On this glorious Memorial Day in Southwest Virginia as the temperatures are forecast to hit the mid-80s, many in our region are enjoying the day off and looking forward to time at the lake, pool, or around the grill. We all know that leisure time and connecting with loved ones is good for the body, mind, and soul. Unofficially, this weekend marks the start of summer.
On a deeper level, however, The Roanoke Star remembers the meaning of Memorial Day and encourages our readers to likewise be mindful: it’s a time to remember those in the Armed Forces who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms and standard of living we enjoy today. Yes, our nation has many problems and inequalities. Yet, as talk radio personality and financial guru Dave Ramsey puts it, “America has the richest poor people in the world.”
Little-known today, Democrat President Harry Truman declared Memorial Day to be “a day of prayer for permanent peace.” (It was Truman who also declared the ongoing annual National Day of Prayer.) There is much confusion in our culture about the role of religion and its expression in the public square. Yet, below is Truman’s May 22, 1950 “Proclamation 2889: Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day.” To provide historical context, it should be remembered that 1950 was only five years after the world’s first use of atomic bombs, the end of WWII, and the start of the Cold War.
By the President of the United States of America
Since war is the world’s most terrible scourge, we should do all in our power to prevent its recurrence.
It was the hope of mankind that with the cessation of hostilities of World War II the way would be open to founding a permanent peace. Instead, that war has left the world in a state of continued unrest. Accordingly, we feel the need of turning in humble suppliance to Almighty God for help and guidance.
In recognition of this need, the Congress has fittingly provided, in a joint resolution which I approved on May 11, 1950, that Memorial Day, which has long been set aside for paying tribute to those who lost their lives in war, shall henceforth be dedicated also as a day for Nation-wide prayer for permanent peace. The Congress has also requested that the President issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day in that manner.
Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, pursuant to the aforementioned resolution, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, Tuesday, May 30, 1950, and each succeeding Memorial Day, as a day of prayer for permanent peace. And I designate the hour beginning at eleven o’clock in the morning of that day, Eastern Daylight Saving Time, as a period in which all our people may unite in prayer, each in accordance with his own religious faith, for divine aid in bringing enduring peace to a troubled world.
I also request the agencies of the press, radio, television, and other media of public information to join in the observance of that day and of the specified hour by announcements and programs designed to unite the Nation in a universal prayer for permanent peace.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this 22nd day of May in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and fifty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy-fourth.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
By the President:
JAMES E. WEBB,
Acting Secretary of State
In 1950 Truman declared “we feel the need of turning in humble suppliance to Almighty God for help and guidance.” Likewise today, as the largest land war in Europe since 1945 now rages in Ukraine, and saber-rattling unnerves East Asia and the rest of the globe, many again see the need to humbly turn to the Almighty “for help and guidance.”
Interestingly, Truman likewise noted: “I also request the agencies of the press, radio, television, and other media of public information to join in the observance of that day and of the specified hour by announcements and programs designed to unite the Nation in a universal prayer for permanent peace.”
How often, gentle reader, do you notice mainstream press, radio, TV or internet media calling for a specific hour of “universal prayer”? In contrast to the silence of so many other platforms, here at The Roanoke Star, we seek to observe both the spirit and the letter of Truman’s heartfelt plea.
In addition to threats abroad, we also face myriad challenges here at home. Virginia’s Lt. Governor Winsome Sears addressed the recent, horrific killings in Texas in this poignant address. Despite the backdrop of these unspeakable evils, Sears also lays out a framework for bringing our country back to a place of health and shalom.
Remembering where our country came from can help us map a way to the future.
Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the last Virginia-born president, claimed: “a nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, not what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.”
At The Roanoke Star, we remember.
To learn more about Memorial Day and its origins, please read this blog.