Editor's note: Below is the speech given by Mayor Mary Marvin at the Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 27, 2019.
By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Good Morning and God Bless America
I extend a warm welcome to all of our veterans, clergy, distinguished colleagues, and honored guests, police officers, firemen, community organizations, elected officials, residents, guests, all those who graciously participated in our parade, and all the children. This is the 99th 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. A special welcome of thanks I extend to all the veterans in the audience may God bless all our veterans and the men and women protecting us today, may He comfort those living with pain and loss, and may He never cease to shed his grace on all those who fought and died. I turn to give a special recognition to our grand marshal this year, judge and veteran George McKinnis. A son of the heartland, George graduated from Oklahoma University as an Army second lieutenant, having gone through the ROTC program. He then went to the Infantry Officers Leadership School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and thereafter to duty.
George was called to duty during the Berlin Crisis. Driving from Michigan to Fort Lewis, Washington, with his life in an Army locker, George immediately took command of an infantry platoon and was part of the Strategic Air Command qualified to be flown to any active theater of war.
He was ordered on multiple occasions onto large transport planes with engines running, not knowing what was next–and his sense of duty never ended.
A resident of the village since 1977, he has served Bronxville with the same call to duty, dedication, and grace.
George served our village for 30 years, 24 as justice, also counsel to two mayors and the zoning board of appeals and wrote the village’s ethics policy. As judge, George founded the Restorative Justice Program, a template for the entire state emphasizing rehabilitation over punishment.
George was our Rotary Club president three different times, legal advisor to Rotary district governors, nine years at the helm of the Bronxville Beautification Committee as president, and former president of the Working Gardeners.
George, thank you for letting us honor you for your service to country and community.
I stand here today with a heightened sense of honest sadness at the seemingly unprecedented level of division in our country on a day when we come together to honor the men and women who fought and died to preserve the United States of America. We must honor their sacrifice by committing to reinforce the ties that bind us, not divide us as a nation.
For remember, the historical basis of our American solidarity, our American Dream, was not any racial or ethnic identity, nor religious belief or political party, rather, it was based on the universal moral ideas embodied in American culture set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
We are the only country in the world which tries to listen to the teachings of its founders as if they were still alive and guiding us. We just need to listen a little harder.
In researching Memorial Day, I learned that the holiday’s origin was as a day of reconciliation.
The holiday ceremony was patterned after one in Columbus, Mississippi, where local women laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in their local cemetery. I can’t imagine a greater act of patriotism and reconciliation.
This was at a time of unprecedented rancor and deep divisions in the country as 750,000 citizens, or 2% of the national population, died fighting one another--often family against family.
Though not nearly as catastrophic, as we celebrate today. some 150-plus years later, we are experiencing deep national division.
Let us learn from the origin of this holiday. It is a message to us standing here at this moment. Those who fought in the Civil War were each valiant in a cause they believed, so committed they were willing to give their lives, but at strife’s end, they came together for the greater good, to be citizens of the last best hope on earth.
As Americans, we thankfully do not speak with one voice, but we do have so much in common to unite us. According to a recent Pew Research poll, Americans are more optimistic, more generous, more compassionate, have a greater capacity for empathy, most value togetherness, and have the greatest desire for improving our lot in life than any other citizens of the developed nations in the world.
America is hope. It is compassion. It is excellence. It is valor.
We owe it to all the brave veterans here and those whose names are etched on this flagpole and every veteran across our great nation to fight our own battle for the United States of America.
Our goal going forward is perfectly articulated by Justice Thurgood Marshall: "In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”
Thank you and God Bless America.
Photo by N. Bower
Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.