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CLASS NOTES – The True Meanings of Memorial Day

Monday, May 28th we celebrate Memorial Day. For many of us, it denotes a three-day weekend and the first glimpse of summer. Barbeques are lit, picnics are packed and parks overflow with rambunctious children and their families.

This weekend is also considered one of the biggest for “super sales.” Car dealers flash their fancy stock, running cheesy commercials and equating themselves to everything wonderful about America. Shop windows splay the stars and stripes, Uncle Sam and guarantee “unbeatable” prices in attempts to convince you that it is your patriotic duty to buy, buy, and buy some more!

With all these spectacular distractions it may be difficult to remember the significance of the holiday. Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day” began May 30, 1868 to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. Flowers were placed on the graves of both sides to help heal our war torn nation and lessen the divide between the North and the South. It was declared in May because flowers would be in bloom across the country.


Although much of the original sentiment may seem lost, we are no more fallible than Americans of past generations. Oliver Wendell Holme’s addressed our ambivalence in his speech to veterans of the civil war on May 30, 1884.

“Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer…an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord… So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out.”

Buying a “pre-owned” vehicle is not what Holmes had in mind, but perhaps we could incorporate some of the original intentions. In honor of those who fought for the freedom of all Americans, whether they were Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or a Tea Party patriot­­­­, we could ask our ‘brethren’ in congress to, if not find “perfect accord,” at least consider bipartisan practices.

If you would like to contact your local representatives and ask them to reach across the aisle, go to; type in your address to find your elected representatives.

To remember those who have served and scarified, the United Veterans Council of Santa Clara is conducting a public ceremony on the 28th at Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose at 11:30. There will also be a memorial service at the Veteran’s Memorial in Central Park in Santa Clara at 3:00 pm.

However you decide to celebrate Memorial Day, I hope it is filled with “acts of enthusiasm and faith.”

Contact Margaret Lavin at


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