Thursday, July 4, 2013

For the Fourth

Happy Fourth, everyone!

This morning we attended a really wonderful Sunrise Service. There were flags waving, and young girls singing, and a choir paying tribute to the Armed Services, and a stirring speech. The speech was given by Doug Wright, a well-known radio broadcaster in Salt Lake City. Among the things he said, he invited everyone to think back on their first patriotic experience. He spoke of his own, as a young boy with his grandpa, raising the flag in the yard on the Fourth of July. He watched the way his grandpa handled the flag with such dignity and respect, and it stirred in him feelings of love and loyalty for this great country.

My first patriotic experience is one that I, too, will always remember. I was born in South America. You know, it's like North America, only south. When I was in the first grade, my parents took me to wherever it is you go when you are a child and are about to become a citizen of the United States. I don't really remember much about that day at all, except that I had to miss school. It was the next day that has stayed with me all these years. When I got back to school the next day, my teacher, Mrs. Baxter, gave me two things: a little American flag, and a book about Paul Revere's famous Midnight Ride. In my absence, she had all of my classmates make flags out of construction paper. And then, and then... she lined us all up at the door, like every teacher does. I was the line leader. We all held our flags. In her hand was a small tape player. She pressed play, and from that tiny monophone speaker, came John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." And for the next few minutes, we marched through the halls of The North School, in Heber City, Utah, a classroom full of little six-year-olds, having our own little American parade. I waved my flag and lead my class through the hallways; teachers and students stepped out of their rooms and clapped and cheered. I was an American Citizen.

I don't think my young, six-year-old mind understood the full impact of that day. I just know that I got to be the parade leader. But as I have gotten older, and looked back on that experience, I realize what Mrs. Baxter did for me. She instilled in me a sense of pride, a sense of love, for not only who I am, but where I am. And where I am has largely shaped who I am. I look back on that experience with appreciation and gratitude, thankful for a teacher who understood that becoming -- and being -- an American Citizen is indeed, something to celebrate.

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