by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and moderator, NC SPIN, May 28, 2015.
They burned the American flag this week at Douglas Elementary School in Raleigh, not in any show of protest but as a symbol of patriotism and honor.
The flag that was raised and lowered every school day was a gift from a Marine, also a father. It once flew over Camp Al Asad in Iraq and was sent to Douglas in 2007. Over the intervening years the students in that school learned the history of our flag, but also the significance of this particular flag.
In those eight years the colors of the American emblem had become faded and the corners tattered, even with the careful and respectful treatment students at the school had given it. The time came to retire Old Glory and the students wanted to do so with respect and the proper protocol. Aided by firefighters, police officers and Boy Scouts they carefully cut up the 13 stripes and field of 50 blue stars and one piece at a time placed them in a fire pit, witnessing their burning.
It was fitting this retirement ceremony took place the week of Memorial Day, the time we give tribute to those who died in service to this nation. Rest assured these young people learned lessons in citizenship, patriotism and honor far more graphic than they could have gotten from any book or lecture; lessons we suspect will stick with them for many years. They came to understand the importance of our flag to our nation, to those who have worn the uniform in service and of our nation’s role in the world. These formative lessons will hopefully stick with them as they become the workers, the leaders and the voters who keep those values and our nation alive.
These young people might reverse roles and teach us some things about respect, honor, citizenship and patriotism. One has only to view current headlines or look around to know we don’t treat each other or our institutions as well as we have in times past or as we should today. People in government, religion, business, education, healthcare and service agencies frequently complain about the lack of respect and honor they receive. But institutions consist of people and the people in them frequently don’t show proper respect for the rest of us. Every faith and every culture throughout the ages has attempted to teach values and moral lessons like The Golden Rule.
As we prepare for the 239th observance of the Declaration that set forth principles for this nation perhaps we should remember phrases like, “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” and honor each other accordingly. We need reminding that institutions have obligations to serve the common good and that doing the right thing may not be the most expedient but is always the best course.
Like that well-worn flag the values we once treasured seem to have faded and are a bit frayed at the edges. We need not burn flags nor get carried away with flag-waving, but it never hurts to remember how we got where we are. Perhaps those young patriots at Douglas Elementary can serve as that reminder today and live into those values tomorrow.