Philadelphia's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, visible from our offices, features an eternal flame and the inscription "FREEDOM IS A LIGHT FOR WHICH MANY MEN HAVE DIED IN DARKNESS."
Both the eternal flame and the inscription have double meanings. The flame is one of remembrance of those who died in darkness and obscurity, fighting for America's freedom, and were buried in unmarked graves. But the flame also is one of remembrance of those who died and are known to posterity, those who fought for freedom and died while America was still in the darkness of tyranny. They died not knowing whether the flame of liberty would shine for their families and friends.
The flame thus represents both remembrance and liberty itself.
The inscription has both of these meanings as well, contrasting the darkness of obscurity with Philadelphia's choice to remember its brave dead, and contrasting the darkness of tyranny with the light of freedom.
Last month, I had the honor of attending the "Being an American" celebration for high school essay contest winners. The contest is a remarkable program of the Bill of Rights Institute. The contest asked students to address this topic: "What civic value(s) do you believe are most essential to being an American, and how can you personally put those values into practice?"
These questions never get old. The speakers at the event reinforced the positive side of what people do when we fight for individual rights, civil rights—human rights. When we tell a government in no uncertain terms what it may not do, it is because we believe in something positive that human beings and citizens can do.
Let us celebrate Memorial Day with these points in mind.