Memorial Day is a holiday honoring Americans killed in battle. It is
the day on which flowers are strewn on the graves of our war dead, and a
wreath is placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National
Cemetery. Memorial Day was first observed in Columbia, Mississippi in
1866. In that first observance only those slain in the American Civil War
were remembered. Today we remember all Americans whose lives have been
lost in conflict. And from this remembrance there emerges an obligation.
We are obliged to take good care of the thing our soldiers fought and
died for. We are obliged to preserve our nation-state and its republican
form, to keep it safe from thieves and foreign agents.
The price of nationhood is high. Every slain soldier is somebody’s
son. Every loss on the battlefield is felt by an entire family.
Therefore, the worst thing in our national life would be to render these
losses vain by failing in our duty as citizens.
And how do we exercise this duty?
As citizens, we elect the nation’s leaders. We put power into men’s
hands. In doing this we either honor or dishonor America’s fallen heroes.
The business of a nation is not a light matter. It is deadly serious.
Our decision at the polls should have nothing to do with who is more
electable or who is more popular with “others,” as pronounced by public
In making your choice this year, you should look at the character and
the judgment of the men and women who are putting themselves forward for
national office. You should ask three questions about each candidate: Is
this a serious person, to be trusted with the lives of our soldiers? Is
this a person who will build on the sacrifices of the past? Or is it a
person who would foolishly squander what has been won with blood and
To answer these questions you have to look at the candidate’s whole
life, which will include good and bad parts. You must decide whether this
is a person who would put the country first, or put himself first. You
must decide whether this is a person who would make the sacrifices that
other Americans have made.
Aristotle said: “A bad moral state, once formed, is not easily
amended.” A person does not begin to live in the right way at 55. And
moral courage does not suddenly appear after decades of rotten
compromise. If a politician has traded his principles for personal
advancement, he will never amount to anything as a national leader —
even if he sits in the White House.
For what is a man if he believes in nothing but his own advancement?
Such a man cannot honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the
country. In fact, such a man thinks ill of those who have died in battle.
He thinks they were fools because they did not save themselves by
But don’t we all know what would happen if our soldiers threw down
their weapons and ran away? In that event there would be no country, no
freedom and no prosperity. There would only be looting and foreign
soldiers and tyranny.
So when you vote this year, think of our fallen heroes. Who would they
vote for? What candidate would they approve?