Speaking to the people
Memorial Day was agreed to have started in 1866 Waterloo, N.Y.
As a veteran of the Spanish-American war, Roosevelt was active
in memorials to fallen American's, and Memorial day observation
was no exception. Here are some highlights from a speech at
Arlington Cemetery he gave on Memorial Day 1902 while President.
It is important to remember that the aging
soldiers he addressed had fought in the Civil War.
"It is a good custom for our country to have certain
solemn holidays in commemoration of our greatest
men and of the greatest crises in our history.
There should be but few such holidays.
To increase their number is to cheapen them.
Washington and Lincoln the man who did most to
found the Union, and the man who did most to
preserve it stand head and shoulders above all our
other public men, and have by common consent won
the right to this preeminence. Among the holidays
which commemorate the turning points in American
history, Thanksgiving has a significance peculiarly
its own. On July 4 we celebrate the birth of the
nation; on this day, the 30th of May, we call to
mind the deaths of those who died that the nation
might live, who wagered all that life holds dear
for the great prize of death in battle, who poured
out their blood like water in order that the mighty
national structure raised by the far-seeing genius
of Washington, Franklin, Marshall, Hamilton, and
the other great leaders of the Revolution, great
framers of the Constitution, should not crumble
into meaningless ruins.
You whom I address to-day and your comrades
who wore the blue beside you in the perilous years
during which strong, sad, patient Lincoln bore the
crushing load of national leadership, performed the
one feat the failure to perform which would have
meant destruction to everything which makes the
name America a symbol of hope among the nations
of mankind. You did the greatest and most necessary
task which has ever fallen to the lot of any
men on this Western Hemisphere. Nearly three
centuries have passed since the waters of our coasts
were first furrowed by the keels of those whose
children s children were to inherit this fair land.
Over a century and a half of colonial growth followed
the settlement; and now for over a century
and a quarter we have been a nation.
During our four generations of national life we
have had to do many tasks, and some of them of
far-reaching importance; but the only really vital
task was the one you did, the task of saving the
Union. There were other crises in which to have
gone wrong would have meant disaster; but this
was the one crisis in which to have gone wrong
would have meant not merely disaster but annihilation.
For failure at any other point atonement
could have been made; but had you failed in the
iron days the loss would have been irreparable, the
defeat irretrievable. Upon your success depended
all the future of the people on this continent, and
much of the future of mankind as a whole.
You left us a reunited country. You left us the
right of brotherhood with the men in gray, who
with such courage, and such devotion for what they
deemed the right, fought against you. But you
left us much more even than your achievement,
for you left us the memory of how it was achieved.
You, who made good by your valor and patriotism
the statesmanship of Lincoln and the soldiership of
Grant, have set as the standards for our efforts in
the future both the way you did your work in war
and the way in which, when the war was over, you
turned again to the work of peace. In war and in
peace alike your example will stand as the wisest
of lessons to us and our children and our children's
This memorial day, attend your local memorial day remembrance.
Remember, you will be blessed with spending the day with
friends and family, an opportunity created through a
sacrifice by others before you.