MAY 31, 1948
NEW YORK, Sunday—Memorial Day this year comes on a Sunday and our Minister spoke to us the previous Sunday on the importance of moving from the old celebrations of Memorial Day into a new type of celebration which would accentuate the fact that we were trying to move into a new world and a new way of thinking. He said that in the past we have done honor on this Day, as we always will, to those who had given up their lives for their country. But he wondered if the monument, for instance, to the Unknown Soldier which we erected to glorify those men who had risen to no particular prominence, but who had nevertheless made the supreme sacrifice, did not have a wrong concept behind it.
He went on to say that just to be a soldier did not mean of necessity that you were a hero. There were many unsung heroes in the countless communities of our country who earned their laurels by living. Sometimes life for them was very drab but if they lived usefully and loyally and gave the best that was in them to their daily, humdrum existence, then they had fulfilled a harder task perhaps than that of the soldier who had risen to the call of duty but had not had to meet it day in and day out throughout a long life.
Our Minister suggested that since the hope of the future lay in peace, we should begin on Memorial Day to recognize those who through their daily lives as citizens, members of a family, members of organizations, did the most constructive work to promote the cause of peace in the world. If we believe in democracy, of course, this would mean that each of us in the organizations to which we belong and in our own communities, would promote the democracy which we believe recognizes most clearly the value of the individual and allows him the greatest freedom to develop the good that is within him.
I am beginning to wonder whether awards could not be given on Memorial Day to the living who are actually prompting tolerance, better living standards, greater understanding between groups of citizens, and using their government to achieve for every child and every individual the maximum opportunity for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
As I have observed it, when our communist representatives use the word democracy they do so in the sense that democracy must serve the interests of people, but I think democracy more nearly means being given an opportunity to achieve those things which we believe serve our own interests and those of the people around us. We want to have a hand in the achieving, that to us is the more democratic way. Achievements handed to us that are stated to be in the interests of all the people mean little if we did not work for them.
Whatever else Memorial Day may be, it is a day for thought, for remembering those who have loved their country and loved its people. What they loved was the life that they lived and perhaps we can remember them best in promoting and preserving life and the standards which they held and craved for all future citizens.