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Presidents Day: Famous Eulogies for American Leaders

by | Feb 16, 2018 | For Families

President Lincoln Memorial

Presidents Day was originally created to honor our first President George Washington. Over time, it evolved into a celebration for all our nation’s presidents. With the holiday coming up, let’s look at the eulogies given for some of our nation’s most famous leaders.

President Washington

When George Washington passed away on December 14, 1799, the young nation came together to mourn its first president. Washington received many eulogies. In fact, after news of his death spread, there were more than 400 mourning ceremonies held between the time of his death until February 22, 1800. That’s when Congress dedicated a national day of mourning to honor Washington. Out of all the memorial ceremonies and speeches, perhaps the most iconic comes from Henry Lee, a major general in the Continental Army.

Here’s an excerpt from Lee’s famous eulogy:

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting…”

Read the full eulogy here.

President Lincoln

Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 stunned the nation. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 people came to view Lincoln as he lay in state in the East Room of the White House. After that, his funeral train left Washington on a tour of 12 days, retracing the route Lincoln had taken when he traveled to his inauguration in 1860.

Below is an excerpt of a eulogy delivered by the Reverend Edward Cutter:

“Abraham Lincoln died at eventide, when the sun, breaking through the scattering clouds, tinged them with gold and purple, giving promise for the morrow, and threw across the yet darkened sky the bow of hope, — harbinger of peace. But the victor may die, and the victory not be lost. The seed ripens for the harvest, though the hand of the sower be cold in death.”

Read the full eulogy here.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR was beloved by many as he led the nation through the depression and dark hours of the Second World War. As a friend and fellow statesmen, Winston Churchill delivered a eulogy for the president:

“In war he had raised the strength, might and glory of the great Republic to a height never attained by any nation in history… For us, it remains only to say that in Franklin Roosevelt there died the greatest American friend we have ever known and the greatest champion of freedom who has ever brought help and comfort from the new world to the old.”

Read the full eulogy here.

President Kennedy

In 1963, during the mounting Cold War tensions and growing Civil Rights movement, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The impact of the assassination is still widespread today, and many can recall the exact moments and memories of when they first heard the news break.

Senator Jacob Javits delivered JFK’s eulogy at a memorial service in 1963. Below is an excerpt of his speech delivered before the Senate:

“Hundreds of thousands of words have been published, and hundreds of thousands more have been spoken into the microphones of the world since John F. Kennedy was struck down in Dallas, but none of them were really adequate. Words never are in the face of senseless tragedy. Words cannot describe how the American people felt when they lost their president. Not until the vacuum of disbelief was filled with the horror of comprehension did any of us realize how much we identified ourselves, even apart from personal friendship, with the president — this intellectual, vigorous young man — and he would have been that if he were eighty — expressing the very essence of the youthfulness of our nation.”

Read the full eulogy here.

President Reagan

Nicknamed the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan was beloved by the American people as he helped lead the country out of the Cold War. He survived an assassination attempt early in his presidency and went on to be the longest-lived president ever (until Gerald Ford surpassed him). He passed away in 2004 at the age of 93.

The popular president received several eulogies, including two from both President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush. Below is a famous excerpt from the latter’s speech on Reagan:

“Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us… Now, death has done all that death can do. And as Ronald Wilson Reagan goes his way, we are left with the joyful hope he shared. In his last years, he saw through a glass darkly. Now he sees his Savior face to face.”

Read the full eulogy here.

Have other presidential eulogies inspired you? Share them with us in the comments below!


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