Commentary and Opinion

MORRIS: May is time for pride, patriotism and speed

May 21, 2011

MorrisAs we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I’m taking time to pause from the day-to-day madness and allow myself the opportunity to reflect a bit and be thankful for life’s treasures.

First, I am extremely thankful that I have the privilege to live in the greatest country in the world. The true purpose of Memorial Day gets lost as the years go by. Sometimes we need to stop and remind ourselves why we have the liberties we do. Memorial Day is the time to commemorate those men and women who gave their lives serving in the military defending our freedom. It’s also a time to remember loved ones, friends and family who have passed.

I’ve had a renewed sense of patriotism since a recent trip to Washington, D.C. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. If you haven’t been in a while, I recommend it, and I predict you’ll find the experience good therapy to help cleanse yourself of all the negative news coming out of our nation’s capital on a daily basis. I was in awe after my visit. The history reminds you of how much we have to be thankful for.

Among the things I’m thankful for is the Indy 500, a true treasure of our city. On this 100th anniversary of the first running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, there is renewed excitement (and revenue) for the most important race in history.

What would Indianapolis be like without the tradition of the Indianapolis 500 every Memorial Day weekend? I can’t imagine it. What one event has put Indianapolis on the world stage more than the Indy 500? It doesn’t exist.

The contributions of the Hulman George family and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the success of this city are enormous. And the events produced by the 500 Festival folks and volunteers help make the month of May much more than the race itself.

There’s been much looking back during this month’s celebration. IBJ columnist Bill Benner has been identifying his list of the top 33 drivers over the past two weeks. In this issue, he tackles the greatest moments in 500 history.

IBJ reporter Anthony Schoettle reports regularly on the happenings at the Speedway and in motorsports in general. Anthony just reported on his blog, The Score, that Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus said, “This is the best year we’ve had in terms of ticket sales in at least five years.” That is great news. I hope the Speedway can build for years to come on the momentum created by the centennial celebration.

Back in the day, this town all but shut down, workwise, during the month of May for race-related activities. Granted, that was back when there were two weeks of practice and two weekends of qualifications. The big scramble in the business community was sorting through the suite and tent-party invitations and deciding where you were going to be on a given day. Everyone was at the track. If you wanted to get any business done in May, that’s where you needed to be. It’s nice to have some of that buzz back.

On race day, the Speedway folks know how to keep the true meaning of Memorial Day at the forefront of their presentation. The patriotic music played by the marching bands, the pageantry of the color guard, the playing of Taps, the prayer, the flyover … all give you chills as you bear witness.

And, I can’t help it, but hearing Jim Nabors sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” makes me proud to be a Hoosier every time.

Congratulations to the Hulman George family and the Speedway on the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. Here’s a toast to continued success for another hundred years. I wish you a day without rain and a safe and exciting race!

And on Memorial Day, the day after that sun-drenched race, we should all express our gratitude to those who not only gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, but also for all those veterans who have served in the past and those who are serving now.•

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Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send e-mail to gmorris@ibj.com.

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