Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

Presidential Speeches of Memorial Days Past

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, it is an ideal time to look back on presidential speeches of Memorial Days past.

In 1963, LBJ delivered his Memorial Day Remarks at Gettysburg.  “On this hallowed ground, heroic deeds were performed and eloquent words were spoken a century ago,” he began. “We, the living, have not forgotten--and the world will never forget--the deeds or the words of Gettysburg. We honor them now as we join on this Memorial Day of 1963 in a prayer for permanent peace of the world and fulfillment of our hopes for universal freedom and justice.”

Johnson proceeds to challenge the nation to move past racial divides for the greater good of the country. “In this hour, it is not our respective races which are at stake--it is our nation,” he said. “Let those who care for their country come forward, North and South, white and Negro, to lead the way through this moment of challenge and decision.”

Twenty one years later, in his Memorial Day remarks at a ceremony to honor the Vietnam War’s Unknown Soldier, President Reagan also channeled President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. “When he spoke at a ceremony at Gettysburg in 1863, President Lincoln reminded us that through their deeds, the dead had spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could, and that we living could only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they so willingly gave a last full measure of devotion.”

To watch Reagan's full speech, click here.

Which president delivered your favorite Memorial Day speech?