In honor of Memorial Day, Just Security will be on an abbreviated schedule with a lower volume of posts than normal. If any major, time-sensitive developments occur, we will do our best to address them. The Early Edition, our morning news roundup, will be back tomorrow (sign up here to receive it in your inbox each morning). And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and Facebook for the latest.
Last year, we encouraged you to look over the 1868 General Order 11 from the Grand Army of the Republic, which declared the first “memorial day.” This year, we bring you an excerpt from Herbert Hoover’s Memorial Day address at Gettysburg Battlefield in 1930 to reflect on. Happy Memorial Day!
Today nearly 70 years have passed since Lincoln spoke. Ours is a new day and ours new problems of the Republic. There are times when these problems loom ominous and their solution difficult. Yet great as our difficulties may sometimes seem, we would be of little courage if in our concerns we had less of faith than Lincoln had in his far greater task.
Lincoln’s counsels sounded strangely when spoken in the midst of war. His was the call of moderation. Our history would be even brighter than it is if his predecessors and his contemporaries had spoken as temperately as he, if they had been moved by charity toward all, by malice toward none.
We shall be wise to ponder here what precious wealth of human life might have been preserved, what rivers of tears might never have flowed, what anguish of souls need never have been, what spiritual division of our people might have been avoided, if only our leadership had always been tempered by the moderation and calm vision of Lincoln. Since his day reason has not always ruled instead of passion, knowledge has not always been sought instead of reliance upon improvised conjecture, patience has not ever delayed the impetuous feet of reckless ambition, quiet negotiation has not always replaced the clamor of the hustings, prudent common counsel has not invariably overcome the allurements of demagogic folly, good will has not always won the day over cynicism and vainglory. Yet the ideals which he inspired have served to mould our national life and have brought in time great spiritual unity. His words have poured their blessings of restraint and inspiration upon each new generation.
In the weaving of our destiny, the pattern may change, yet the woof and warp of our weaving must be those inspired ideals of unity, of ordered liberty, of equality of opportunity, of popular government, and of peace to which this Nation was dedicated. Whatever the terms may be in which we enunciate these great ideals, whatever the new conditions to which we apply them, they must be held eternally valid. The common striving for these ideals, our common heritage as Americans, and the infinite web of national sentiment — these are the things that have made us a great nation, that have created a solidarity in a great people unparalleled in all human history.
The weaving of freedom is and always will be a struggle of law against lawlessness, of individual liberty against domination, of unity against sectionalism, of truth and honesty against demagoguery and misleading, of peace against fear and conflict. In the forming of this pattern, the abuse of politics often muddies the stream of constructive thought and dams back the flow of well-considered action.
In the solution of the problems of our times we have some new lamps to guide us. The light of science has revealed to us a new understanding of forces and a myriad of instruments of physical ease and comfort to add to the joy of life. The growth of communications, of education, of the press, have made possible a new unity of thought and purpose. But the light that guides our souls remains the same as that whereby our fathers were led. It is the store of knowledge, the great inspirations of men’s souls, the ideals which they carry forward, that have lifted the Nation to ever greater heights.
The Union has become not merely a physical union of States, but rather is a spiritual union in common ideals of our people. Within it is room for every variety of opinion, every possibility of experiment in social progress. Out of such variety comes growth, but only if we preserve and maintain our spiritual solidarity.