Everybody needs a hero. We need someone who inspires and brings the very best out of us. Unfortunately, our generation continues to misunderstand the concept of heroism. We seem to equate media exposure with heroism or importance.
A hero is not a meat-wearing pop star, a Hollywood actor or even a sports phenom. Instead, heroes are the underappreciated masses that work every day to make this country what it is.
Our society also tends to lose sight of the significant contributions of those nameless heroes. For instance, we all adore the courage exhibited by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt during wartime and hold their leadership in the highest regard, but behind their achievements were the blood, sweat, toil and tears of a thousand unknowns. We forget those unsung heroes who made more public personal victories possible.
As you go through your busy life today, take a moment to stop and think about these nameless men and women who have given of themselves to protect our freedom. Say a prayer for them. Show them that we see their sacrifices and that we are grateful.
During his 2008 speech at the Republican National Convention, former Arkansas Governor MikeHuckabee related the story of one schoolteacher who went out of her way to show appreciation for those who sacrifice everything for this country. Huckabee’s story went like this:
“On the first day of school in 2005, Martha Cothren, a teacher at the Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, was determined that her students would not take their education or their privileges as Americans for granted. And with the principal of her school’s permission, she removed all the desks from her classroom on that first day of school, 2005.
“Now, the students walked into an empty classroom and they said, ‘Ms. Cothren, where’s our desk?’ She said, ‘You get a desk in my classroom when you tell me how you earn it.’
“Well, some of them said, ‘Making good grades.’ She said, ‘Well, you ought to make good grades in my class, but that won’t earn you a desk.’ Another student said, ‘I guess we get a desk when we behave.’Martha said, ‘You will behave in my classroom.’
“But that won’t get you a desk either. No one in first period guessed right. Same for second period. By lunch, the buzz was all over the campus. Ms. Cothren had flipped out, wouldn’t let her students have a desk.
“Kids started using their cell phones. They called their parents. And by early afternoon, all four of the local network TV affiliates had camera crews out at the school to report on this teacher who wouldn’t let her students have a desk unless they could tell her how to earn it.
“By the final period, no one had guessed correctly, so the students filed in. Martha said, ‘Well, I didn’t think you would figure it out, so I’m going to tell you.’
“And with that, she went to the door of her classroom and motioned, and in walked over 20 veterans, some of them still wearing the uniforms from days gone by, every one of them carrying a school desk. And as they carefully and quietly arranged those desks in neat rows, Martha said, ‘You don’t have to earn your desk, because these guys, they already did.’
“These brave veterans had gone halfway around the world, giving up their education, interrupting their careers and families so that we could have the freedom that we have. Martha told them, ‘No one charged you for your desk, but it wasn’t really free. These guys bought it for you. And I hope you never, ever forget it.'”
So let us thank our veterans while we still can. Let us not make the mistakes of the past. No veteran should ever feel forgotten or unappreciated. Days of remembrance, like Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the anniversaries of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are important because behind every great political leader, there was a soldier engaged in the battle for our freedoms.
Our soldiers are the living embodiment of what makes America so great. Their courage sustains us and preserves the moral character of our nation. They make us the shining city on the hill. We truly are forever in the debt of our protectors.
To honor our soldiers, I hope that the whole Georgetown community will come and join Hoyas for Troops, Welcome Week and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute this Sunday in remembering the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in a remembrance 5k run/walk to benefit the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and USA Cares.
As we approach this 10th anniversary of 9/11, I wish that each and every one of us would remember that being American is not just about the freedom we have; it is about those who gave it to us.
Joseph Knowles is a junior in the College. He is the chairman of the Georgetown University College Republicans.