"We gather today to commemorate those who have served our nation, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice."
By Robert A. Scott, President, Adelphi University
Thank you for including me again in your ceremony. I am here as a Navy veteran, the son of a Navy veteran, and a citizen who was integrally involved in writing the 21st Century G.I. Bill.
We gather today to commemorate those who have served our nation, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
We do this in response to the declaration of Decoration Day in 1868, the National Moment of Remembrance Act adopted in December 2000, and our own need to remember.
While special services to honor those who die in war can be found over 24 centuries ago, when Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War, our Memorial Day has a special character. It remembers the fallen of both North and the South of the Civil War, about which President Lincoln said the following in his Second Inaugural Address:
All dreaded, all sought to avert it. While the (first) inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war – seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both partied deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
Three and one-half years later, the head of an organization of Union veterans, Mayor General John A. Logan, organized an observance at Arlington National Cemetery, once the home of General Robert E. Lee. Children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan House and members of the Grand Army of the Republic spread flowers over both Union and Confederate graves. This act of Commemoration and Remembrance sought to cap a national trauma and start a new era.
Today, we honor not only those of our family, friends, and neighbors who died in war, but also those who served and now need our assistance at home. Some 12% of those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed. We at Adelphi try to do our part and last week held a program to bring together veterans and employers. We participate actively in the Yellow Ribbon Campaign.
So, today, we must think of the living who served, as well as those who could not come home. We must consider the scars seen and unseen, and commit ourselves to help the living as an act of healing, starting a new era of common purpose.
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