Schuyler R-1 hosted its annual Veterans Day assembly on Friday, November 10. Around 30 veterans arrived for cake and punch at 1:00 in the high school resource center. The entire school system participated in the event. Students from the elementary decorated the hallways and sang two songs. The high school choir gave an outstanding rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Several other high school students participated in the assembly by carrying flags and setting America’s White Table. Below are the remarks Mr. Kaden opened the assembly with.
“Good afternoon! Thank you students, staff, parents, and other guests for attending. Most importantly, thank you to all our veterans for your attendance and for your service. It is a great day to be a Schuyler Ram and a great day to be a citizen of this fine nation. Welcome to our Veterans Day Assembly.
After becoming president, Dwight David Eisenhower, the architect of D-Day, reflected on war. He said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” War, and even the preparation for war, robs humanity of resources that could be used to care for those in need. Preparation for war, however, is inescapable.
In 1964, Ronald Reagan was winding down his acting career and beginning a career in politics. He traveled the country delivering different versions of a speech that has come to be known as the “We Must Fight” speech. In it, Reagan spoke against the threat of communism. The speech was so well received that Reagan used it as a launching pad to the governorship of California and, ultimately, the Presidency. In it, Reagan noted, “There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender,” Reagan went on to note that America does not just give in. Americans, Reagan said, have “the courage to say to our enemies, ‘There is a price we will not pay.’” In other words, Reagan, you, I, and, especially our veterans, know the same thing–there are some things worth fighting for.
Abraham Lincoln knew this as well. In August of 1864, late in the Civil War, President Lincoln spoke to the 166th Ohio Regiment. He said, “when I happen to say anything to soldiers,” I like to take the opportunity “to impress upon them . . . the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for today, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours . . . The nation is worth fighting for.” It is an “inestimable jewel.”
What about America makes it a jewel of such incalculable worth? It could be that the United States offers more freedom of speech and thought than any country on earth. It’s possible that the reason is that the United States was founded on principles of religious freedom that allow a person to worship any religion or none at all. It might be because the United States guarantees that its citizens can vote and have a voice in the government. Lincoln, though, does not cite those reasons. Instead, he explains that the United States is so unique and valuable because it offers an “open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence: that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life.” Our country, as well as any nation in existence, gives people the opportunity to pursue and realize their dreams.
Providing that opportunity is costly. Estimates say that over 41 million Americans have served in the US military throughout our nation’s history. None of them left the service of our nation unchanged. On March 15, 1783, George Washington spoke to a group of upset Continental Army officers. They were angry because the U.S. government had not paid them in a timely fashion.
Washington read a speech he had written for them. But, to do so, he had to put on glasses. As he pulled out his glasses, he said, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.” Washington gave a great deal and risked even more. The veterans here are no different. Many gave their youth, their health, their futures to this nation. They gave willingly and freely in an effort to secure freedom and opportunity for their fellow Americans.