A Call for Recognition

This past Monday, May 26, 2008, Americans across the country took a day off from their normal lives to honor veterans of all our country’s wars. My own grandfather, a veteran of the Korean War, marched in downtown Andover as part of the town’s celebration honoring him and his companions. Meanwhile, at Phillips Academy, we went about our day as usual. Sure, we had a memorial service, but it did not even occur on Memorial Day, making it seem random and out-of-place. What did occur on Memorial Day itself had to be initiated by students on their own. Similarly to the school’s lack of recognition of September 11 this year, this past Memorial Day was a disappointment to those who have strong connections to veterans, alive and deceased, and those who do not. Faculty and students alike expressed frustration at the school’s ignorance of veterans. A girl in my math class exclaimed (to much agreement from the class) that it was “rude” not to acknowledge Memorial Day. Christina Landolt, Teaching Fellow in the Music Department, shared similar concerns. In fact, she recently distributed a survey to her students, soliciting optional responses about Phillips Academy’s Memorial Day practices. Landolt wrote in an e-mail that “Some students expressed outrage about the fact that we were not acknowledging the day, saying it made us look ‘ignorant,’ ‘arrogant,’ and ‘disrespectful’ and encouraged a feeling that ‘we are always doing more important things inside our Andover bubble.’” She reiterated that many students said they felt it showed that “we don’t respect our own country and those who serve it.” Landolt also mentioned that some international students in her class agreed, saying that “while not fully understanding the significance of the day, they felt that a day that has been chosen as a national holiday should have been recognized.” The one thing Phillips Academy did do to recognize Memorial Day was to ring the Bell Tower at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, when a moment of silence is observed by many United States citizens. But this effort did not achieve its desired effect, as no one I have talked to knew anything about its significance. Another tradition that takes place in the rest of the country on Memorial Day is lowering the flag to half-mast to honor fallen veterans and their commitment to serving our country. Some of Landolt’s students proposed that Phillips Academy treat Memorial Day similarly to Martin Luther King Day, by having workshops and a speaker devoted to the day, instead of merely having the day off. The fact that Phillips Academy’s only recognition of Memorial Day came in the form of a 15-minute memorial service (which was not even held on the day itself) does not feel right. The Phillips Academy community, and a good part of the American population itself, takes for granted the service and sacrifices given up by citizens who care enough about our freedom to go out and defend it. I encourage everyone who feels the same to discuss this matter with faculty and students alike and push for change. We must recognize our veterans, no matter what it takes. Jacob Shack is a two-year Lower from Andover, Mass.