While adults and students across the nation enjoyed their day off, Andover students may have even forgotten that last Monday was Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a day to celebrate and honor those who have fought and died for our country. On May 25, everything proceeded as usual on Andover Hill. A sit-in protest, however, sought to change that. Students flocked to the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall, playing music and waving American flags to fight to have class off on Memorial Day.
Although I respect that many people feel that our school does not adequately celebrate Memorial Day, I believe that a day without classes is not an effective way to honor our fallen troops. These soldiers fought for our nation’s freedoms: our right to free speech, our right to equal justice and the right to education, a right that is not guaranteed in many nations around the world. It therefore feels a little ironic that students are cutting classes to support the troops that died for these rights.
In general, I feel like many people, the protestors included, have lost sight of the true meaning of Memorial Day, as the holiday becomes increasingly marketed as the “start of summer.” When I saw the students gathered on the steps, lounging in beach chairs, blasting music and promoting hypernationalism, I felt that the informal tone of the protest detracted from the message the students wanted to convey.
The parallels between this protest and Brian Gittens’s protest for Andover’s recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day are obvious; but Gittens’s sit-in took place during chilly January weather and after three years of petitioning to the administration. This preparation and determination made his passion and dedication to this cause clear. But when I walked by Monday’s protest, all I saw was nonchalance.
Our student body needs to take advantage of the great gift our soldiers have given us – the freedom to pursue an education. Thus, cancelling classes should not be the goal of the Memorial Day protest. The alternate programming that the protesters suggested, including workshops, trips to cemeteries and fundraising projects, can occur outside of our daily class schedule. After all, most sports are over this late in the year, freeing up many students to attend these events after school. Additionally, I have learned so much about the history of the holiday just by attending my classes and talking with my teachers. A day off from class for Memorial Day should definitely not be our goal.