This is my fourteenth consecutive Memorial Day message. You can find the previous thirteen at the end of this one.
I confess I never imagined that I would be writing one in the midst of a pandemic that caused a near virtual lockdown of the nation. A shutdown from which, thankfully, we are now beginning to emerge, hopefully, with the American can-do entrepreneurial spirit as strong as ever.
Memorial Day, foremost, is always about memory. Pausing to remember those who paid the ultimate price defending our country and protecting our freedom and the American way of life.
In the past, of course, I have called to mind the sacrifices of those men and women in our Armed Forces who died in the service of our country. And I do so again this year, as always – for we should never forget, as Lincoln declared at Gettysburg: "That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."
But who can doubt that this year, on this Memorial Day, we should not also solemnly remember all the doctors, nurses, physician assistants, other medical personnel – and all other myriad first responders and essential front-line workers – who have risked their lives, and in some instances sacrificed them, to secure the well-being of us all. Like our fallen soldiers, we remember their sacrifice and honor their memory on this Memorial Day.
In his Farewell Address, Ronald Reagan reminded us: "If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of that – of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit."
Despite our political and philosophical differences, and they provide fodder for meaningful discourse on other occasions, I continue to hold strongly to a faith in American exceptionalism and an indomitable American spirit that runs deeper than shades of blue and red.
A warning against erosion of the American spirit is never out of place, especially when America is at war or confronting a challenge like the present one. So, too, a warning against forgetting those we honor – this year, both all the fallen servicemen and servicewomen and all those on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic who have paid the ultimate price. All Americans owe it to the fallen to pursue a common goal of now reinvigorating America at this special time in our nation's history.
I say once again what Cicero declared over two thousand years ago: “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living."
I wish you and your family the best for a safe, healthy, happy, and meaningful Memorial Day!
Randolph May is President of the Free State Foundation, a nonpartisan, independent free market-oriented think tank.