“Liberty and Union, Now and Forever…”

President Biden quoted Daniel Webster in his Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery.

Noting that when he became a Senator, his desk was right next to Webster’s, he said he felt the sweep of history. Webster’s full phrase in his 1830 speech on the Senate floor was “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!”

Biden’s address has been reduced by some in the media to the phrase “Democracy is in peril,” which he did use. His speech was in part a warning of the dangers of our time:

“The struggle for democracy is taking place around the world – democracy and autocracy. The struggle for decency, dignity, just simple decency.”

But the speech was also a heartfelt appeal to all of us to protect this precious gift we’ve been given as a country founded not on geography, or religion, but on an “idea.”

“This nation was built on an idea…the idea of liberty and opportunity for all. We’ve never fully realized that aspiration of our founders, but every generation has opened the door a little wider.”

Our democracy may be “imperfect,” he said, but it is still “the greatest experiment” in governing, and we need to do the work–protecting voting rights and freedom of the press, and more fully addressing racial inequities–to move it further along.

“Democracy is more than a form of government, it’s a way of being, a way of seeing the world. Democracy means the rule of the people.”

“Generation after generation of American heroes are signed up to be part of the fight because they understand the truth that lives in every American heart: that liberation, opportunity, justice are far more likely to come to pass in a democracy than in an autocracy.”

This is what the fallen service members being honored on Memorial Day had fought and died for. Their Commander in Chief was giving his warning that we must not to let their sacrifices be in vain.

And he was giving us his promise that he’ll lead us toward that more perfect union, but we must recognize our responsibility as a people to make it happen.



15 thoughts on ““Liberty and Union, Now and Forever…”

  1. I’m extremely glad that Biden is president but I question some of what’s said above. I’m far from being a historian, but I’m skeptical about the notion that our democracy is “the greatest experiment”. Why do we, as Americans, always have to call ourselves out as the greatest? This claim may win elections but I’m not crazy about it. There are many democratic governments that were created after ours was and many are doing extremely well. We are a great country but by what metric is our democracy the greatest? There are other great democracies in this world. We can learn from them just as they learn from us. If we stopped throwing around the word “greatest” all the time, we might have better healthcare, fewer prisons, a smaller gap between rich and poor…

    I think Memorial Day is an important holiday and we should all take time to reflect on those that have sacrificed their lives in service to our country. But, didn’t some of them die in vain? To claim otherwise implies that all of our wars have been moral, valiant, and critical to protecting our homeland. War is a devastating undertaking and we tend to glorify it blindly. I agree that we are indebted to our soldiers, and to the young people who we will send into battle in the future. We owe them a deep and sincere effort to critically examine the unintended consequences, mismanagement, and failures of our military actions so that far fewer lives and livelihoods are sacrificed with little or no reward.


    1. I hear you, Carol—and there’s no doubt in my mind that, tragically, far too many Service members have died in wrongheaded wars.

      I do give Biden some slack about his hyperbole because he seems to be trying so hard to redress our societal wrongs at a time when he’s well aware that our democracy is under very serious attack. He’s in the midst of a tough balancing act, so if his phraseology is sometimes excessive, I look to his actions, which for the most part I find heartening.

      Liked by 1 person

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