All of us at AgingOptions salute the men and women of our armed forces who have sacrificed their lives to preserve American freedom. To honor those fallen heroes, along with the millions more who have served and continue to serve, we offer this edited copy of President Richard Nixon’s Memorial Day Proclamation originally presented 50 years ago, on May 19, 1972.
At the height of the Civil War, the terrible conflict which ultimately claimed more than 200,000 American lives, Abraham Lincoln stood in a battlefield cemetery and asked a high resolve from “us, the living, . . . that these dead shall not have died in vain.” They did not die in vain, for their heroism saved the Union; and after the guns fell silent at last, a grateful Nation set aside a Memorial Day in their memory each May.
Yet the price of liberty was still not paid in full. Today, more than a hundred Memorial Days later, America looks on five more wars and over 400,000 more dead in those wars. Thus, today more than ever, we the living bear the solemn duty of redeeming the sacrifices these brave men made, and of upholding steadfastly in life the cause they served so nobly in death.
We can meet that duty best by raising to the honored legions of the fallen the most fitting memorial of all: a peace so just and secure that American sons need not give their lives again for their country.
Such a peace has been the highest goal of the United States policy for many years. We have pursued peace unremittingly—through conciliation where we could, through strength where we had to, through battle where aggression left us no choice. We shall press on in that pursuit, relying not alone on human ways and means, but also on Him who “maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth,” who in Scripture has commanded us: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
In recognition of this deep national reliance upon divine guidance and care, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 11, 1950, has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace.
Now, Therefore, I, Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 1972, as a day of prayer for permanent peace.
As a special mark of respect for those Americans who have given their lives in the war in Vietnam, I direct that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff all day on Memorial Day. I also request the Governors of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the appropriate officials of all local units of government to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on all public buildings during that entire day, and request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the same period.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred ninety-sixth.
(Recorded at The American Presidency Project, University of California at Santa Barbara)