We’re in trouble.
I was listening to the Sean Hannity radio program the other day when he was doing his man-on-the-street interviews. The way this works is one of his assistants goes out on the street with microphone in hand where she invites young people to speak to Hannity live on the radio. He then asks them questions about our nation; questions any sixth grader should know. This particular day, several folks in their early twenties were interviewed.
To say that I was appalled and dismayed would be an understatement. The interview would go something like this: Sean: “Hey, howya doing?” Guy: “Great! How are you?” Sean: “Great, thanks. How old are you?” Guy: “Twenty-two.” Sean: “So what are you doing with your life?” Guy: “I don’t know. Just hangin’ out.” Sean: “Let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you know who the president of the United States is?” Guy: “Sure!” Sean: “So who’s the president?” Guy: “George Bush.” Sean: “Excellent! Who’s the vice-president?” Guy: “The vice-president?” Sean: “Yeah. The vice-president. You know who that is don’t you?” Guy: “Ummm. I’m not sure.” Sean: “You don’t know who the vice-president of the United States is?” Guy: “Not really.” Sean: “Do you know who the Secretary of State is?” Guy: “Uh, the Secretary of State?” Sean: “Yeah. The Secretary of State.” Guy: “Ummm. No.”
It’s about at this point that I can’t take it any more. That’s when Hannity shifts gears. Sean: “Can you recite the Pledge of Allegiance?” Guy: “The Pledge of Allegiance? I don’t think so.” Sean: “Oh sure you do! You know, ‘I pledge allegiance (pause) . . . to the flag (pause) . . .” Guy: “I don’t think I know it.” Sean: “Okay. Let’s try the National Anthem. You can sing the National Anthem can’t you?” Guy: “Yeah. I know that.” Sean: “Great! Give it to me.” Guy: “I don’t want to sing.” Sean: “Okay. No problem. Just tell me the words.” Guy: “Okay. Ummm. ‘America, the beautiful . . .’” Sean: “That’s not the National Anthem!” Guy: “It isn’t?” Sean: “No! The National Anthem starts like this – ‘O say can you see . . .’ Got it?” Guy: “Not really.” Sean: “Oh sure you do! Give it a try.” Guy: “Well, okay, ‘O say can you see . . . by the dawns light . . . over walls we watch . . .’” Sean: “Stop! You’re killing me here!” This, my friends, was merely one of many such interviews that revealed a paucity of knowledge about our country.
Allow me to reflect back on my childhood. Every morning in school we stood erect beside our desks, placed our hand over our heart and, in unison, recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem was sung at every major event in town and ball games on TV. The community actually came out in force on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July. We had parades, ceremonies, speakers, and always solemn remembrances for those who died in the defense of our country. The town made a big deal out of Lincoln’s Birthday, and Washington ’s Birthday, by painting their images on store windows to remind folks of these two great leaders who will ever remain larger than life. Today we have President’s Day, a very politically correct change so as not to snub lesser presidents. Too bad. You see, not all presidents are equal. And Washington and Lincoln are clearly the greatest leaders our country ever had. We also used to celebrate Flag Day. Remember Flag Day? We still have it on the calendar. And that’s about all the recognition it gets anymore. It’s still held on June 14th.
When I joined the Marine Corps in 1969, every Marine recruit was required to learn the names of all the leaders in his chain of command. These names were drilled into our heads day after day and God help you if you messed up. At any moment a drill instructor might pounce on a hapless recruit, pressing his reddened face scant inches from his face, eyes bulging, barking a question: “Tell me maggot, who is the president of the United States?” The frightened recruit would immediately respond: “Sir! The President of the United States is the Honorable Mr. Richard Nixon, Sir!” “And who is the Secretary of State?” “Sir! The Secretary of State is the Honorable Mr. Henry Kissinger, Sir!” And so it would go.
When did we lose the sense of personal responsibility for knowing the basics upon which our nation is founded? The National Anthem has 81 words. The Pledge of Allegiance has 31 words. How hard can this be? Yet the generations coming up behind us don’t have a clue. And, what’s worse, they don’t seem to care.
Here’s a suggestion: Those of you who are older need to get involved in the lives of your children and grandchildren. Teach them to recite these wonderful expressions about our country. Show them a reverence for the sacred honor of our fallen men and women of the military on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Stop at a cemetery and place an American flag on the grave of a veteran this Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.
Someone needs to teach the children. Will you pledge to do your part?