By Tom Ehrich

For those of us who grew up in Indiana, this is Race Weekend, meaning, of course, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, a/k/a "the Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

It's also the unofficial start of summer, meaning everything from white shoes allowed to swimming pools open to lollygagging.

Here in New York, an estimated 80,000 young professionals will descend on the city for jobs in finance, technology, media or fashion -- or hope of same. They will add their dreams to those who arrived last summer and the summers before, and are still hanging on.

In many communities, grateful citizens will pause to remember the young men and women who gave their lives in service of freedom and democracy. No observance will be more respectful than the one preceding the roar of engines at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Active military will march onto the track and down to special seating on the main straightaway. Singers will perform "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful," and the National Anthem, as r5ace fans sing along. The Roman Catholic archbishop will lead a prayer. And a crowd of 400,000 will become amazingly silent for the playing of Taps.

It's a small pause in a huge event. But it never fails to move me. I feel the weight of what it takes to preserve freedom in a world that knows little freedom, and to maintain democracy in a world given to authoritarian displays and corrupt power-seekers.

We live in an era driven by fear and bigotry and exploited by greed. So deep are the dark currents that we could lose our fundamental inheritance if we fail to carry its weight.

Memorial Day is a sobering reminder that each generation must set aside self-interest, look beyond wealth and comfort, develop an attitude of tolerance, and stand tall for the freedom and mutual respect that enables this experiment in democracy to proceed.