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10 Memorial Day Quotes From Presidents That Will Inspire & Move You

There aren't really enough words to pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country. But on holidays dedicated to their service, Americans certainly try to make it known just how grateful they are for the freedoms they have been granted because of them. It's no surprise that people turn to inspirational words to show their patriotic gratitude, but if you are seeking something from the leaders of this country, then you might want to take a look at these Memorial Day quotes from presidents.

Whether you look to one of our earliest presidents who reminds you that "eternal vigilance is the price of freedom" or President Barack Obama who said we must hold our patriots' memories close to our hearts, you will find there is no shortage of inspiring words to mark this upcoming Memorial Day on May 28.

And, perhaps, it is most important to remember the words of George H. W. Bush when he said, "The loss of these Americans — indeed, the loss of any human life to war — fills us with sorrow and with strengthened resolve to work for peace."

Because the promise of freedom and peace for this country are what those brave service members are fighting for, and it's the reason we salute them — on Memorial Day and always.


“Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.” — President Calvin Coolidge

President Calvin Coolidge said these words during a 1928 address that dedicated a memorial to Colonel William Colvill, a Union colonel in the American Civil War who led the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry in the Battle of Gettysburg. Eight years later, the words still ring true.


"In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved." — President Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt said these words on Sept. 22, 1936 and they certainly honor the price the brave men and women have paid to achieve our freedom.


"Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” — President Thomas Jefferson

This quote has been attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but scholars are divided on its origins. Regardless of whether the third president of the United States said it, these words are as relevant today as they were then.


"Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay, but we can honor their sacrifice." — President Barack Obama

President Obama said these words as part of his Memorial Day Service remarks in 2011. Also notable during his speech? These few sentences: "Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay. But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must. We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts, and heeding the example they set."


"For love of country, they accepted death.” — President James A. Garfield

President Garfield spoke these words at Arlington Cemetery on May 30, 1868. Preceding this quote were a few especially powerful lines: "We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke: but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens."


“Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend, and neighbor.” — George H. W. Bush

The 41st president delivered this Prayer for Peace on Memorial Day in 1992. He also said these honest words: "Whether we observe the occasion through public ceremony or through private prayer, Memorial Day leaves few hearts unmoved."


"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." — President John F. Kennedy

These particular words were actually delivered during President Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, but the words are still fitting for Memorial Day.


“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.” — President Bill Clinton

President Clinton said these words during his first inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1993. He began this section of his speech by saying, "Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world, but the engine of our own renewal."


“I don't have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.” — President Ronald Reagan

President Reagan said these words during his message on the observance of Memorial Day on May 26, 1983, leading with: "Memorial Day is a time to take stock of the present, reflect on the past, and renew our commitment to the future of America."


"Peace is the real and right memorial for those who have died in war." — President Richard Nixon

President Nixon delivered these words during a radio address on Memorial Day on May 27, 1974. He also said, "In looking back on the past, we must not forget the present."