Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Feeling Patriotic

On a recent field trip to DC with a group of 2nd graders, I was able to reconnect with my inner patriot. Seeing these kids take in all the sights, some for the first time, reminded me of what it was like to be in elementary school learning so many new things every day. I have to admit, I was that geek that loved school. History was a particularly fun subject for me. I would have enjoyed the opportunity as a 2nd grader to see DC while learning about the important legacies JFK, Lincoln, and FDR left for this Nation. Although, as a 2nd grader, I would have probably appreciated it about as much as my own son did. I've forgotten that it's all about snack and friends at that age. Going through all the pictures I took that day, I was inspired to go back and learn again. I re-read some of the important speeches those Presidents gave and I have included excerpts below. Enjoy!

"We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge - and more."

That was an excerpt from JFK's Inaugural Address, given on January 20th 1961. It's known as the "Ask Not What You're Country Can Do For You" speech. When I read this section, I though of the little kiddos we're raising today, and what a great weight they have placed on their shoulders. However, because of the guidance and leadership that came before them, I'm sure they're up to the challenge.

Springfield, Ills. July 22, 1860

My dear George

I have scarcely felt greater pain in my life than on learning yesterday from Bob's letter, that you failed to enter Harvard University. And yet there is very little in it, if you will allow no feeling of discouragement to seize, and prey upon you. It is a certain truth, that you can enter, and graduate in, Harvard University; and having made the attempt, you must succeed in it. "Must" is the word. I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not. The President of the institution, can scarcely be other than a kind man; and doubtless he would grant you an interview, and point out the readiest way to remove, or overcome, the obstacles which have thwarted you. In your temporary failure there is no evidence that you may not yet be a better scholar, and a more successful man in the great struggle of life, than many others, who have entered college more easily.

Again I say let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.

With more than a common interest I subscribe myself Very truly your friend,

A. Lincoln.

Of course, the most famous of Lincoln's speeches is the Gettysburg Address. But, for this occasion, I thought this letter he wrote a friend who had failed to get into college really shows the compassion of Lincoln. If the 2nd graders we took that day could just understand the wisdom in his words in this letter...that those who succeed are not always the smartest, wealthiest, or the ones with the easiest road...but those who simply are determined not to be discouraged.

FDR, addressing Congress January 6, 1941..."In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the world."

FDR always makes me think of a picture perfect Norman Rockwell era...and my grandfather. Which is odd given the trials and tribulations of that era and the generation that lived through such troubled times. My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression, fell in love during World War II, and raised teenagers during the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam years. In school, you always hear about how horrible the Great Depression was. How people were without jobs, homes, food, security, money...Strangely enough, it doesn't sound much different than today. But my grandfather remembers it differently. He said, "Awww, it wasn't so bad. We didn't have it so rough. I'm sure some people did, but we didn't. We had a large family and we worked the farm together. We had food, we had what we needed, we didn't need much money, so we did pretty good." I've seen pictures from his growing up years, and the paint was chipping off the old farmhouse, the porch boards were coming up, they had red dirt for a lawn, and everyone's pants were cinched quite a bit...they had it rough -especially compared to today's standards! But I'm always so moved by his perspective, because the perspective he and so many others like him, had about their situations made all the difference. They were happy despite the hard times, because they simply decided to be. That's why they were the greatest generation...and that's what I hope our kids could take from viewing the FDR Memorial, bronze statues of the fireside chats, and waterfalls.

I think the above picture shows it best. There's a youngster, smack dab in the middle of the bronze sculpture depicting sadness, hunger, and despair through the bread lines...and he's happy...picture perfect....just like a Norman Rockwell painting.

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