Colorado State University joins our nation in the celebration of Memorial Day to honor all those in the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation and our freedoms. As we reflect upon those we honor, let us also recognize the responsibility that falls to all of us who live in this country that members of the military have given their lives to serve. As President Lincoln said at Gettysburg in 1863:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

In our pluralistic society, of course, many see what these men and women died to defend differently. As, indeed, did many of those who gave their lives.  But therein may lie the underlying commonality among those who risked and made the ultimate sacrifice, and those of us who strive to carry on what Lincoln described as their “unfinished work”: That our nation has dedicated itself for over 240 years to the principle that it is our right to disagree and to debate, that it is our right to do so free from fear, that we pledge ourselves to protect this right for each other – even for those with whom we may passionately disagree, and that some among us have felt this commitment so keenly and honored this pledge so faithfully that they no longer walk among us.

As members of a public University community, we honor their memory best by upholding our own commitment to this commonality … through our belief that what we do empowers those who follow us to make the most of their opportunities, and, in doing so, takes a small step toward ensuring the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all among us. Ours is less than a lighter burden – it is a privilege made possible by those whose sacrifices we honor on this day.


Dr. Tony Frank