Freedom. Liberty. Independence.
As a people, we often take these concepts for granted. We often go about our day-to-day lives, rushing from one project to the next, from one errand to another, from work-to-home-back-to-work again, with little to no thought of those concepts. Yet, they are always there. They endure. While they are conceptual ideas, they are very real - the mere fact that we, as a people, freely, openly, without reservation, discuss our liberty, criticize our government, protest and advocate for our causes - demonstrates our liberty.
America is not without her flaws, her warts, the nasty things we'd like to not think about - crippling poverty to a segment of our population, a tortured history of discrimination and racism, rampant crime in blighted urban neighborhoods.
But that's what makes America so great, so wonderful - it's the promise of advancement, it's the promise that each and every man can carve out his or her own slice of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That despite our flaws, despite our shortcomings, we can continue to grow, to improve, to achieve. It is the belief that it is not where you begin, but the journey you take to your betterment. It is the American dream and it is what drives us, as a people, forward.
Today, on this solemn day, we honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation, for our ideals, for our liberty. Abraham Lincoln once discussed the dedication and consecration of the ground at Gettysburg - that noble spot, where our union was preserved, where so many of our forefathers died in the name of the United States of America.
But there is no one spot that should be dedicated to the fallen, no single place that is consecrated above others. For all of America is their consecrated ground, for every man and woman who fought and died for freedom, did so for all of us, for all of America, so that we all might live free.
Their sacrifice upon the altar of freedom is worth every day, every breath, every small piece of this great land. So, wherever you are today, be it on the beaches of Santa Monica, the rocky coast of Maine, the open plains of South Dakota, look around you - what you see if the ultimate memorial to those who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country - you see the America they all fought and died for. A land that is free, a land that holds promise for all of us.
So, today, many of us will enjoy barbeques on a warm, sunny day, probably with a beer and hot dog in hand. We'll spend the extra day of our weekend with friends or family. Our enjoyment of this day is the fruit of their labor, of their dedication, and of their selfless love for our nation.
So, cherish it and remember all of the brave men and women who gave up the chance to throw the ball with their child, to sit by the pool, to drink an ice-cold beer on a hot day, all in the name of our liberty. And remember, that right now, on the opposite side of the world, young men and women in uniform are prepared and willing to join that honored fraternity of heroes, all in the name of liberty.
Enjoy your Memorial Day and God bless the United States of America.