‘Democracy Itself Is At Peril’: Biden Memorial Day Speech Honors Fallen Heroes, Focuses On ‘Struggle For Democracy’

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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President Joe Biden focused on the “struggle for democracy” while honoring America’s fallen heroes during Monday’s remarks at Arlington Cemetery.

After the annual wreath-laying ceremony, Biden referred to fallen service members as “those who gave their all in the service of America, in the service of freedom” and “in the service of justice.” He asked Americans to remember their “sacrifice,” “valor,” “grace” and “transcendent humanity” in a speech that repeatedly brought up democracy and what fallen service members fought for.

“Democracy must be defended at all costs because democracy makes all this possible. Democracy: That’s the soul of America,” Biden declared. “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, the sacred place, they believe that too. The soul of America is animated by the perennial battle between our worst instincts, which we’ve seen of late, and our better angels. Between ‘me first’ and ‘we the people.'”

“These Americans weren’t fighting for dictators,” the president said of those he honored. “They were fighting for democracy. They weren’t fighting to exclude or 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. Today, as we remember their sacrifice, we remind ourselves of our duty to their memory. To the future they fought for. We owe the honored dead a debt we can never fully repay.”

“We owe them our whole souls. We owe them our best efforts to perfect the union for which they died.”


Biden, referring to the world-wide “struggle for democracy,” called on Americans to take up the “mission” that “troops fought … around the world” and declared that “democracy itself is in peril.” He also pushed the media to pursue “truth instead of propaganda” and made some political swipes, particularly about “the right to vote,” during the speech.

The president’s voting references come after he called a Texas voting bill “un-American” and an “assault on democracy.” Texas Democrats prevented the voting bill from being passed by walking out out of the Texas Capitol chamber Sunday night. (RELATED: ‘Insulting’: Biden, Harris Criticized For Memorial Day Weekend Tweets That Failed To Mention Fallen Soldiers)

During his speech, Biden began by referencing his son Beau Biden, who served in the Delaware Army National Guard and died six years ago Sunday after a battle with brain cancer. The president spoke of the pain of losing a loved one and promised that “comfort” and “reassurance” would come in time for those mourning.


“All of you who are fighting with the fresh pain of loss, as hard as it is to believe, I promise you this: The day will come when the image of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes,” Biden said. “The Bible teaches: ‘Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted.’ That comfort, that reassurance can be a long time in coming, but it will come. I promise you. And my prayer for all of you is that that day will come sooner rather than later.”