MEMORIAL DAY SPEECH
BY MAYOR MARY MARVIN
MAY 29th, 2017
Good Morning and God Bless America. I extend a special welcome to all of our Veterans, clergy, distinguished colleagues and honored guests, police officers, firemen, community organizations, elected officials, residents, guests and all the children. This is the 96th Annual Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony. What a unique and storied place this parade holds in the history of our Village.
The last few years we have renewed our efforts to ensure that honoring our servicemen and women takes its rightful place on center stage so we do not ever take for granted those most deserving of our gratitude today – and our Grand Marshall this year Donald Gray, is one of those veterans so worthy of recognition. Donald thank you for letting us honor you here today.
A proud native of Savannah Georgia, Donald has lived in the Village 36 years with his wife of 50 years, Kathy and raised three children educated at our School. Donald is a proud alum of Georgia Tech as a mechanical engineer and also of Harvard Business School Graduate followed by a long and distinguished career on Wall Street.
Involved in every phase of Village life, Donald was a Board Member of our Adult School, of Gramatan Village, and Chairman of both the Community Fund and the Bronxville Historical Conservancy as well as the recipient of Concordia’s highest award for service to our community.
And I know him best having served with him during his eight year tenure as a Village Trustee.
In an earlier period of life, Donald’s service to our military was as a US Army artillery officer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he qualified to be a missile officer as well as an instructor. Donald’s area of expertise was focused on Cold War concerns with an emphasis on then East Germany and their capabilities. He has a lifelong regard for those with whom he served – one gentlemen a Cal Tech PHD and another who came to the army with a masters in physics.
Donald exemplifies service to Country, to community and to government. Many of our nation’s veterans have also gone on to serve at all levels of government and like Donald have proven to be a steady hand, even tempered, a team player and a consensus builder.
No more important than at this period in our Nation’s history do we need people of these qualities in every aspect of government.
Many historians are now correlating the peak of bipartisanship and the resulting passage of significant substantive legislation with the number of veterans in Congress.
Up until the late 1970’s, 80% of Congressional members were veterans vs less than 20% right now, the lowest since the 1930’s.
Statesmen such as Carl Albert, Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, Tom Harkin, John McCann and John F. Kennedy were veterans not afraid to be called mediators, compromisers or the dreaded word bipartisan.
I’m not saying service to Country is a prerequisite to being an effective legislator, rather I’d just urge us to adopt some of our veterans most positive character traits – an expansive world view, good judgement under pressure, love of country over self and the understanding that consensus is often needed to achieve the best course for America.
I believe we can all benefit from emulating our Veteran public servants - individuals with a moderating influence, an understanding of sacrifice knowing at the end of the day what truly matters.
Historians tell the wonderful stories of the most diametrically philosophically opposed but equally knowledgeable, passionate and deeply committed politicians, Hubert Humphrey and Barry Goldwater duking it out on the Senate floor and then joking as they headed out for a drink together.
As Senator Bob Dole, a decorated World War II hero said, “In World War II we knew that the enemy was the guy at the other end of the battle field, it shouldn’t now be the guy at the other end of the aisle.”
Last year Congress saw the retirement of our last two WWII Veterans after 70 consecutive years of representation in government. Of the over 16 million men and woman who served in that war, less than a million are alive today and over 400 are now dying each day.
How we miss them.
We honor all of our Veterans especially those with us today but as they often tell me, it is their comrades who died in the service of our country who deserve the ultimate recognition on Memorial Day. With that in mind, I will close today by reading a poem written by WWII veteran John Magee Jr. who gave up a scholarship to Yale to enlist and who then gave his life dying in a midair collision in 1941. The poem (on page 3) was written right before he died.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
May all our Veterans who sacrificed their lives touch the face of God today.