Today is Memorial Day in the United States – a day when Americans honor those of their countrymen who, since 1775, have paid freedom's highest price.
Of all the wars Americans have fought, by far the most costly was the Civil War. It began in 1861, when the southern states seceded from the Union over the issue of slavery. By the time the rebellion was put down in 1865, it had cost the lives of over six-hundred thousand Americans. Many foreign observers predicted that because of the intensity of the Civil War, America would never again be truly united. They said federal troops would have to be stationed in the rebellious southern states indefinitely.
But by 1877, Union troops were withdrawn from the South. Some southerners did resort to terrorism in opposition to efforts to give full citizenship to former black slaves. But most accepted the outcome of the Civil War.
A key factor in the post-war reconciliation was humane and intelligent leadership. Before his assassination in April 1865, President Lincoln had urged a policy of "malice toward none and charity for all." Captured rebels were not executed, but were permitted to return to their homes. Jefferson Davis, leader of the rebellion, told southerners to "put away all rancor and sectional feeling." Southern general Robert E. Lee told his former soldiers to "make your sons Americans."
Today a number of nations are experiencing the horror of civil war or attempting to recover from it. Like that of other countries, the American experience shows that healing is possible and that people can build a free nation. Today, people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere are trying to do just that. President George W. Bush says the forces of tyranny are losing ground:
"Freedom still faces dangerous adversaries. Terrorists still want to attack our people. But they're losing. These terrorists are losing the struggle because they're under constant pressure from our armed forces, and they will remain under constant pressure from our armed forces. And they're losing the struggle because they are on the wrong side of history."
Mr. Bush said the sacrifices of those Americans who died to defend freedom "will always be remembered by a grateful nation."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting American ideals and institutions.