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Memorial Day

I would like to thank Judson and Donna Emens of Tuscumbia, Alabama, for sending me this quote by Congressman William Jennings Bryan from a Memorial Day speech delivered at Arlington Cemetery in 1894:

“With flowers in our hands and sadness in our hearts we stand amid the tombs where the nation’s dead are sleeping. The essence of patriotism lies in a willingness to sacrifice for one’s country, just as true greatness finds expression, not in blessings enjoyed, but in good bestowed. Read the words inscribed on the monuments reared by loving hands to the heroes of the past; they do not speak of wealth inherited or honors bought or of hours in leisure spent, but of service done.”
“The officer was a patriot when he gave his ability to his country and risked his name and fame upon the fortunes of war; the private soldier was a patriot when he took his place in the ranks and offered his body as a bulwark to protect the flag; the wife was a patriot when she bade her husband farewell and gathered about her the little brood over which she must exercise both a mother’s and a father’s care; and if there can be degrees in patriotism, the mother stood first among the patriots when she gave to the nation her sons, the divinely appointed support of her declining years, and as she brushed the tears away, thanked God that he had given her the strength to rear strong and courageous sons for the battlefield.”
“And on this Memorial Day we shall fall short of our duty if we content ourselves with praising the dead or complimenting the living and fail to make preparations for those responsibilities which present times and present conditions impose upon us.”
“The strength of a nation does not lie in forts, nor in navies, nor yet in great standing armies, but in happy and contented citizens, who are ever ready to protect for themselves and to preserve for posterity the blessings which they enjoy. It is for us of this generation to so perform the duties of citizenship that a ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.’ “

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