President Joe Biden
honored Americans who died in war on Monday, laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and honoring the fallen in his first Memorial Day
address as president.
“We’ve gathered here at this sacred place at this solemn hour to engage in the most fundamental of endeavors: the right of remembrance. Remember those who gave their all in the service of America, in the service of freedom, in the service of justice,” he said. “Women
and men, all those we honor today, gave their lives for this country, but they live forever in our hearts, forever proud, forever honored.
The president took part in the annual ceremony at the hallowed Virginia
cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a tomb dedicated to U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified. As is customary for presidents, Biden presented a wreath at the tomb to commemorate Memorial Day, and appeared to bow his head in prayer before making the sign of the cross on himself.
During the ceremony, Biden stood with Vice President Kamala Harris
and Defense Secretary
Lloyd Austin, saluting the tomb as a military
band played the national anthem. Harris placed her hand over her heart.
After Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered their speeches, the president delivered an address at the cemetery's largely empty Memorial Amphitheater. While much of what Biden said was similar to previous remarks he'd made about America, diversity
, and grief
, he also made a point to highlight issues threatening democracy
in the United States
and around the world.
“Our troops have fought this battle on fields all over the world, but it is also the battle of our time, and the mission falls to each of us, each and every day. Democracy itself is in jeopardy, here at home and around the world. What we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure,” the president said, adding that “empathy is the fuel of democracy.”
“You all know it. Democracy thrives when the infrastructure
of democracy is strong,” Biden continued. “When people
have the right to vote freely, fairly, and conveniently. When a free and independent press pursues the truth, founded on facts, not propaganda. When the rule of law applies equally and fairly to every citizen, regardless of where they come from or what they look like.”
"The mission falls to each of us, each and every day, democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world. What we do now, what we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen will determine whether or not democracy will long endure," says President Biden. pic.twitter.com/G2sL1tJBgr — CBS News
(@CBSNews) May 31, 2021
On Sunday, Biden spoke to a crowd of Gold Star military families and other veterans
at War Memorial Plaza in New Castle, Delaware, where he stood near a memorial wall inscribed with the names of Delaware and New Jersey
soldiers who died in World War II
and Korea. Earlier that day, he and other family members attended a memorial Mass for his son Beau Biden, an Iraq veteran who died in Iraq.
“To those who are mourning a loved one today, Jill and I understand how you feel. Our losses aren’t the same, but that black hole you feel in your chest as if it’s going to suck you into it, we get,” the president said in his Monday address.
“Our son Beau’s service in the Delaware Army National Guard
unit, including the year he spent deployed in Iraq, was one of the things he was most proud of in life. Yesterday marked the anniversary
of his death
, and it’s a difficult time of year for me and our family, just as it is for so many of you. It can hurt to remember, but the hurt is how we feel and heal.”
Last year on Memorial Day, Biden made his first public appearance as a presidential candidate since the COVID-19 pandemic
shut down much of the country in March.