May 30, 2005

Memorial Day 2005

By Robert A. Scott, President, Adelphi University

It is fitting, it seems to me, that this Memorial Day is on May 30, the actual day of the first observance in 1868. On this day, flowers were placed on the graves of Union AND Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It is also fitting that New York was the first state officially to recognize the holiday, in 1873 – – when, I might add, Adelphi was just ten years old and 56 years from moving
to Garden City.

At a time of great divisions in our nation, with Red States and Blue States, of incivility in our deliberative bodies and rancor for tv fare, it is good to remember that Memorial Day was declared by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, as a day of reconciliation, a “coming together to honor those who gave their all.”1

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field,” Moina Mitchell replied with her own verse:

We cherish, too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.2

I believe that this line, “That blood of heroes never dies” applies not only to those who died in battle, but also to those who battled for the rights we now cherish. If, indeed, Memorial Day is about reconciliation, not about division, then those words must apply equally to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among many others, as well as to fallen soldiers.

This is my hope for this day, and this time, that we can disagree without being disagreeable, that we can see beyond today’s tactical gain to view tomorrow’s hopeful plain, and that we can be as large of heart and as agile of mind as Abraham Lincoln, General Logan, and Moina Mitchell were in their time.

Thank you.

Invited Address, American Legion Post No. 265, Garden City, NY, May 30, 2005.

1 Internet entry on Memorial Day
2 Ibid.
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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves more than 8,100 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online.

More than 115,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.