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Arlington National Cemetery: From Last Resort to Lasting Honor

Hot Topics | May 28th, 2021

As we prepare to observe Memorial Day this Monday, we thought it would be fitting to shed some light on how this national holiday is inextricably linked to Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). Burial at ANC, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., is considered by many today to be a great honor. However, it took decades for the Virginia cemetery to become America’s nation’s premiere military cemetery.

When ANC opened in 1864, it was one of dozens of national cemeteries that were established to bury soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War. At the time, interment in a national cemetery was a last resort – they were potters’ fields for soldiers whose families were unable to afford a private burial. ANC’s rise to prominence began in 1868 when Major General John Logan declared May 30 “Decoration Day” and had the graves of soldiers decorated with flowers.

As the link between Decoration Day and ANC solidified in the late 19th century, more veterans opted for burial at ANC helping to shift public perception. In the 20th century Decoration Day became Memorial Day, and it is now tradition for the President to address the nation and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at ANC each year.

We invite you to catch up with this week’s headlines today, and join us in honoring those who have served this Monday:

FDA butts in on tobacco regulation

  • Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock confirmed the agency is exploring new regulations that would require tobacco companies to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. While the FDA cannot ban cigarettes or remove nicotine outright from tobacco products, the agency does have the authority to regulate the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. This news comes on the heels of a separate proposal by the FDA to ban Menthol cigarettes. (The Washington Post)

Democrats on the attack

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a “five-figure” digital advertising campaign to counter a Republican ad campaign framing their healthcare plans as “socialist.” The digital ad campaign is running in battleground districts, and comes as Congress negotiates whether or not to allow Medicare to negotiate prices for certain drugs. (Roll Call)

Questioning COVID’s origins

  • On Wednesday, President Biden asked the U.S. intelligence community to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and issue a report within 90 days. Though the lab leak theory was initially dismissed, members of the scientific community have recently lent credence to the theory. (The Hill, Associated Press- Washington DC Bureau)

Public request issued for public option

  • Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) have issued a public request for information, soliciting feedback on a proposed bill that would create a government-run public option health insurance plan. The request asks for feedback on a number of questions, such as what criteria should be considered when determining prices. Comments are due July 31. (The Hill)

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