Can you recall your elementary school days? I remember them with much greater clarity than I thought I would at this age. It was September, 1960, that I started the first grade with Mrs. Roche as my teacher. Central Elementary School in Sumter, SC was a place that I would grown to love through six wonderful years of cultural, academic, and spiritual education. I had wonderful teachers like Mrs. Martin, Miss Roper, and Mrs. McLeod who took time to nurture the values that had been instilled by our parents and grandparents: Respect for God, pride in our nation, a desire for self-improvement, and a work ethic that truly believed that hard work and perseverance would ultimately bring fulfillment in life. I remember proudly serving on the safety patrol, always eagerly looking to “flag duty.” That was the privilege of raising the flag in the morning and lowering it in the afternoon. I remember finally being old enough to be in the elementary chorus and the rousing school assemblies that always began with the pledge of allegiance, an invocation, and inspirational songs like “This Land is Your Land,” “America the Beautiful,” and God Bless America.”
I didn’t understand much about the United States in those days. I knew there were worries about atomic bombs because we had regular drills that required us to sit underneath our desks. I knew that a new, young president had been shot and killed in his first term. I knew about the “space race” with the USSR. I knew there was a long, painful, and unpopular war going on in a place called Viet Nam. I knew there was this thing called the “Civil Rights Movement” going on. YET, still there was always this sense of pride that came with being an American.
That hasn’t changed for me! Fifty Years later, I have a better understanding of how our government works; and I know that the very freedoms that we have held so dear for over 200 years, the very freedoms that so many heroic men and women have served to protect are also the very things that make our American culture so fragile. For 230+ years, people from every culture and nation have wanted to come to America. We have opened our arms to them . . . red, yellow, black and white, and everything in-between. Rich and poor, refugees and royalty —- those who came seeking relief from oppression, whether political, religious, or economic, found a “promised land” in which to fulfill their dreams.
Even now, when I hear our national anthem, see a young man or woman in a military uniform, or hear stories from those veterans of the greatest generation, the hair stands up on the back of my neck as I think about the greatness that God has imparted on our nation. Please, don’t think that our greatness is found in the halls of congress or on the bench of the supreme court or in the oval office of the White House. In this era of career politicians, over-inflated egos, and self-sustaining partisanship, I can assure you that the strength and greatness of this nation resides NOT in the ivory towers of the District of Columbia. It resides in the hearts of those men and women and young people and children all across this land who still believe that America is the world’s best hope. The strength and greatness of American lies in a voluntary military force comprised of men and women who believe that freedom is worth defending, even to death. The strength and greatness of America lies in single-wide mobile homes and mansions alike, in synagogues and churches where values like respect, personal responsibility, and accountability are nurtured. The strength and greatness of America lies in our God-given purpose. The psalmist reminds us in Psalm 33:12 — “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His own inheritance.”
This Independence Day . . . Remember!!!
HAVE A SAFE & HAPPY FOURTH!