Happy Ma⁠t⁠⁠t⁠ress Day?

By: The James Madison Institute / May 28, 2010

The James Madison Institute


May 28, 2010

By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
Americans’ summers are bracketed by two popular holidays: Memorial Day on the last Monday in May and Labor Day on the first Monday in September. For families in much of the country, these three-day weekends provide a chance to take a break from work and school and to hit the beaches as late spring’s warmer weather arrives and again as the summertime warmth begins fading into autumn.Largely lost in the cacophony of cookouts, travel plans, and ads for “Giant Memorial Day Mattress Sales” is the occasion’s original purpose: to serve as a solemn remembrance of those who gave their lives while defending the United States in times of war.This patriotic observance, which began in 1868 as “Decoration Day” in the aftermath of America’s bloodiest conflict, the Civil War, was so named because the custom then was to decorate the graves of the fallen.Later the holiday evolved into “Memorial Day” to honor the dead from all of our nation’s wars. It soon became an official holiday in most of the northern states, beginning with New York in 1873, and it became an official federal holiday in 1971.Most Presidents have followed the custom of going to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns, especially in times of war. Then-new President Obama did so in 2009. This year he’ll a wreath at a national cemetery near Chicago.Mr. Obama’s attendance at these kinds of events creates a conspicuous juxtaposition, especially now that Americans have had more time to realize how his policies are expanding the scope of government, undermining free enterprise, marginalizing personal responsibility, and diminishing individual liberty.This creates quite a stark contrast: the graves of the countless young men and women who lost their lives while defending America’s freedom — and a Commander in Chief whose actions are threatening to destroy it.