Memorial Day is Monday. What does this mean to you as a candidate? Potentially a lot depending on how you handle this important American holiday.
For many Americans Memorial Day means little more than they get a three-day weekend that kicks off the traditional summer season.
But for others, particularly veterans and the family members of veterans, Memorial Day has a deep, special meaning to them, and appropriately so. As a candidate for elected office it should for you as well.
First, as a leader of your community it’s essential you not only know the history and traditions of your area, but of your country as well. Voters like that in their leaders.
Secondly, I don’t think I’ve ever met a veteran who didn’t vote. In fact, the veterans I know never miss an election and definitely would be targeted as highly likely voters by any campaign.
To ensure that these voters are on your side, it’s important that you not only recognize Memorial Day, but also that you know what it’s about. A misstep here and you risk alienating veterans and they are not the types of voters you want working against you. They will tell everyone they know why they are not supporting you.
Know the Real Meaning of Memorial Day
I hate to say it but too many Americans don’t know the real meaning of Memorial Day. They often confuse it with Veterans Day and thank veterans for their service to America.
Yes, we should be grateful to those who have worn a military uniform of the United States in both war and peace, but if you thank a veteran for their service on Memorial Day, you’ll look ignorant to them.
Veterans aren’t like most Americans and they know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day very well.
My buddy Vinney who is an active duty Marine posted such sentiments on his Facebook profile:
Quite often we thank a living veteran this weekend. Please remember it is not the day to do that. This weekend we honor the heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
My guess is you’d have a hard time getting Vinney’s vote if you didn’t know the difference between the two national holidays. There’s a good bet you’d have the same problem with any other veterans if you made that mistake.
So what’s the official purpose behind Memorial Day?
Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
That comes from History.com and there’s plenty of information about Memorial Day and its history to be found at that link.
Show Your Proper Respect for Memorial Day
On Memorial Day it’s important that you show the proper respect for Memorial Day on your social media accounts. If you don’t it’ll be noticed and you’ll run the risk of alienating veterans. Remember, you don’t want to do that.
Whatever social media accounts you have — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. — you need to post something about Memorial Day.
Your post should focus on what Memorial Day is about and who our nation is honoring on this holiday.
I recommend posting a suitable Memorial Day picture or meme accompanied by your own text saying something like “On this Memorial Day I want to express my deepest gratitude for the sacrifices of the men and women who lost their lives in the service of America.”
You can keep it that simple or add more to it, especially if you have relatives or friends who died while serving our nation. Personal is always good for connecting deeper with voters.
This is also a good message to post as a video from you about Memorial Day.
Regardless of what you share on social, you must remember that it’s not about you. If you come off self-serving in any way you can lose votes. Your message should focus on those who wore a military uniform on behalf of our country and never came home.
Participate in Memorial Day Events
Many communities have Memorial Day events such as services at cemeteries and parades through town.
If you live in or near an area where there will be a formal Memorial Day event you should do your best to be there.
If there’s a parade in the area where you’re running, you should be in it.
Usually, candidates are allowed to put a personalized banners or bumper stickers on the side of the vehicle they ride in. Should that be the case yours should read something like “Remembering those who made the Ultimate Sacrifice” with your name under that statment.
At the same time, if there is a Memorial Day service of some type, National Cemeteries have them, you should attend even if you are not participating in the program.
It’s important to go and show your respect for those who served. The veterans who attend will notice you there and be grateful that you’ve taken the time out of your schedule to remember the fallen.
Posting photos or videos on social media of an event you attend or a parade you ride in is appropriate. It should not replace your initial Memorial Day posts, it should supplement them and come at least four hours after your initial posts for the highest amount of social visibility and traffic.
Just remember the advice above, it’s not about you. Everything you post must be about remembering the fallen service men and women of our country.
Should You Actively Campaign on Memorial Day?
I’ve been very clear in my articles that it is a political sin to campaign on unofficial holidays like Mother’s Day and that it’s a no-no to knock on doors on official holidays, but does this rule apply to Memorial Day too?
I don’t want you to think that I’m equivocating on my previous advice, because I’m not, but I do believe Memorial Day is a day when some candidates can actively campaign.
But there are two rules that must apply before you use this exception.
1. Only actively campaign on Memorial Day if you followed the tips above.
If you’re actively campaigning on Memorial Day you’re likely to come across a voter who’s a veteran. They may not like that you’re soliciting votes on a day they hold as sacred.
When you talk to them you need to demonstrate that you know what Memorial Day is really about.
It’s also good to tell them about the event you went to or the parade you participated in earlier in the day. That should sit well with any vets who have an issue with you asking for a vote on Memorial Day. They still may not like your actively campaigning on Memorial Day, but they won’t think you’re a total jerk either.
2. Only campaign on Memorial Day if your election is less than 4 weeks away.
If you’re into the last 30 days of your campaign, I really can’t tell you not to campaign on Memorial Day.
In California where I live, Election Day is June 7th — 8 days after Memorial Day. I’m not advising any of my candidates to not actively campaign. The election is just too close. People are making up their minds and filling out their ballots. They have to campaign on Memorial Day.
Most people will have the day off and voters you want to talk to will be home — but please be advised: you must use your best judgement about actively campaigning on Memorial Day.
Be very aware of the risk of irritating a veteran by asking for their vote on Memorial Day. However, if you demonstrate your knowledge of the holiday, show it the respect it deserves, and participate in Memorial Day community events, there’s a good chance you can turn any such irritated vet into a committed supporter.
But let me be clear: If your election is more than a month away, I wouldn’t actively campaign. Take the day off the campaign trail, attend a Memorial Day function, and spend the rest of the day with your family.
If you follow these tips for Memorial Day, you’ll demonstrate to your community that you are a leader who respects those who made the ultimate sacrifice for your country. And that always goes far when you’re campaigning for office and seeking to win an election.
Do you have any advice or questions about campaigning on Memorial Day? If so, please share them in the comments below the article.