Philanthropy and the Spirit of Memorial Day

As I write this post, the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S. is about to begin. I had some difficulty deciding what to write about this week. Should I do something about fundraising nuts and bolts, or should I do something else? The more I pondered, the more I began to see a connection between philanthropy and the spirit of Memorial Day. So, practical how-to fundraising advice will have to wait until next week as I share my thoughts about philanthropy and Memorial Day with you this week.

Arlington National Cemetary

Philanthropy means “love of humanity.” The term is believed to have been first used in the ancient Greek play Prometheus Bound, perhaps as long as 2,500 years ago. In the play, Prometheus, a Titan, gives two gifts to the primitive creatures that were not yet quite human. He gives them fire, which was symbolic of all knowledge, and optimism. The idea was that with knowledge, humans would have hope; and, with optimism, humans would be able to effectively deploy their knowledge. These gifts were what made the creatures human.

Today, the meaning of philanthropy has been broadened, though at its core remains love, knowledge, and hope. The late Robert Payton, the first full-time executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University who passed on May 19, 2011, defined philanthropy as “voluntary action for the public good.”

For many, the Memorial Day weekend represents the unofficial start of summer. It’s a day off from work that often involves picnics, parades, fireworks, and good times with family and friends. I love the fun aspects of this holiday as much as the next person. But, I’m also reminded of the original purpose of the holiday. Memorial Day is a time for us to remember the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service to the nation.

The men and women of our armed forces voluntarily served, even if drafted. After all, they chose to step-up and fulfill their duty by answering the call. They served for what they believed to be the public good. While we all have sacrificed something, some have sacrificed all. Memorial Day belongs to those who loved humanity so much that they were willing to give their lives. They gave their lives in the hope that we would be able to use our knowledge to build a better world as a result. Through our philanthropy, we will make sure that their philanthropy was not in vain.

This Memorial Day, please take some time to remember those who have given their lives in service to our nation. Please also remember the enormous sacrifice of the families of the fallen. At 3:00 PM, local time on Monday, May 30, the nation will observe a moment of silence. I hope you will participate. And, during that moment, I encourage you to consider your own spirit of philanthropy. Are you doing everything you can to honor the fallen by making the world better?

I hope some of you will leave comments with your thoughts about Memorial Day. And, I hope some of you will honor the memory of a loved one you have lost in service to the nation by sharing their story.

That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?

3 Responses to “Philanthropy and the Spirit of Memorial Day”

  1. Michael, this is very inspirational and appreciated from a veteran that volunteered at age 21, as a single mother, to serve my Country and attempt to offer my daughter a quality of life that she might not otherwise have had. Memorial Day is a very special day to honor heroes past and present. So, thank you, my friend, for doing your part to honor my fellow veterans and their families Monday, May 30, 2012. Love ya! Parthenia

    • Parthenia, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Coming from you, the comment means a great deal to me. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank you for your service to the nation and for your current efforts to help others. Your life of service has touched a great many lives. You’re an inspiration.


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