Byron's Babbles

Restoring Hope

Posted in Global Leadership, Indianapolis 500, Indy 500, Leadership, Leadership Development, Memorial Day by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 31, 2021

As kid that grew up in central Indiana and lived here all my life, it has not been until recent years that I’ve been able to watch the Indianapolis 500 live on television. As soon as the race started coverage went off. We could watch it replayed in the evening on the day of the race, but I never understood the thrill of that because I already knew who had won. But, for me, the Indy 500 has always marked the celebration of Memorial Day. The 500 has always done an incredible job of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the ceremonies prior to the race – these we have always been able to watch. Yesterday’s ceremonies were incredible and extended the honoring to our first responders, health care workers, and others who have worked so hard to keep us safe during the global pandemic. Yesterday, as I watched, I reflected on how we talk a lot about how the earth is shrinking and we are becoming a global society, and this is true, I believe, if you study history, we’ve always been very global minded. Communication has made it possible for easier global collaboration. Much of our sacrifice has been for not only protecting our own freedoms, but the freedoms of others around the world.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

James A. Garfield (1831–81), May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

While honoring those who made the supreme sacrifice for our country, we need to remember they made this supreme act in order for our country and the world to be a better place. Decoration Day, as it was called in the beginning, honored those who sacrificed and died in service to our country. Then, the day became widely observed on May 30, 1868 honoring the service of those who did in the American Civil War. General John A. Logan proclaimed the day to commemorate our fallen. James A. Garfield, who was a former Union General, Ohio Congressman, and future (20th) President of the United States addressed 5,000 people at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1873, New York became the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. Then, in 1971, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Memorial Day was set on the last Monday of May.

We memorialize in order to preserve memories, events or people, and this allows us to remember and honor loved ones. This weekend and today on Memorial Day, we memorialize in many forms—ranging from ceremonies to gatherings to physical pieces of remembrance. On this Memorial day we need to be thinking about recovery and new life, especially in support of the service members who survived the atrocities of war but suffered from physical and psychological injuries long after it ended. It is my hope and prayer that we use this Memorial Day to re-center our thoughts to focus on all the freedoms “to” and “of” that the sacrifices we honor today were for. While some peace comes only with time, and the years blur and obliterate some the animosities that led to the horrific violence of our past, we must never forget. Additionally, we need to study our past and learn from what happened, the shortcomings and mistakes of former leaders, and continue to grow as a people who understand that our actions affect every other person in the world. Let us also use this Memorial Day as a call to restore hope in the midst of some of our most dire circumstances.


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