Mr. Nicolae Nasta, distinguished guests,
And, especially, veterans and their families:
This weekend across the United States, family and friends will gather for picnics, excursions, and backyard barbeques as the Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer. And while these gatherings are familiar social events for Americans, it is important to remember what Memorial Day truly represents. We must not lose sight of the noble and solemn purpose of this day.
Fundamental rights and freedoms – to life, to liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – were inscribed at America’s birth. Going from declaration to attainment and then sustainment for the last 242 years has demanded enormous effort — and the ultimate sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. American rights and freedoms were defended yesterday, and are protected today, by those willing to give their lives so that others may enjoy the fundamental rights and freedoms we cherish so dearly.
The first Memorial Day came about when Union Army veterans first designated May 30, 1868 as a day to decorate graves and conduct fitting services of respect for those who died to preserve the Union during the American Civil War.
After World War I, Memorial Day observances began honoring those who died in all of America’s battles, and we continue that tradition today by paying homage to all our fallen warriors. It is their individual, personal sacrifices that make the collective achievement of our precious freedom most dear.
We continue to stand ready to fight alongside our allies and partners to ensure what they fought for will continue to endure. As the new U.S. National Security Strategy states, “A strong and free Europe, bound by shared principles of democracy, national sovereignty, and the commitment to Article 5 of NATO is vital to our security.”
The Monument of American Heroes here in Kiseleff Park, donated by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston, Massachusetts, gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the significance of our shared sacrifice. We stand before this monument to remember those U.S. servicemen – mostly airmen and many still unidentified — who gave their lives in and over Romania to defeat tyranny and fascism in World War II. While we were on different sides of this conflict for part of the war, we are proud that today Romania is one of our strongest Allies, fighting alongside us in battlefields around the world and upholding our common values. You too have sacrificed much for the freedom you enjoy today.
Today we take full measure of our responsibility to value and honor the sacrifices of these hallowed dead. And from now forward we must strive together to do all we can to serve as responsible proprietors of their trust and faith. We must constantly hold ourselves accountable to our commitment to secure liberty, protect fundamental rights, and promote justice for all. When we fall short we must not become discouraged, but focus on their sacrifice to renew our dedication. Our commemoration today a chance to pledge anew our determination to protect the freedoms which they courageously defended.
This Memorial Day we honor our fallen warriors by pledging ourselves to fight for future generations to have the opportunity to be prosperous, to live in a free and open democracy, and achieve their dreams; dreams that those who fought and died never had a chance to fulfill.
So let us remember those who pursued something greater than themselves, as well as those whose continued vigilance today serves to make this life something profoundly more virtuous. May we continue to honor them in the future as much as they have honored us.