“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers, who had died during the American Civil War. It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead. After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women, who died in any war or military action.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. The current name for this day did not come into use until after World War II. Decoration Day and then Memorial Day used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week, on which it fell. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed as part of a move to use federal holidays to create three-day weekends. This meant that that, from 1971, Memorial Day holiday has been officially observed on the last Monday in May. However, it took a longer period for all American states to recognize the new date.
Uniform holiday bill
THE BILL that we sign today will help Americans to enjoy more fully the country that is their magnificent heritage. It will also aid the work of Government and bring new efficiency to our economy.
This bill provides that three of our national holidays will be celebrated on Monday:
–Washington’s Birthday on the third Monday in February,
–Memorial Day on the last Monday in May,
–Veterans Day on the fourth Monday in October. The bill will take effect on January 1, 1971. State legislatures will thus have time to act for observances in local government offices and in private employment.
This will mean a great deal to our families and our children. It will enable families who live some distance apart to spend more time together. Americans will be able to travel farther and see more of this beautiful land of ours. They will be able to participate in a wider range of recreational and cultural activities.
The bill also establishes Columbus Day as a Federal holiday–to be celebrated on the second Monday in October. Thirty-four of our States have already established a day honoring Christopher Columbus. It is fitting now that we give national expression to our faith in the spirit of discovery embodied by this great adventurer. This new holiday will henceforth honor one of our finest and most cherished national characteristics–our ability to live and work together, men and women of all national origins, as one united and progressive nation.
The provisions of this bill insure a minimum of five regularly recurring 3-day weekends each year for Federal employees. The costs will be offset to an important degree by avoiding disruptions of Government business through Monday observance of holidays.
The private employer will enjoy similar gains in efficiency. The Monday holiday will stimulate greater industrial and commercial production, sparing business and labor the penalty of midweek shutdowns.