By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director
The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. As a kid growing up in Topeka, Kansas, I looked forward to the annual celebration of America’s birth because it usually included all the elements of a perfect day: a baseball game in the morning, an afternoon picnic (featuring my mom’s homemade peach ice cream), and an evening band concert in the park followed by fireworks.
I remember one Fourth of July in particular, the bicentennial year of 1976. The country was still recovering from the Watergate scandal that resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Vice President Gerald Ford had been sworn in as president and he was the one who presided over many of the national events that celebrated the 200th anniversary of the founding of our country.
Like every day, July 4, 1976, was a great day to be an American; we had a heckuva party in Topeka. I played trumpet in the Santa Fe Band (the railroad sponsored the band) and we concluded the July 4 concert with a rousing rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” That march is, of course, synonymous with the Fourth of July, and I still get chills when I hear the trombones roar into the last stanza and the trumpets stand up and bring it home.
If you were around for the bicentennial (and if you have read this far you probably were), you know that it was a special day in American history, a day when unabashed patriotism and love of country were on full display. American flags flew from most homes, kids marched in neighborhood parades and families took the time to count their blessings for the freedoms and privileges that come with being an American.
I think many people of my generation worry that the Norman Rockwell version of patriotism that we experienced in our youth has gone away, never to return. It seems that the whole notion of patriotism is a little old-fashioned in this self-obsessed age of Twitter and Snapchat.
Or maybe patriotism is alive and well after all. That’s the message I took home from one of the speakers at the CFC Forum, a conference I recently attended in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Forum is sponsored by a cooperative known as CFC (short for National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation), a lender to many electric co-ops. The Forum is an annual conference where speakers from around the country speak on topics ranging from new developments in the electric industry to the economy and global politics.
One of the highlights of the 2018 CFC Forum was the presentation made by Gen. John Allen, formerly the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and currently the president of the Brookings Institution. Gen. Allen spoke about the “four plus one construct” that refers to the four countries (China, Iran, North Korea, Russia) and the extremist jihadi network that are destabilizing influences around the world. Allen explained in great detail how these states and organizations threaten the security of the United States and other countries.
But despite these threats, Allen remained optimistic about the state of U.S. national security. Why? Because “of the magnificent young men and women who volunteer to serve in the armed forces.”
Allen pointed out that, although today’s military is comprised of young men and women of incredibly diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, there is one common denominator among the troops: their complete devotion to America and what it stands for.
So, on this Fourth of July I hope you and yours enjoy great food, fun and fireworks. Just remember that your ability to do so is a gift from those magnificent young soldiers who are stationed around the world, defending our freedoms.