Biden honors fallen service members, defends 'right to vote freely and fairly' in Memorial Day speech

  • President Biden honored fallen soldiers at a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Biden addressed the families, hoping to offer them support as they remembered their loved ones.
  • “I know the incredible pride you felt seeing your loved one wear the uniform of our country,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Memorial Day honored the fallen service members who sacrificed their lives for the US during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, speaking of the difficulties of overcoming loss and emphasizing the need for maintaining democratic values.

While speaking to military families about grief, Biden spoke of his son Beau, an Iraq War veteran who passed away from brain cancer in 2015.

Biden reassured the audience that he and first lady Jill Biden understand many of their challenges.

“To those who mourn a loved one today, Jill and I have some idea how you are feeling,” he said. “Our losses are not the same, but that black hole you feel in your chest, like it is going to suck you in, we get.”

“I know the incredible pride you felt seeing your loved one wear the uniform of our country and the pride they felt wearing it,” the president continued.

He added: “Yesterday marked the anniversary of his [Beau’s] death and it’s a hard time for me and my family just like it is for so many of you. It can hurt to remember, but the hurt is how we feel and how we heal. I always feel Beau close to me on Memorial Day. I always know where I need to be, right here honoring our fallen heroes.”

The president emphasized that US troops around the world have fought for — and continue to fight for — democracy.

Read more: What we learned about Joe Biden from riding Amtrak with a Senate colleague who has known the president for five decades

“Democracy must be defended at all costs for democracy makes all this possible,” he said. “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.”

Biden emphasized the importance of protecting democratic norms.

“Our troops have fought this battle on fields around the world but also a battle of our time, and the mission for each of us, each and every day,” he said. “Democracy itself is imperiled here at home and around the world.”

Biden then touched on voting rights, an issue that he has vocally championed as Republican-led legislatures across the country have sought to pass numerous election-related bills this year.

The president has criticized the new election law in Georgia and the restrictive voting bill under consideration in Texas, calling on Congress to pass the For the People Act, the sweeping voting rights legislation.

“Democracy thrives, and the infrastructure of democracy is strong, when people have the right to vote freely and fairly and conveniently,” he said. “This Memorial Day, remember that not all of us are called to make the ultimate sacrifice. We all are called by God and by history and by conscience to make our nation free and fair.”

After concluding his speech, Biden and the first lady were in the process of leaving Arlington Cemetery in the presidential motorcade but made an unscheduled stop to meet with several families who came to pay their respects to fallen soldiers, according to ABC News.

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