On Real Patriotism

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“…We can not contemplate these graves which are all about us, we can not recall the history which they symbolize, without a deep consciousness that they have placed  upon us an obligation to take a firmer resolution that their sacrifices are to have an influence on our conduct. The place which these heroic figures hold in history is forevermore secure. They did not hesitate, they did not yield, they met their duty squarely. For its fulfillment they were prepared to give their fortunes and their lives. It ought never to be forgotten that it was out of this spirit, supported by these sacrifices, that our country was established, its Constitution adopted and supported, its institutions formed, and its progress and prosperity created, with all that these have meant to the success and happiness of our own people and to the advancement of human welfare all over the world.

“Reverence for the dead should not be divorced from respect for the living. If we hold those who have gone before in high estimation, it will be reflected in our conduct toward those who are still with us. It would be idle to place a wreath on the grave of the dead and leave ungarlanded the brow of the living…

“These men stand ready to respond at any moment to the order of our Government to proceed to any point within our own country or to any portion of the globe where disorder and violence threaten the peaceful rights of our people. Their post is always the post of danger and their lives are spent in service and sacrifice to promote the welfare of their country. America has a just right to satisfaction and pride in the personnel and purpose of its Army and Navy. We can not be loyal to the flag if we fail in our admiration for the uniform.

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“However much we wish to pursue the paths of peace, however much we are determined to live on terms of good will both at home and abroad, we can not escape the fact that there are still evil forces in the world which all past experience warns us will break out from time to time and do serious damage to lawful rights and the progress of civilization unless we are prepared to meet such situations with armed intervention. We could no more dispense with our military forces than we could dispense with our police forces…

“If we are sincere in our expressed determination to maintain tranquility at home and peace abroad, we must not neglect to lay our course in accordance with the ascertained facts of life. We know that we have come into possession of great wealth and high place in the world. There is scarcely a civilized nation which is not our debtor. We are sufficiently acquainted with human nature to realize that we are oftentimes the object of envy. Unless we maintain sufficient forces to be placed at points of peril when they arise, thereby avoiding for the most part serious attack, there would be grave danger that we should suffer from violent outbreaks, so destroying our rights and compromising our honor that war would become inevitable. It is to protect ourselves from such danger that we maintain our national defense. Under this policy it is perfectly apparent that our forces are dedicated solely to the preservation of peace…

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President Coolidge, May 24, 1924. Courtesy of Everett Collection Inc./Alarmy Stock Photo.

“As Americans we are always justified in glorying in our own country. While offensive boastfulness may be carried to the point of reproach, it is much less to be criticized than an attitude of apologetic inferiority. Not to know and appreciate the many excellent qualities of our own country constitutes an intellectual poverty which instead of being displayed with pride ought to be acknowledged with shame…”

— President Calvin Coolidge at Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, 1927

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President Coolidge presenting a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 1927

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