by Steve McFarland
This is not easy. What I am about to tell you may scare you, anger you or inspire you. I feel the need to apologize now so that what I am going to tell you will land soft and gentle upon your young, eager spirits. And so I am sorry!
Our nation is going to war. In the next few days, weeks and months you will see and hear of American troops storming into dark places where evil men live and where their evil schemes are directed. You will see images from your television of fighter planes scorching the skies and smoke billowing from huge cannons designed to destroy and kill. You will hear inspirational speeches, you will hear patriotic songs and you will see flag draped caskets. What you are about to experience you will never forget.
I will never look at you the same again. As I now look upon your faces I have to wonder what your future will be in this. I wonder that about my sixteen-year old son and my daughter of thirteen. We have been promising a bright and glorious future for you, I hope we can deliver. Since your first day in school you have been told by adults to work hard, respect others and good things will happen. Suddenly those words are shaded with our own doubt about tomorrow. America faces an enemy determined to destroy us.
Your education thus far has been dedicated to teaching you how to write, think creatively, express yourself with a command of language, and challenge you in science and math. You’ve been on a faster track in education than any generation in history. You were reading before you got to first grade and writing short stories before you could spell. Though test scores indicate a great expanse between where you are and where experts want you, let me say you have done a great job. You have not cracked under the constant pressure and though you go home tired and often dejected, you keep showing up day after day and it is in that spirit that our greatest hope is sustained. Though your generation has not been easy, it has a relentless quality that never backs down or looks away. It wants what it wants when it wants it. We commend you for that.
But, have we left something out? Are you ready for what our country is about to face? I hope it isn’t too late to tell of passion for our country and our freedoms. You need in this hour to understand how we got here, what we have, and what is worth sacrificing. Have you spent enough time looking into the wrinkled faces of aging veterans who lost friends, family, and a generation of innocence to give you what you have? Don’t think for a minute that your lifestyle, characterized by unprecedented leisure and wealth is a civil right. The freedom to demonstrate against wrong and even burn flags in protest were handed over to you from the those very men and women who march in unattended Veterans Parades and proudly cover their hearts during the national anthem. Please understand the cost.
You need to hear me on this one. We have heard you say of us, the adults of your world, that we don’t understand you, that we have isolated you and have failed to accept you. Much of that assessment is true. It has been difficult understanding your generation. Your music sounds nothing like anything we have heard before and is often tainted with words of hate and vulgarity that make even old rock and rollers blush. You have been part of a generation that has written a new chapter in the sexual revolution while being both the perpetrators and victims of the worst school violence our nation has ever experienced.
Yet you need to know that those aging veterans who fought long ago, would go again tomorrow if their bodies would allow to fight again to keep your freedoms. Freedom is, to them, worth dying for even if used in ways they do not understand or endorse.
Somewhere along the way of your education journey I hope you have seen the price tag of your freedom. And I hope you understand in these days and the days to come, that the sacrifices have been worth every cent and every life. It will not be easy to turn our young men and women loose upon a dangerous, foreign land to confront evil men with evil purposes. That difficulty is confounded by our failure to keep the price of liberty in our crosshairs and to keep you, our youth, ever mindful of the fragility of freedom.
Now comes the time when our nation will watch and school children everywhere will learn. You will learn how our nation really works and what America is really about. And perhaps it will soon be your turn. History awaits your generation to continue the American dream. You will be turned loose upon yet another menace determined to bring down more than buildings but the foundational principals of a free land. The harsh reality is that you may be asked to fight, to die, and to carry this fragile banner of freedom forward.
As these days unfold and your destiny played out I would like to encourage you in the words of Walt Whitman. “Sail forth! Steer for the deep waters only. For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, and we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.” God bless you and America!