Dear Howard University Community,
Memorial Day is distinct from many other national holidays because it calls upon us to remember people rather than a particular event or moment in history. On this day, we pay tribute to the members of the military who lost their lives in service to their country rather than the historical occasions on which their lives were lost.
To be sure, the study of history is critically important. We cannot understand our current moment unless we seek to comprehend the context that created it. We cannot seriously hope to avoid present mistakes unless we have studied the errors of the past and conscientiously strive to act differently today. But learning our history is not the imperative we accept on Memorial Day.
Where studying history might compel us to change our tactics, Memorial Dayhelps us adjust our mindset. By remembering the individuals who lost their lives in the course of defending our country and protecting its people, we should feel humbled and inspired to pursue our own mission in life. The successes our country has enjoyed have been paved by the sacrifices of those who were determined to give everything they had to offer to ensure our country’s security.
Service successfully rendered does not require the servant to sacrifice their lives. However, service does mandate that we subdue our self-interest in pursuit of social goals. The heroes we remember on Memorial Day eloquently articulate how to embody the value of service and how to manifest it in our actions.
When society values the common good above personal needs, we know that we are headed in a positive and prosperous direction.
Excellence in Truth and Service,
Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA
Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery