Memorial Day has become most precious to the American heart.
Matthew Russell, 11, from Memphis prepares to place American flags at the headstones of veterans during the Memorial Day observance ceremony at the Memphis National Cemetery in Memphis, Tenn. Saturday, May 26, 2012. For 29 years members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and American
(Reprinted from the May 30, 1891, edition of the Minneapolis Tribune)
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Memorial Day, hallowed by the most sacred of patriotic sentiments -- honor to the dead who surrendered their lives that the country might live -- has rightly become the best observed of all the days which we call national.
Independence Day is celebrated and has been since the nation's birth, by oratory and the burning of gunpowder. It is the occasion of a little more liberty for the small boy and an opportunity for the young orator to try his patriotic pinions. It is a day of noisy hilarity, but its significance is not thought of by one in 10 of those who rejoice most boisterously.
Washington's birthday has little in it to touch the emotions or kindle enthusiasm. It has become a simple anniversary with no formal popular observance or any special call for ceremony. True, it is the anniversary of the birth of our first president and our first general.
We honor his memory as that of one who led armies that made our independence possible. But other heroes have arisen since then and his figure does not stand out as boldly as it did before Lincoln, Grant and Sherman came to share equally with him the glory and honor of a nation's praise and gratitude.
But on Memorial Day we gather to teach and learn again the patriotism of the common people. We celebrate not the glory of a chieftain, but the devotion of thousands upon thousands of the humble men and boys who leaped forth when their country was assailed and demonstrated the existence of such a thing as American patriotism.
Under Washington we were a federation of states; by the triumph of his arms our government was given birth; but the United States did not become a nation until Richmond had fallen.
Little wonder then that Memorial Day becomes more and more precious to the American heart as time moves on. The majority of the men and women who place flowers upon the soldiers' graves today have grown to maturity since the struggle ended. It is history, not experience to them.
But all the more earnest are they in their tributes, realizing as they do that, before they were born, the men whose memory they are perpetuating died that they and their children and their children's children forevermore might enjoy the blessings of free government.
All honor then to the men who made us a nation, and may it ever be our national pride that this day shall become more and more the holiest in its memories and the most beautiful and spontaneous in its observance.
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