Memorial Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Memorial Day is a day of reflection and remembrance of those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials and placing flags or wreaths. They may also participate in a Memorial Day parade or hold a family gathering, such as a barbeque. Memorial Day also unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to celebrating Memorial Day.

Memorial Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet

Updated April 26, 2019 (R43973)

Introduction

Memorial Day is a day of reflection and remembrance of those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials and placing wreaths. They may also participate in a Memorial Day parade or hold a family gathering, such as a barbeque. Memorial Day also unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to celebrating Memorial Day.

History

Memorial Day has its roots in Decoration Day, a day when Union Civil War veterans honored those who had died in conflict. Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May since 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Legislation

36 U.S.C. §116

Uniform Monday Holiday Act (5 U.S.C. §6103)

National Moment of Remembrance Act (P.L. 106-579)

CRS Reports

The Congressional Research Service has a report detailing the history of federal holidays and several reports addressing military casualties, including

CRS Report R41990, Federal Holidays: Evolution and Current Practices, by Jacob R. Straus.

CRS Report RS22452, A Guide to U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation Freedom's Sentinel, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom, by Hannah Fischer.

CRS Report RL32492, American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, by Nese F. DeBruyne.

Sample Congressional Speeches and Recognitions

Members of Congress often make floor statements, issue press releases, or enter Extensions of Remarks into the Congressional Record to recognize federal holidays and observances. The following are some recent examples from the Congressional Record:

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, "Memorial Day," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 164 (May 24, 2018), pp. S2918-2919.

Representative Joyce Beatty, "In Honor of Memorial Day," Extensions of Remarks, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 163 (May 25, 2017), pp. E725-E726.

Representative Andy Biggs et al., "Memorial Day," remarks in the House, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 163 (May 24, 2017), pp. H4561-4563.

Senator Johnny Isakson, "Memorial Day," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, daily edition, vol. 162 (May 26, 2016), pp. S3280-S3281.

Presidential Proclamations

One of the many uses of a presidential proclamation is to ceremoniously honor a group or call attention to certain issues or events. Some recent Memorial Day proclamations, from the Compilation of Presidential Documents, include

Presidential Proclamations—Donald J. Trump (2017- )

Presidential Proclamations—Barack H. Obama (2009-2016)

Presidential Proclamations—George W. Bush (2001-2008)

Presidential Proclamations—William J. Clinton (1993-2000)

Presidential proclamations and remarks from 1993 to the present are available through the govinfo service on the Government Publishing Office website. Earlier remarks are available through The American Presidency Project, established by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Statistics

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on what veterans have done for the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau tracks statistics about veterans and provides information and statistics that may be useful to include in speeches.

U.S. Census Bureau, Veterans Visualizations.

What Can Americans Do to Participate in Memorial Day?

Part of the Memorial Day observance is the National Moment of Remembrance. All Americans are encouraged to pause wherever they are at 3:00 p.m. local time for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who died in service to the nation.

In many communities, citizens assist veterans with the placement of flags on grave stones in cemeteries and distribute flags to people participating in parades. The American flag may also be flown or hung outdoors at an individual's home.

On Memorial Day, as on Veterans Day, artificial poppies are purchased and the donations are used to help veterans and their widows, widowers, and children.

For additional information on Memorial Day, flag protocol, and veterans cemeteries, see the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Memorial Day webpage.

Arlington National Cemetery, "Wreath Layings."

Arlington National Cemetery, "Request a Public Wreath Ceremony."

Library of Congress American Folklife Center, "Veterans History Project."

U.S. Army Center of Military History, "Memorial Day."

YouTube videos of wreath laying ceremonies.

Author Contact Information

Elizabeth C. Larson, Reference and Digital Services Librarian ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])