A Reflection on Armistice Day

I want to share a personal reflection on the significance of November 11.

93 years ago today, the antagonists in the deadliest conflict the world had ever witnessed signed an armistice, ending the First World War. In his book of that name, John Keegan’s first paragraph begins:

The First World War was a tragic and unncessary conflict. Unnecessary because the train of events that led to its outbreak might have been broken at any point during the five weeks of crisis that preceded the first clash of arms, had prudence or common goodwill found a voice; tragic because the consequences of the first clash ended the lives of ten million human beings, tortured the emotional lives of millions more, destroyed the benevolent and optimistic culture of the European continent and left, when the guns at last fell silent four years later, a legacy of political rancour and racial hatred so intense that no explanation of the Second World War can stand without reference to those roots.

One cannot seriously consider World War One and forget that November 11 was first commemorated as Armistice Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower approved changing the nature of the day to encompass recognition of all veterans, but as the centennial of the First World War’s opening salvo approaches, we would do well to remember the original significance of this day.

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