Ignorance in the Face of Valiance

Would you die for your country? Millions of Americans have, and the United States has always honored those who fought to defend her from tyranny and oppression. The highest honor that the United States bestows upon her veterans is Veterans’ Day. This day provides Americans with the chance to think about the sacrifices of our troops, and to remember that freedom is not free. Phillips Academy recognizes this day, but the Academy’s recognition is minimal at best. Last Thursday, the Academy held a touching but small service to honor our veterans at Memorial Place next to Bulfinch Hall. The attendance was about 40, with students composing fewer than 10 of the people in attendance. As moving as the service was, I was still disappointed by the lack of student turnout. The mere 15 minutes allocated to honoring our troops did not give me much comfort either. The blame for lack of turnout cannot be placed solely on the student body, as the Academy did not effectively inform students about the event. Even if the Academy had devoted more time to letting students know about this service, most still would not have come because of poor timing . Because the service took place during the departmental meetings on Thursday, most students did not attended because they would rather have been sleeping. The number of faculty present also may have been diminished simply because the service took place during the departmental meetings. Compare this to our workshops on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Academy does an excellent job teaching us about the wide-ranging effects that Dr. King’s efforts had on our nation. Students learn about members of the Civil Rights Movement who range from the well-known Dr. King and Rev. Jesse Jackson to anonymous protesters who simply fought for their beliefs. Students also learn about the actions that members of the Civil Rights Movement took as part of their campaign for equality. If a student declines to attend workshops, he can instead participate in the fight for equality in the present day by volunteering with various organizations in Lawrence and elsewhere. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is important for all Americans, and the Academy does an excellent job in provoking thought and discussion among the entire student body. The Academy’s efforts to honor Veterans’ Day pale in comparison with the services on Martin Luther King Day. This is not to say that the Academy does not care about our troops but simply that the Academy does not emphasize this significant day as much as they should. What should be done? I believe that the Academy should establish a committee of students and faculty to look into the matter of expanding the Academy’s services on Veterans’ Day. The committee would consider alternative services for future Veterans’ Days that would sufficiently honor the service of these brave men and women while leaving students’ academic lives relatively unaffected. Hopefully, the Academy will eventually celebrate Veterans’ Day in the same manner as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We could have workshops, inviting veterans from previous wars to speak to students about why they chose to go and fight for their country. There could be outings to any of the major battlefields in New England from the Revolutionary War. Students could go and volunteer at VA Hospitals located in the area. There are many ways that the Academy could honor our veterans in an appropriate manner. Even if we cannot devote a full day to honoring our troops, than the least we could do would be to call in a veteran to speak at the All-School Meeting prior to Veterans’ Day. This would be enough. How many of us on Veterans’ Day stopped to remember that we have paid for our freedom with flesh and blood, with the lives of others? How many of us stopped to reflect? How many of us stopped to truly honor our veterans? How many of us stopped to think about a cause for which others sacrificed their lives? The answer is simply too few.