The Power of Patriotism

A few years ago a teacher in my building gently chided me for being a bit overzealous in my patriotic praise. During a June Flag Day ceremony I stated to the students and staff how fortunate we are to “live in the best nation in the world”. While I still believe that, I may have been slightly insensitive to those students, albeit few, who were citizens of other countries. Usually my PC antenna flies high enough to cover my verbal judgement, but in this increasingly international “flat” world, how we perceive our country and our passion for patriotism has broadened a bit.

On Friday, our school held its annual Memorial Day celebration. Thanks to the work of the committee, the event was complete with music, readings from students, and a PowerPoint designed with images of soldiers. Our day custodian was honored as he is our only Veteran in the school and we sang the National Anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. What results can we draw from the ceremony? The adult reaction was generally emotional as one might expect, but it was interesting to note that the students were also affected by the occasion with serious faces and even some teary eyes. I’m sure some of the children were responding to the adult reactions, but I believe there’s something deep within us, perhaps hard-wired, that allows us to see the value of patriotism regardless of our personal experience.

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The spirit of patriotism includes values that we treasure:

Sacrifice. Educators and their students understand the sacrifice made by those who are in public service such as policemen, firemen, teachers, and yes, soldiers. At the end of Friday’s ceremony, a first grader came up to me with a story of how his Uncle is about to be deployed to Iraq in less than three weeks. I am sure that this little guy is learning the meaning of sacrifice.

Courage. I recall stories of courage from my father, a World War II veteran. His radio crew in the Pacific Theater would have to set up a communications center in the middle of a battle and while they put their lives on the line everyday, not connecting soldiers to each other would render any operation a disaster. One trick my dad would set up was a switch that would turn the lights off in their makeshift center when the door opened so that the enemy would not be tipped off as to their presence.

Compassion. While the nature of war appears devoid of sympathy, those closest to battle will tell you that to get through each day, they must hold images of the people they are charged to protect, close to their hearts.

Thus, for those who are veterans or have friends or family who have served their country or lost their lives, it is easy to conjure up emotions and a deeply held love for country. But even if one has not been directly affected by war, the values of sacrifice, courage, and compassion often exemplified by our soldiers and others in public service, are values we can all believe in.

2 comments Add yours
  1. Bill
    Coming from Australia and having spent some time in the States over 20 years and 3 separate tours I can appreciate some of your thoughts, particularly as they connect to values felt throughout the world.I remember walking down a side street out of Boston trying to find a laundry mat to do some washing and being surprised and chuffed at some of the local streets and parks being named after VET’s who died serving America and the cause of freedom.We commemorate certain battles [ANZAC Day – April 25th] here in Australia where people paid the ultimate sacrifice of dying for the beliefs of freedom and peace. In fact these commemorations which are public holidays and where returned VETS of all wars attend a dawn ceremony and then parade down the main street in our city have grown in respect and attendance over the past 20 years.Anyway I as principal of a school in Melbourne Victoria with students from countries all over the world also conduct a special assembly to remember to fallen, their values and why we strive to live in peace. These are universal values and we have a responsibility to pass them on to our youth.
    Keep up the good work.Mark Walker

    1. Thanks Mark. Knowing that our blogosphere is international, I am careful to recognize the pride I have in being American, while knowing that these values are likely, as you say, “universal”. Keep up your good work as well!

      Bill

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