Speaking at the 153rd National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, President Joe Biden used the event to claim that democracy is under attack, that “democracy” is the “soul of America,” and that diversity has always been an “incredible strength” when it comes to the armed forces.
“You know, America has been forged in the battle and the fires of war. Our freedom and the freedom of innumerable others has been secured by young men and women who answered the call of history and gave everything in the service of an idea: the idea of America,” Biden said. “It’s the greatest idea in the long history of humankind. An idea that we’re all created equal in the image of Almighty God. That we’re all entitled to dignity, as my father would say, and respect, decency, and honor. Love of neighbor. They’re not empty words, but the vital, beating heart of our nation.”
“And that democracy must be defended at all costs, for democracy makes all this possible. Democracy — that’s the soul of America, and I believe it’s a soul worth fighting for, and so do you; a soul worth dying for. Heroes who lie in eternal peace in this beautiful place, this sacred place, they believed that too,” Biden claimed.
The president then continued to argue that America has experienced a “perennial battle” between “our worst instincts” which “we’ve seen of late,” and that such a battle is characterized as “greed” against “generosity.”
Biden then claimed that “The Americans of Lexington and Concord, of New Orleans, Gettysburg, the Argonne, Iwo Jima and Normandy, Korea and Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and thousands of places in between weren’t fighting for dictators,” but were “fighting for democracy.”
“They weren’t fighting to exclude or to enslave; they were fighting to build and broaden and liberate. They weren’t fighting for self; they were fighting for the soul of the nation, for liberty and simple fair play — simple fair play and decency,” the president said.
Biden then shifted to use the sacrifice of American service men and women as a political platform, and presented democracy as “more than a form of government.”
“[Democracy is] a way of being; it’s a way of seeing the world,” Biden said, before describing democracy in an arguably collectivist context.
“The lives of billions, from antiquity to our own hour, have been shaped by the battle between aspirations of the many and the greed of the few. Between people’s right to self-determination and the self-seeking of the dictator. Between dreams of democracy and appetites for autocracy, which we’re seeing around the world,” Biden said. “Our troops have fought this battle on fields around the world, but also the battle of our time. And the mission falls to each of us, each and every day. Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world.”
“What we do now — what we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure. We all take it for granted. We think we learned in school. You have to — every generation has to fight for it,” Biden continued. “But, look, it’s the biggest question: Whether a system that prizes the individual, that bends towards liberty, that gives everybody a chance at prosperity — whether that system can and will prevail against powerful forces that wish it harm.”
After again claiming that “the struggle for the soul of America itself” is part of the fight for democracy, Biden then made claims about both the electoral system and the media.
“Folks, you all know it: Democracy thrives when the infrastructure of democracy is strong; when people have the right to vote freely and fairly and conveniently; when a free and independent press pursues the truth, founded on facts, not propaganda; when the rule of law applies equally and fairly to every citizen, regardless of where they come from or what they look like,” Biden said.
Biden then concluded by claiming that “empathy is the fuel of democracy.”
“Let me say that again: Empathy — empathy is the fuel of democracy, a willingness to see each other — not as enemies, neighbors. Even when we disagree, to understand what the other is going through,” Biden argued.
Biden also made a comment regarding the diversity of the armed forces, saying “Americans of all backgrounds, races, creeds, gender identities, sexual orientations, have long spilled their blood to defend our democracy,” and that “The diversity of our country and our armed services is and always has been an incredible strength.”