeed the Gettysburg Address might stand as one of the greatest speeches ever spoken. But for a Memorial Day sentiment I am still quite moved by Lincoln’s closing paragraph in his first Inaugural Address:
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Here is to wishing we might all listen closely and heed these better angles. If we would we might need fewer heroes in the future.