By Jack Levine, Founder, 4 Generations Institute
My thoughts this Veterans Day. Individuals who either volunteered or were drafted, wore the uniform of our armed forces, and gave all or a portion of their lives in service to our nation and its allies.
Whether our veterans survived their military service, or were lost on the field of battle, our country owes each of them, and their families, a debt of gratitude.
Those who suffer the wounds of war…physical and emotional…deserve a full measure of care so they and their families are offered not only our words of thanks but receive the benefit of positive actions on their behalf.
As we look back at this nation’s wars supported to varying degrees by our citizens, let’s remember that none of these conflicts were or, to this day, are immune from political and social controversy.
But we should never confuse debate over military policy with the need to be respectful of those whose lives are at risk on the battlefield, in the air, or on the seas.
Our nation has been the destination of choice for great waves of immigrants from the world’s most frightening and unjust nations. My father and maternal grandparents were three of those immigrants, and perhaps your family has its story of freedom-seeking relatives.
There is another historic reality we must admit. Our African-American neighbors, whose ancestors came shackled in the holds of slave ships, and Native-Americans whose ancestors were subjugated and subjected to racist cruelties, provide important reminders that while our nation is not perfect, we have come a long way…but still have far to go in paving a path for success for all of our people.
We should celebrate that the children in most American families enjoy the opportunity to be free from the threats of oppression and terror. Others, however, live in the shadows of abuse and violence.
The freedoms that we enjoy were bled for, and in many cases, died for. But the struggle for freedom and justice at home and abroad still requires our attention and action.
In our veterans’ honor, let’s not be passive about the importance of their sacrifice. In their name, let’s pledge to dedicate ourselves to the following eight advocacy activities:
- Actively communicate with our elected officials about issues affecting our families and communities. They rely on our expertise to make good decisions. Silence is not golden.
- Register and vote in all elections and urge others to join you in this most basic expression of citizenship in a representative democracy.
- Share your thoughts in the media by writing letters to the editor and interviewing with reporters. Media is our most cost-effective megaphone.
- Motivate and mentor youth to exercise their voice in matters which affect them. The next generation of advocates needs good role modeling. They will be in our place very soon and need the skills to be good citizens.
- Confront those who think that complaining about problems is all they should do. Whining is not as good as winning! Both optimism and negativity are contagious.
- Compliment community leadership and promote active involvement by friends, colleagues and neighbors. Our faith and civic sectors should promote community outreach, treating neighbors as we wish to be treated.
- Contribute your time and talent in support of causes which advocate positive change, and invite others to join you in these activities. Spectatorism doesn’t produce progress.
- Help make our communities a better place for children and families across the generations by being an environmentally-friendly neighbor and motivating others to aspire to positive futures.
In the spirit of learning from those who have paved the path, the Top 100 Speeches in American History Great American Speeches is a free treasury offering both transcript and audio/video links to some of the most compelling messages ever expressed by a diverse group of inspiring leaders.
Jack Levine, a family policy advocate based in Tallahassee, is founder of the 4Generations Institute. He serves as Partnership Director for GRAND Media and may be reached at Jack@4gen.org