Public Papers

Radio Address to the Nation on Memorial Day


For many, Memorial Day signals summer's arrival. Families will pull out the picnic baskets and charcoal grills and head for the beach or the park. But more importantly, Memorial Day is one of our Nation's most solemn observances.

On this sacred day, we honor those Americans who died fighting for freedom. We pause to remember, to think about the meaning of the loss of brave men and women who did not return from the battle. And in cemeteries all across this great land, people will place flags or lay bouquets on quiet graves ``where valor proudly sleeps.''

On this day, we must tell the stories of those who fought and died in freedom's cause. We must tell their stories because those who've lost loved ones need to know that a grateful Nation will always remember. We must tell their stories so that our children and grandchildren will understand what our lives might have been like had it not been for their sacrifice. The thousands of us who fought alongside brave friends who fell will never hear ``Taps'' played without remembering them, nor will their families and friends.

So, let us remember the cause for which these Americans fought and the freedom and peace bought with their life's blood, and let us pass along to a new generation the awesome accounts of honor and courage. On Wednesday at the Naval Academy's commencement, I will talk about how the great victory of freedom in the world is a vindication of the American ideal. And I will remind those graduates that democracy is not our creation; it is our inheritance.

These reminders are important, for as someone said, ``Memory performs the impossible for man, holds together past and present.'' So then, we who are left must nurture the sacred memories of those who paid the ultimate price. And we must let their sacrifices give meaning and purpose to our Nation's future. Because they fought, we have freedoms many all too often take for granted. And because of their sacrifice, our children can sleep soundly without the threat of nuclear war hanging over their heads.

May God bless the families of all whom we honor. And may God bless the United States of America.

Note: This address was recorded at 8:05 a.m. on May 21 in the Cabinet Room at the White House for broadcast after 9 a.m. on May 25.