Memorial Day 2010

In advance of the Memorial Day holiday, NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued a press release about the New York Museums Salute Memorial Day: A Weekend of Appreciation effort conceived by her, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Alliance for the Arts and the Museums Association of New York to provide free admission to all active duty service members and veterans at each of the 54 participating institutions throughout Memorial Day Weekend. Participating institutions include the Whitney Museum of American Art, American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Museum, Bronx Museum, El Museo del Barrio, Guggenheim Museum, Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Jewish Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of the American Indian, New York Historical Society, New York Transit Museum, Queens Museum of Art, Sailor’s Snug Harbor, South Street Seaport, Staten Island Museum, The Children’s Museum, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Proper military ID is required for free admission.

New York City Memorial Day Events include Fleet Week with a variety of events over the Memorial Day weekend including the Intrepid Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony from 11 am to 1 pm at the SummerStage in Central Park. In Brooklyn, Green-Wood’s 12th Annual Memorial Day Concert is scheduled for Monday, May 31 at 2:30 pm on the Grounds of Green-Wood Cemetery at the Gothic Arch of Green-Wood Cemetery with music by Fred Ebb, Leonard Bernstein, Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Paul Jabara. Admission is free.

The Brooklyn Law School Library will be open on Monday from 9am to 10pm. In the Law Review room on the third floor, partrons can read Alexander M. Selkirk, Jr.’s article The True Meaning of Memorial Day in the New York State Bar Journal 63.4 (1991) at pages 62-63. The article relates the origins of the holiday in 1868 when Gen. John A. Logan (for whom Logan Circle in Washington, DC is named), issued General Orders No. 11, creating the first Memorial Day also known as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868 as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. At the time, Logan was President of the Grand Army of the Republic, forerunner of today’s veterans’ organizations. He also represented Illinois as a member of the House of Representatives and was active in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Later he became a US Senator and a Republican candidate for Vice President. The article cites critics of the day who questioned whether Logan’s motives for creating the holiday was an act of political aggrandizement rather than one arising from a general sense of patriotism. For more on Logan, see Paul Katzeff’s article in Investor’s Business Daily John Logan, The Hero Who Championed Memorial Day.

The True Meaning of Memorial Day states:

Whatever the motives of John Alexander Logan in creating Memorial Day, they are unimportant. It is also misleading to view Memorial Day as a time only to mourn the dead any more than to consider it a day to celebrate victory in American’s Wars. What is important is Logan’s greatest legacy to our nation, that being a day on which all Americans regardless of their race, creed, color, ethnic background, or political philsophy unite in a common purpose, to honor those who have made the supreme sacrifice that the American way of life may be preserved. . .

On Memorial Day we truly comprehend that our survival rests not upon nuclear missiles, advanced weapons systems, or international alliances, but upon our countrymen in a common defense against all enemies foreign and domestic who plot the overthrow of our great Republic.

The real meaning of Memorial Day is as clear today as it was the day it was first celebrated over one hundred years ago after the great Civil War had divided our nation. Simply stated, Memorial Day stands for the proposition that united we can survive indefinitely as a free and domestic people, and it is only through our division that we sow the seeds of our own destruction.