American Presidents Speak on Memorial Day

Best Memorial Day Quotes Leave You Thirsting for More

'Flags In' Ceremony Held At Arlington National Ahead Of Memorial Day
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 24: Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment place American flags at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day May 24, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. 'Flags-In' has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948. Every available soldier in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment participates in these events. Win McNamee / Staff/ Getty Images News/ Getty Images

Humanitarian, educator and former tennis player Arthur Ashe once said, "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost." As Memorial Day approaches, spare a moment to think about the many soldiers who died fighting for liberty. These Memorial Day quotes appreciate the valor and sacrifice of the unsung heroes of history.

Remembering the Civil War
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was first observed in the northern states on 30 May 1868. The graves of fallen soldiers of the American Civil War were bedecked with flowers. The event offered civilians an opportunity to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who were martyred for freedom.

The first recorded observance of a Memorial Day-like event took place on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Nearly 10,000 gathered on what is present-day Hampton Park to honor their dead and celebrate the freedom of black Americans from slavery.

However much one would like to, one cannot go back in time to prevent the bloodshed. However, we can all be heroes, and make a change. Christian evangelist Billy Graham got it right when he said, "Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened."

They Fought for Freedom
Memorial Day honors soldiers who lay down their lives on the battlefield for the cause of liberty.

What does liberty mean to you? Is it the freedom to speak your mind? The independence to follow your heart? The knowledge that you are not restricted by social norms?

American Presidents Speak on Memorial Day
The 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, expressed it beautifully, "Only our individual faith in freedom can keep us free." You will find many more thought-provoking freedom quotes on this page.

As another American president, Abraham Lincoln, put it, "Freedom is the last, best hope of earth." Lincoln steered the country through the Civil War, saved the Union and ended slavery. Who better to define freedom for us?

Freedom Comes With a Price
The Memorial Day holiday simultaneously highlights the heroism of martyred American soldiers and the ravages of war. On one side you have Scottish poet Thomas Campbell proclaiming, "The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree." On the other, American World War II veteran General Omar Bradley declares, "In war, there is no prize for the runner-up." Look up some more Memorial Day quotations to gain an insight into heroism, liberty, and war.

American educator Bergen Evans spoke like a true educationist when he said: "Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt." This famous Memorial Day quote is a reminder of the sacrifices that our forefathers made so that we could have the freedom to change the world.

How People Celebrate Memorial Day
Memorial Day is no longer restricted to honoring those who fought the American Civil War. Since the 20th century, Memorial Day has honored all soldiers who were martyred while fighting for their nation.

Celebrated on the last Monday of May, this American holiday pays respect to the heroes who died for their country.

People choose this day to visit cemeteries and memorials. The American flag flies at half-staff until noon. Military parades take place in many popular spots throughout America. People look forward to the National Memorial Day Concert held at Capitol Hill.

The observance of Memorial Day on the last Monday of May also heralds the onset of summer vacations. The Memorial Day weekend is often regarded as an opportunity for family reunions.

Memorial Day Celebration Is a Low-Key Affair
Memorial Day demands sobriety. However, Memorial Day also signals the first day of the summer holidays. If the weather is fine, head out to the beach. Make the most of the weekend and organize a get-together.

Go shopping and get the best Memorial Day discounts. Speedsters should get tickets to the annual Indianapolis 500-Mile race.

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of going shopping or attending a sporting event on this day. In this age of rampant commercialism, remember the words of John Lennon, "When we say war is over if you want it, we mean that if everyone demanded peace instead of another TV set, we'd have peace." Rather than feel guilty, remember that fine Memorial Day saying by military leader Francis A. Walker, "We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them." Instead of brooding at home, head outdoors and watch the fireworks display.

What Memorial Day Teaches Us
Schuyler Colfax was an influential politician during the years of the American Civil War. In those times, patriotism was a grand ideal, spurring Colfax to state, "These martyrs of patriotism gave their lives for an idea." However, the men and women that we celebrate during Memorial Day were not geniuses or extraordinary individuals. They were ordinary people who dared to fight for a cause. As author James A. Autry puts it, "I believe it is the nature of people to be heroes, given the chance." This Memorial Day, ponder over words of inspiration in these Memorial Day sayings. Make your wishes come true by believing in yourself. Here are the best Memorial Day quotes to urge you forward.

Aristotle said, "We make war that we may live in peace." Times have changed. On Memorial Day, a John Lennon quote comes to mind, "All we are saying is give peace a chance." You cannot help but agree wholeheartedly.

On this page, read some of the best Memorial Day quotes from American presidents. Read their words of inspiration, and understand the heart of an American patriot.

  • John F. Kennedy
    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
  • Richard Nixon, 1974
    What we do with this peace–whether we preserve it and defend it, or whether we lose it and let it slip away–will be the measure of our worthiness of the spirit and sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands who gave their lives in two World Wars, Korea, and in Vietnam.
  • Benjamin Harrison
    I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it.
  • Woodrow Wilson, 1914
    I believe that soldiers will bear me out in saying that both come in time of battle. I take it that the moral courage comes in going into the battle, and the physical courage in staying in.
  • Lyndon Johnson, 1966
    On this Memorial Day, it is right for us to remember the living and the dead for whom the call of their country has meant much pain and sacrifice.
  • George Bush, 2005
    Looking across this field, we see the scale of heroism and sacrifice. All who are buried here understood their duty. All stood to protect America. And all carried with them memories of a family that they hoped to keep safe by their sacrifice.
  • Woodrow Wilson, 1914
    Therefore this peculiar thing comes about, that we can stand here and praise the memory of these soldiers in the interest of peace. They set us the example of self-sacrifice, which if followed in peace will make it unnecessary that men should follow war any more.
  • George Bush, 1992
    Whether we observe the occasion through public ceremony or through private prayer, Memorial Day leaves few hearts unmoved. Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend, and neighbor.
  • Richard Nixon, 1974
    This Memorial Day should remind us of the greatness that past generations of Americans achieved from Valley Forge to Vietnam, and it should inspire us with the determination to keep America great and free by keeping America safe and strong in our own time, a time of unique destiny and opportunity for our Nation.
  • Woodrow Wilson, 1914
    They do not need our praise. They do not need that our admiration should sustain them. There is no immortality that is safer than theirs. We come not for their sakes but for our own, in order that we may drink at the same springs of inspiration from which they themselves selves drank.
  • Barack Obama, 2009
    They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor, who waged war so that we might know peace, who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity, who paid the ultimate price so that we might know freedom.
  • Herbert Hoover, 1931
    It was the transcendent fortitude and steadfastness of these men who in adversity and in suffering through the darkest hour of our history held faithful to an ideal. Here men endured that a nation might live.
  • Lyndon Johnson, 1966
    Peace does not come just because we wish for it. Peace must be fought for. It must be built stone by stone.
  • Herbert Hoover, 1931
    An ideal is an unselfish aspiration. Its purpose is the general welfare not only of this but of future generations. It is a thing of the spirit. It is a generous and humane desire that all men may share equally in a common good. Our ideals are the cement, which binds human society.
  • Barack Obama, 2009
    If the fallen could speak to us, what would they say? Would they console us? Perhaps they might say that while they could not know they’d be called upon to storm a beach through a hail of gunfire, they were willing to give up everything for the defense of our freedom; that while they could not know they’d be called upon to jump into the mountains of Afghanistan and seek an elusive enemy, they were willing to sacrifice all for their country; that while they couldn’t possibly know they would be called to leave this world for another, they were willing to take that chance to save the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.
  • Richard Nixon, 1974
    Peace is the real and right memorial for those who have died in war.
  • Bill Clinton, 2000
    You fought for freedom in foreign lands, knowing it would protect our freedom at home. Today, freedom advances all around the world, and for the first time in all human history, more than half the world’s people choose their own leaders. Yes, America has made your sacrifice matter.
  • Herbert Hoover, 1931
    Valley Forge has come indeed to be a symbol in American life. It is more than the name for a place, more than the scene of a military episode, more than just a critical event in history. Freedom was won here by fortitude not by the flash of the sword.
  • George Bush, 2003
    Their sacrifice was great, but not in vain. All Americans and every free nation on earth can trace their liberty to the white markers of places like Arlington National Cemetery. And may God keep us ever grateful.
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Khurana, Simran. "American Presidents Speak on Memorial Day." ThoughtCo, May. 25, 2015, Khurana, Simran. (2015, May 25). American Presidents Speak on Memorial Day. Retrieved from Khurana, Simran. "American Presidents Speak on Memorial Day." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 27, 2018).