Reprinted from the May 30, 1921, edition of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune.

This is the fifty-fourth annual Memorial day. The American people will show once again their love for and their gratitude to the men and women who died in the nation’s service as defenders of the country. It is essentially a day of reconsecration; a day of pledge to keep faith with them who gave their lives that government of, by and for the people might abide.

 

There will be heartaches today. Old wounds of grief will give new pain, but it is a kind of pain without which the nation would be poorer. Many tears will drop with flowers that go to signalize a patriot’s grave. There will be sad memories of days when voices now still were resonant. It will, indeed, be a day of sorrows, but it will be more a day of pride and tenderness; of gratitude and inspiration; of taking spiritual stock and imbibing new hope.

We know how brave and unselfish were they who fought in the days when the nation was in its birth throes; in the days when integrity of the Union was at stake; in the days when injustice was challenged on neighboring islands; in the days when the gauge of just battle was taken up against a strong alien foe. We know that if there ever should come another war in which this country is involved, it will be a righteous war of defense on our part; and we know that under circumstances the soldiers of that day would be as brave and strong and true to the cause as were those who have gone from us. Nevertheless we, the living, are better for the annual memorial to the patriot dead. It helps to keep virile and sharp in outline the ideals that have brought the nation to its present spiritual might.

When President Harding, moved recently to tears by sight of the ravish of human life in war, said: “It must not be again,” he uttered a prayer and a hope echoed in every true American heart. American soldiers who sleep in hero graves died for peace, not war; for honor, not dominion; for democracy, not for autocracy; for justice, not for material gain. That is the reason the spirit of Memorial day persists through years, growing stronger and stronger as the living better realize the price others paid for their heritage.

It is good to think that a thousand years from now American democracy will still be in the front line bearing the banner of human progress. It is good to think, too, that in its march it will pause at least once in each year to pay homage to those who cleared the way when the Ship of State was in danger. Personal griefs on Memorial day will all have vanished some day — if there be no more war — but it is to be hoped the time never will come when the American people will cease to show by tender ministrations their pride and glory in the men who served to protect them in periods of national danger.