HISTORY OF THE AMERICANS: Sidebar: “The Soldier’s Faith,” a Memorial Day Speech.

On May 30 – Memorial Day — 1895, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a Harvard man and then a justice on the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, delivered an address to the graduating class of 1895 in Cambridge. The speech, known as “The Soldier’s Faith,” is in and of itself fascinating substantively and also for its indirect effects. Regarding those, Theodore Roosevelt, another Harvard man, read the speech some seven years later and determined to appoint Holmes to the Supreme Court on account of it.

Beyond that, the speech is incredibly prescient, in certain respects, and eloquent, even poetic, on the question of personal courage and purpose to a degree that will seem alien to most Americans today, at least those of us who have never served.

I’m not at all convinced that Holmes took the right lessons from his service, but read (and listen to) the whole thing.