School Daze

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White House photo by Pete Souza What are your thoughts? I believe it was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young who exhorted the world to “teach your children well”.  There is a fair bit of hubbub surround President Obama’s speech to American students today, yet I think it’s a little unreasonable to condemn the man before the entirety of the speech is heard and digested.  Part of the presidency is a chance to use the “Bully Pulpit” to inspire the country to action after all, and inspiring an instance in service and civics should not be viewed as a bad thing at the end of the day.  The American Legion has long been at the forefront of promoting interest in civics, the responsibility of citizens to be active and participatory in service to their country and overall dedication to this great nation.  Whether this takes the form of the Boy’s State and Boy’s Nation programs, or the annual Oratory competition which encourages students to prepare and deliver an oration based on some aspect of the Constitution of the United States with emphasis on the duties and obligations of a citizen to our government, we have been devoted to encouraging the youth of America to take their responsibilities as citizens seriously and to take it upon themselves to consider an active rather than a passive role as citizens of America. By early accounts of the intended speech to the nation’s students, this is meant to be a call to action.  President Obama’s experiences have always indicated community action and voluntary service to the community.  While many will certainly debate whether or not they can agree with the policies and aims that he has supported and their applicability as the best solution to our country’s problems, I don’t believe that you could debate that the emphasis has not been on service. President Kennedy famously asked Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  This clarion call mobilized a generation to consider that very question.  A spirit of public dedication to the country can’t be a bad thing. Is it possible that President Obama could use this as a chance to advance a personal political agenda?  Certainly, however this possibility is not a reason to throw the idea out as a baby with bathwater.  If this speech can inspire Americans of all political persuasions to consider a role in service to their country, from military service, to volunteer service to their communities, to government work to elected office, it will be beneficial.  American youth have the intellect capable of discerning their own beliefs, and even if they do not share the political views of the President, it does not mean that a call to action need go unheard. The American Legion is an organization dedicated to being open minded politically, not endorsing political parties but instead endorsing actions which further the greatness of America.  Should our members dismiss efforts to involve America’s youth into a more active role in their country and community?  I don’t believe that they should.  Should we raise concerns if the speech misses the opportunity to be a broad and bipartisan call to action?  Certainly, but we should be just as eager to laud this effort if indeed it fulfills its potential. Of course, this is just one Legionnaire's opinion.  What are your thoughts?
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I find the subtext disturbing.

You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free.

While a cursory examination of the President's speech shows nothing controversial, what is interesting is what is missing. Where are the discussions of protecting our liberties that we have? What exactly does the President mean by "more free?"

It would seem to me that freedom is accomplished in only two ways: Enforcing laws that prevent government intrusion into our lives, and by reducing the number of things that are forbidden.

Freedom is being able to dispose of my property and wealth in a manner in which I see fit... not in the manner in which the government deems fit. Increased government in the name of "fairness" maybe a kind tyranny, but it is a tyranny none the less.

The subtext that I find offensive is the underlying statist ideal that our lives can only be made better through government, and that requires a larger, more powerful government, choosing our goals for us.

Let people, everyday ordinary people, look to their communities and themselves for ideals of service. We are the most charitable nation on earth. We help our neighbors, defend our country, and generate a standard of living that is the envy of the world.

Do we really need to tell ourselves that the obligation we feel for one another is no longer a personal responsibility, but one of government? I do not think so. And I think that expanding the role of government into the role of moral arbiter is a slippery slope that is detrimental to a nation of free men.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.