WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged Americans to remember the nation's fallen heroes and honor their "willingness to lay down their lives so the rest of us might inherit the blessings of this nation."
In his weekly Saturday address, the president asked listeners to "lay a flower where they have come to rest" to commemorate the nation's Memorial Day holiday on Monday.
"On this day, we honor not just those who've worn this country's uniform, but the men and women who've died in its service, who've laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens, who've given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America," Obama said.
Obama said the formal honoring of the nation's war dead began in 1866, when a group of women went to a cemetery in Columbus, Miss., to place flowers on the graves of Confederate soldiers. When they noticed that no one had visited the nearby graves of Union soldiers, they laid flowers on those graves as well in recognition that they were fallen Americans, he said.
"A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom," Obama said.
Obama and his family are spending the holiday weekend at their home in Chicago. The president is scheduled to participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., before returning to the White House.
In Washington, Vice President Joe Biden will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
In the weekly Republican address, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the party's chief deputy whip in the House, highlighted a party website with a forum designed to solicit grass roots ideas called "America Speaking Out."
The project was inspired by town halls and public meetings over the past year, he said. The message that Republicans have taken from the participants in those events is that "Washington needs to listen," McCarthy said.
"It's time for the American people to once again have a role in driving America's agenda" he said. "For too long, Americans have felt their voice doesn't matter in Washington. But that's about to change."