Congratulations to our team! They finished 4th after three days of competition.
Today, Americans will visit our national cemeteries and attend ceremonies to honor their loved ones, their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even some unknown to them -- men and women who gave their lives for a cause and ideal far beyond narrow self-interest. Our fallen service members are the antithesis of the Jay Gatsbys of the world; their sacrifice is the pinnacle of human virtue, a sharp contrast of the perverse and corrupt morals that seem so endemic in our culture.
Memorial Day is set aside to honor the more than one million of our fellow citizens who have fallen in battle since the founding of our Republic. Their service helped to shape us as a Nation and secured, for us and our friends and allies, a world where more people than at any other time in history can live lives free from tyranny. If it were not for their service there is little doubt that we would be living in a much different world today. During World War II, American forces stopped the rise of a fascist dictator who was ruthlessly and systematically purging Europe of "impurities" - slaughtering millions of innocent men, women and children because of their race, religion, political affiliation or sexual orientation and mental health status. During the American Civil War, the most devastating conflict in our Nations' history, a system of equally horrific oppression was finally ended and a Union preserved. Every generation has produced esteemed individuals who have selflessly answered the call of duty, just as today's 1.37 million members of our Armed Forces continue to carry on that virtuous legacy.
I came of age during 9/11. It bothered me that so few of my generation answered that clarion call to serve. Instead, less than 1% of this nation has borne the burden of over 10 years of war - the longest in our military's history - and as a result are now suffering the costs of such unjust sacrifice. Last year I made the decision to make it my life's work to address the social and psychological problems affecting our veterans. Several months ago I joined the Veterans Health Administration in Palo Alto to begin this mission - to serve those who have served this nation and sacrificed so much. So during this day of remembrance, lets also reflect on how we can help those who are still with us.
I leave you with a memorial written by Civil War-era orator, Robert Green Ingersoll. I think it eloquently captures the significance of Memorial Day for all generations of our Fallen:
"They died for liberty - they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless... Earth may run red with other wars, but they are at peace. In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death."