Speak Out: Memorial Day Opening Theme – By The Ink

Another Memorial Day weekend is approaching and many of us are looking forward to a break, students and parents alike are looking forward to the end of the semester, and of course, everyone is excited for the traditional start of summer.

This is also a good time to reflect on how we have forgotten (or buried) the meaning of politics. On American Decoration Day, the predecessor to the current holiday, started after the civil war, and public efforts to bury the Union’s dead, both unknown and known. The idea became popular across the country in 1868 and was later expanded to commemorate the wars that followed – of course, there were too many of them – and became an official national holiday in 1971.

as Historian David Blight (whose work re-revealed the origins of the holiday) included this in his account of the origins of Decoration Day:

Some stories endure, some disappear, and some are rediscovered in dusty archives, the pages of old newspapers and oral histories. All stories like that first Decoration Day are just preludes to the reckoning to come. All memories are preludes.

As Bright tells it, the celebrants at the first commemoration in 1865 were black citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, where the war began.


It’s worth pondering the idea that after all the hustle and bustle, there’s always a chance to start over, as neighbors gather to remember the past, clearing and decorating countless markers of the unknown soldiers, as children march to the tune of “John Brown’s Remains.” In polarized times like ours now.

So what does this holiday season mean to you? What memories does it hold? What are you reflecting on this weekend? If you were to meet family and friends (or attend a party, graduation, or any other friendly and fraught commemoration), what would you talk to them about? Let your fellow readers know and feel free to discuss these ideas here.


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Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

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