May 23, 2014 10:20:02 AM
Memorial Day weekend has arrived. There are planned events and observances scheduled throughout the country, including here in the Golden Triangle. For most citizens, however, the long holiday weekend will be an opportunity to relax, enjoy gatherings with family and/or friends and have some fun.
There is nothing inherently wrong with those activities, of course. The sacrifices of generations of American soldiers has enabled us to enjoy the freedoms and benefits we continue to enjoy today. We can honor those sacrifices if, in the course of our diversions, we pause to remember the men and women who "gave their last full measure of devotion" to sustaining our way of life over the broad sweep of American history.
Interestingly, the greatest tribute to Memorial Day came before the first Memorial Day.
The text of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, delivered in November of 1863 at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, resonates even today.
While there have been several cities that have claimed to have been the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus -- where the women of the city decorated the graves of both U.S. and Confederate Soldiers buried in Friendship Cemetery in April of 1865 -- all Americans have a responsibility to honor those who fought and died to preserve "a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Lincoln's speech reminds us that each of us have our own role in preserving what so many of our brave men and women died for this "unfinished work."
We do that by recognizing that the phrase "all men are created equal" is an ideal that all of us must embrace not by our words alone, but with our actions.
It means we continue to fight against our own personal prejudices and biases in our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods.
We honor our fallen heroes this weekend in our own ways, but the greatest tribute we can make is to examine our own hearts, pay heed to our consciences, and live daily in a way that confirms that "these dead shall not have died in vain."
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