Cover Photo by Mark R. Day

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Speech: “Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address and its relevance to current times”.

Address given on the 4th of July 2015, at the graveside of Thomas Jefferson 3rd President of the United States, Writer of the Declaration of Independence, Author of the Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom, and Founder of the University of Virginia.

Comments made prior to speech:   I asked how many of those present at this ceremony, had also attended the naturalization ceremony, held earlier that morning.  Every hand in the audience went up.   I then explained the reason for my asking the question by saying that, if they had attended the earlier ceremony they had heard Judge Stevens talk on Jefferson's political conundrum over  the issue of free speech vs. the actions of Constitutionally elected or appointed  officers and the laws / policies  they enacted.  I further stated that, the judge's comments were the perfect prelude to my intended address because he had shown how political divisions had arose from the actions of Jefferson.  Divisions which could have potentially destroyed the young American Constitutional Republic .

Text of the Address titled: “Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address and its relevance to current times”.

Past VASSAR Presidents Taylor and Williams, Regent Inman, fellow Compatriots, Daughters, friends, and guest,

Good morning to each of you as we once again gather at this hallowed place where lies Thomas Jefferson, who was perhaps the loudest voice for civil liberties and civil rights among our founding fathers.

I must confess that as the days rapidly passed by during June, I struggled to grasp an appropriate message for today's ceremony honoring the birth of our nation 239 years ago.  In past years, I have spoken on topics ranging from Thomas Jefferson's legacy in public education to Jefferson's thoughts on the celebration of our independence, and I wanted this year's  message to continue in a tradition of being useful and instructional to our current times and lives.  Many idea's floated through my mind as, I researched the documents and personal correspondence of Mr. Jefferson, however nothing grabbed my full attention until, I read Jefferson's First Inaugural Address.

You see Mr. Jefferson was becoming President at a critical moment in our history.  The address was given on march 4th 1801, about four months after the November General Election and following an extended period of voting by the House of Representatives, which was required to break an Electoral College tie between himself and Aaron Burr.  To say the least Jefferson's campaign and election had been far from harmonious or unifying.   The Campaign was one of the ugliest and vicious in American history and had stirred the passions of many. 

So standing there on that March day, Thomas Jefferson on the occasion of his elevation to the Presidency had to show evidence of real leadership not partisanship.  He would have to stress the need for unity and union between all factions and parties and to convince Americans that, every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.  To underscore his point Jefferson said "the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions, and exertions has sometimes worn an aspect, which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and write what they think, but this [the election] being now decided by the voice of the nation and announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good."  Jefferson wants the people to understand that while Americans can be passionate in pursuit of their political goals and the freedom of debate, which is not found in all nations, allows the expression of opinions; there will come a time when the votes will be counted and a decision made.   Jefferson's purpose is to set the ground rules for the peaceful transition of power between differing political parties by saying the Constitutional process has been followed, the people have spoken, and the decision is made; so now we must follow the law  Jefferson is very concerned with American unity, for he doubts that liberty can last without unity.    The Greatness of Jefferson is clearly shown by his exceptional ability to grasp the key factor required for governing a pluralistic and economically diversified nation like America.  Political religious, social, and economic positions will always be debated but they should never become obstacles to unity once our Constitutional principles and rules have lead to a decision.  American stability and success can only be secured by observing the law.

Jefferson, the great radical voice, is setting limits.  He is fearful that if political and religious intolerance was countenanced; it would infuriate the people, promote hate, breed violence, and extinguish liberty.  In answer to political intolerance he says "We are all Federalist we are all Republicans," what Jefferson means is that, now as Americans we must unify under the law.  Jefferson was concerned with the destructive force negative perceptions  of the government would provoke.   Yes free speech must be secured but in answer to those who would use that right to create disunity he says "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or change its Republican form, let them stand as monuments of safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."  Then again later in the address Jefferson adds this "would an honest patriot, in full tide of successful experiment abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm . . . I believe this . . . the strongest government on the face of the earth.  I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law.   Jefferson understands, that there will always be some who would rather destroy the nation rather than observe the legitimate decisions  made by the government through the Constitutional process.  For human nature being what it is men will be determined to have things their way and according to their principles.  However such imposition is not always going to secure the common good of all citizens.  Mr. Jefferson, while confident in Americans, still reminds us that we must abide by a, in his words, sacred principle, that though the majority is in all cases to prevail, that which is rightful must also be reasonable.  Laws must protect the equal rights of minorities, doing otherwise would be oppression.

The second un-unifying intolerance Mr. Jefferson was concerned with is religious intolerance.  In a letter to Jeremiah Moor in 1800 Jefferson wrote, "The clergy by getting themselves by law into the machine of government have been a very formidable engine against civil and religious rights."  Jefferson, having written the Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom which created separation of church and state, was aware that the imposition of religion and its tenets on government could severely limit civil and religious rights.

 Jefferson was also aware that civic virtue required training in morality and values, which the church provided.  Going forward to his Inaugural address in 1801 Jefferson says the following "enlightened by a benign religion, professed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating truth, honesty, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence, which by it dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter."  In truth  Jefferson sees religion as both a divisive and unifying force.  His letter to Mr. Moor shows his concern for combining religion and government along with his belief that such a marriage would inevitably result in a loss of civil liberties, but in his Inaugural address he tempers his rhetoric while still maintaining his underlying message by using the word benign to describe religion and leaving all mention of governance out of the list of tasks the church, in his opinion, should accomplish.

Yes Jefferson found himself at the center of a rising storm at a moment in which Americans would have to accept changes in Governance and policy.  That many would have strong feelings and diverging opinions was clearly understood.   However Jefferson was ready to take on the challenges and Americans followed his lead, even while holding onto strong opinions.  This was accomplished through Jefferson's firm stand for freedom of speech, without interference from the government, while reminding Americans that reason, unity and stability were required to maintain our freedoms.

To this point we have discovered how Jefferson dealt with the issues of diverse opinion, as he came to office in 1801.   But what does that mean today.

Today as them America is a nation of diverse opinions and beliefs.  There are deep divisions in our politics, culture, and understanding of religion.  We as a people are in the midst of a great debate about the direction our nation will take in the Twenty-first Century.  In 1801 Thomas Jefferson chose to be open to the opinions of all Americans, while working to limit the temptations of political and religious intolerance, allow the Constitutional process, upon which our great republic is founded to unfold, and affirm his faith in Americans to abide by the elections and laws that resulted

This week while working on this address, I had a conversation with a longtime friend who, I noticed had failed to give honor to the national flag during a meeting we were attending.  He explained to me, that he was having trouble honoring the flag as he no longer felt it represented his beliefs.  In that moment, my mind turned to the words of Jefferson's Inaugural and his message of American unity.  My friend no longer felt unity with his nation and my heart sank.  My friend had put his beliefs and opinions  ahead of his nation and I was at a loss for words.

Jefferson was concerned for his nation and he believed that freedom would be lost and if Americans were not unified under the Constitutional process and obedient to the law, while working for change through the proper channels.  Jefferson felt the resulting disunity would destroy the nation.  An example of such disunion can be found in four year blood-bath of the American Civil War, during which time 750,000 Americans were killed by Americans.

In America we all have the right to disagree on policies, laws, and to express our opinions about the government.   In his Inaugural address President Jefferson is instructing us to have patience and to respect the Great Nation and Government we have created here. 

We the people must support the rule of law and the Constitutional process or risk the failure of our democratic experiment in self government.  Are we up to the challenge?  I hope so, for after all the Constitution is our charter of liberties and the law is a reflection of our collective not individual will.

Thank you

 Written and presented by Mark R. Day 7-4-15.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 7-4-15, all rights reserved

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Poem: The Lives of Ants and Men

The smallest creatures, ants and such, work intently as they go about their business

Observing them, as they move through the blades of green and patches of brown soil, they seem to instinctively know their purpose.

They take no notice of my presence; except to repair the damage done to their world by my clumsy stride.

They do not look up but rather proceed on with their lives undistracted and unconcerned with mankind.

What then is man to the natural world other than an inconvenience.

A natural disaster to be dealt with, overcome, and forgotten
Written by Mark R. Day 6/8/15.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 6/8/15, all rights reserved.
This is the final poem written at the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg on June 8th 2015.  It was inspired by the little black ants, which were busily working away beneath my legs as, I sat on the hilside in the bright sunshine.

Poem: Lessons Taught by a Blue Bloom

Small and insignificant a lone blue flower sways atop its long stem.

The wind gently rocks the bloom its long stem moving like a metronome.

The wind blows stiffly at times causing the petals of the plant to puff and twist.

Occasionally the stem seemingly bends to the earth like a child reaching for its mother.

In this small and insignificant plant there is a metaphor and  an example for us.

Strength comes in flexibility

Beauty is often revealed under pressure

Comfort is always near

Written by Mark R. Day 6/8/15.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 6/8/15, all rights reserved.

This is a the second of three poems written while relaxing on a sunny hillside in Lynchburg VA. at the Old City Cemetery

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Poem: Journey on the Rails of Life

Railroad tracks, rusty brown and unending; they stretch silently and motionless before my eyes.

On and on toward the horizon going nowhere and everywhere as they disappear into the distance.

Railroad tracks are as mysterious and unknown as life itself; stretching onward seemingly without end.

Life, like railroad tracks; has its way-points, emergency stops and final destinations.
Some are just intermediate stops which may offer rest; while others signal a journeys end.

Ultimately we all book passage and our choices create the route that is taken.

Some routes are slow and scenic and others are quick and wrought with woes.

However, the choice may or may not be our own volition;  as fate is a cruel villain who waits beyond each bend.
Written by Mark R. Day 6/8/15.  Copyright by Mark. R. Day 6/8/15, all rights reserved.
"One of a number of poems that was written in Old City Cemetery on 5/8/15.  This one was inspired as I sat on  a hill looking at the Norfolk Southern Railroad track, which runs behind the cemetery."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Speech: Keynote Address at ceremonies honoring Robert H. Day in Evergreen Burial Park, Roanoke, Va May 23, 2015

Mayor Bowers, Mr. Wilson, Reverend Smith, Mr.  Barber (SCV), Ms. Mador (OCR), Mrs. Smith (UDC), Mr. Day, Brothers of the SUVCW, members of the SCV and UDC, friends and guest.
Paraphrased extemporaneous remarks: Good morning.  As, I drove here this morning from Lynchburg, I had opportunity to pass by several cemeteries, and I noticed the many flags which were waving over the graves of our veterans.  Each of those silent sentinels,  waving in the morning breeze, marked the resting place of an American hero.  If you look to your left or right you will see the flags that wave here in Evergreen Burial Park and we understand ourselves to be surrounded by the men who gave much that we should have freedom.  It is our duty to honor their sacrifice on Memorial Day.  Let us never fail to do so. 

I would like to start with a quote
As we gather today to recognize Robert H. Day, I think it fitting that we consider the idea of dignity.  For dignity is a virtue each of us seeks and dignity is the foundation of the human experience.
     To understand the importance of Major Robert H. Day's life and his many contributions in the history of Roanoke, we will have to make a journey back in history to the years 1865 through 1876.  This was the time following the Civil war, which we now call Reconstruction.  During these years America face uncertainty and restlessness, and though the Civil War had come to an end at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and Bennett Place in North Carolina, with the surrender of R.E. Lee and Joseph Johnson, the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln cast a pall over the nation and the specter of Reconstruction created apprehension in the South.   Many people wondered what form reconstruction would take and how it would be administered and some just hoped for a just and fair outcome, while preparing for the worst.  The war had left many southern cities in ruin and the need for rebuilding the economy was a priority.  It is here then that two key elements, which lead to the creation of current day Roanoke must be mentioned.  First our region of Virginia, while attacked on several occasions, was less seriously damaged than others regions and secondly our geography, being situated at the head of the Shenandoah Valley, along the Roanoke River, would play a large role in emerging successfully from Reconstruction.  Following the war the village / hamlet of Big Lick, now called Roanoke, became an important stop on the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Ohio Railroad.  In 1881 the AM&O was purchased by a Northern banking firm, which also controlled the Shenandoah Valley Railroad and merged the two in order to form the Norfolk and Western Railway.  Almost immediately economic growth began as coal from the Appalachian Mountains began to flow through Roanoke on its way to Steel Mills in the North.  Coincidentally the railroad now also brought us another asset in the form of Robert H. Day a gentleman who would leave his mark on Roanoke. 
     Robert H. Day was born September 28, 1835, during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson, in Bridgewater Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.  Robert was apprenticed to the Erie Railroad in 1849 as a machinist for a term of three years.  In 1852 he was promoted to Fireman and twenty-one months later he became a full-fledged Locomotive Engineer.  In 1858 Robert resigned from the Erie Railroad and taking Horace Greeley's advice went west in search of work in his chosen field.  After spending a short time in Texas he migrated to the city of New Orleans where he became connected with the Tallert and Bro's Company, which was headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, building stationary engines for Grist Mills and Cotton Gins.   At the outbreak of Civil War Robert Day returned to the North and enlisted as a private in the 56th Pennsylvania Infantry Company D. and rose quickly through the ranks due to his uncommon valor and leadership abilities.  He was promoted from 1st Sgt. to 2nd Lt. in September 1862, and was severely wounded at the Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run).  Following a long period of recovery he rejoined his unit and was promoted to 1st Lt. on March 1st 1863 and Capt. on June 13th 1863.  Robert was taken prisoner during the first day's battle at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 and was imprisoned in Richmond's infamous at Libby Prison.  Captain Day was one of the leaders of an escape from Libby in February of 1864 but was recaptured and sent to several Confederate Prisoner of War Camps in Georgia and the Carolina's.  Only with the arrival of General William Tecumseh Sherman's army in the Carolina's was Captain Day freed from captivity and he was discharged from the Union Army on January 10, 1865.
     Upon his discharge Robert returned to Pennsylvania and began working once again for the Erie Railroad and played a significant role as line superintendent and later as locomotive superintendent with various divisions of the Erie.  In 1882 Robert accepted the position of Road Foreman for the newly created Norfolk and Western Railway on the Shenandoah line and relocated his family to Roanoke, formerly known as Big Lick and quickly became active in local civics and economic development and distinguished himself a leader in several national organizations of that era.  He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War Veterans group, which sought to assist the wives and orphans of Union Soldiers and played a increasingly powerful role in national politics.  He was also a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Engineers, an organization that continues to this very day, and he was a member of the Libby Prison Tunnel Association.    Robert H. Day's contributions to the city of Roanoke include being connected with the Roanoke Street Railway, which began service in 1887, as its superintendent.   Robert himself drove the teams of mules used to pull the cars and on one occasion had the unfortunate experience of having the mules kicking a fender off a car and striking him.  In 1892 the mule pulled cars where replaced with electric cars and "The Major" as people had taken to calling Robert was elected by the board of managers of the Roanoke Electric Light and Power Company, as General Manager, and had also been at one time the President and General Manager of the Old Dominion paper Bag Company. 
     Robert H. Day was a man born in the North, Trained in the North, and who fought for the Northern Cause fortunately however,  Robert H. Day  was also a man who came to Roanoke with the Railroad and contributed to the revitalization of this city and the greater region it serves.  Roanoke owes this great pioneer a great debt of gratitude, which we can only begin to repay today with this simple ceremony.  Robert was once introduced in the following manner.  "We have with us today one who has grown gray in the faithful and self-sacrificing service . . . whose fidelity and unswerving loyalty to duty, whose character unsullied and spotless as a man . . . . has become enshrined in the hearts of each and every member.  His life has been like an open book, to be read by all men . . . a life worth of emulation by all.  No granite shaft or bronze token will then be needed to preserve his name . . . and when the granite shaft that marks the tomb of some heroic dead . . . shall have crumbled to dust with time . . . the name of our honored . . . friend will still be preserved.

     Today, in this ceremony we have done our best to preserve the name of Robert H. Day.  Let his name find its place in the storied history of Roanoke and let no one forget that he lived his life in service to the greater good of mankind, as a soldier, a leader, a visionary, and a faithful citizen of this his adopted home city.  It is my dearest hope that everyone here will remember the name of Robert H. Day and will strive to teach the next generation about his virtuous qualities and his human dignity.   Men who possess such  characteristics  as humility and self-sacrifice provide the right kind of example for future generations fight for the noble cause, involve themselves in the betterment of humanity, and do the great things which they did not dream possible.   May God grant Robert Day his eternal grace and may God grant each of us the knowledge that we hold the power to preserve or ignore history and the men and women who gave us this great country and may he guide us to do what is right.

Written and presented by Mark R. Day 5-23-15 at Evergreen Burial Park.  Copyright by Mark R. Day 5-23-15, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Speech: Address given Memorial Day May 25th 2015 in Red Hook, New York

Mayor Blondell, Commander Moore, my fellow veterans, friends, and citizens of Red Hook
Good morning.  My thanks to Post 7765 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars for their invitation to speak today.  I have never felt more honored by anything before and I will remember this moment all of my life. 

Paraphrased extemporaneous comments I made in response to the size of the crowd: I am overwhelmed by the sight of so many people here in this park.  Truly the people of Red Hook are proving their commitment to remembering their veterans.  I live in Bedford, Virginia the home of the National D-Day Memorial and as we join here this morning people are also gathering there, but my heart tells me that the crowd here in this small park in this small village, in the Mid-Hudson Valley is as large as or even larger than that which will gather this morning in Bedford and you should be proud of yourselves for your outstanding commitment to our honored dead.

We are gathered here in a solemn ceremony of remembrance for those men from Red Hook who in the words of Abraham Lincoln “gave the last full measure of devotion” to their country.  Their names appear before us cut into the two granite stones, which lie before us in this Memorial Garden.

In a few minutes we will call the roll of these our hometown hero’s, flags will be place, taps will be played and rifle salutes will roll like thunder over this ground.  For some this will bring a close to Memorial Day and signal other celebrations of the day.  However, for others this will only be the beginning of their conversations about their Great Grandfathers, Grandfathers, Fathers, Brothers, Sons, and yes Daughters who served this country, and are still serving it today in faraway places.

As a child growing up in Red Hook Memorial Day was a time of excitement and parades.  Yet, I still remember the hush which accompanied the roll call of the names of the honored dead, and the chill, which the playing of taps sent up and down the spine.  Oh and yes I recall that startled flinch when the rifles were fired.

All of this made me aware that something important was taking place, but I did not fully understand.  I suspect many in this crowd have experienced similar feelings and may also understand that Memorial Day is special, but not really and truly know why.

In America today only 1% of the population will serve in the military.  Gone are the days when the majority of men in this community saw active service and experienced the sense of duty to country and comrades, which creates the bond of remembrance.  It is harder now for most individuals to see this as more than a simple ceremony, which is repeated every year out of tradition, but that is not so for those of us who served in peacetime or wartime.  We have a duty to ensure our brothers are never forgotten.  For us Memorial Day is an act of reverence and an opportunity to educate our future generations about loyalty, brotherhood, and the value of devotion to our principles.

Let me close with a few questions, which I ask you to think about as you leave today’s ceremony.

                         If we will not remember these men who sacrificed all, who will?
                         If we do not teach our children the meaning of devotion and self-sacrifice, who will?
                         If we do not hold this day precious and sacred, then what do we stand for?

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity speak.  May God bless these our fallen heroes, may the grace of God be with all who served, and may God grant each of us the knowledge and strength to pass on this story of remembrance for the fallen.

Written and presented by Mark R. Day 5-25-15, copyright by Mark R. Day, 5-25-15, all rights reserved.

Note: I was asked to be the speaker for the annual Memorial Day Ceremony in my hometown of Red Hook, New York.  I was directed that the address be short and that it reflect the significance of the day.  This version of the address is the third and final draft.  It was written while sitting at the kitchen table of my sisters house, number 3 Graves St., between 7:45 and 8:30 am on the 25th of May.  The first person to hear the address was my sister Cindy.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Prayer: Senior Day Offering 5-17-15

Lord we present these offerings and gifts to you in then knowledge that, they will be used as a blessing which promotes the work of building your kingdom here on Earth and we fervently pray, that you will look upon our offering, our prayers, and our service as expressions of our love and devotion as disciples of Christ. 

Lord we pray, that as our prayers ascend to you this morning, you love will abide with us forever through your son Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.


written by Mark R. Day, copyrighted by Mark R. Day 5/17-15, all rights reserved