BARBWIRE BOB – 5-16-24

Graduation time has arrived at American schools. We celebrate graduations from middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities. It is a time of accomplishments, lengthy friendships, athletic successes and failures, and many hours of classrooms, homework, final exams, early morning classes, and late-night cram sessions. America’s prowess can be traced partly to mandatory education for all students from early ages through high school.

Today, education takes the largest portion of property tax revenues to fund our public school districts. Some colleges and universities are funded privately and by state legislators granting state aid to school districts and higher education institutions. All schools in America are operated by private citizens in elections or appointments by elected officials.

This is a challenging time to graduate from high school and college. The nation has been shocked and rocked by the recent student demonstrations, primarily at the college and university levels. So far, the National Guard has not been called onto any college campuses. The nation witnessed the tragic deaths from the Kent State incident during the Vietnam War. There were violent demonstrations over the Vietnam War, and the selective service was drafting soldiers, including many college graduates. Many students fled to Canada to avoid the draft. The war ultimately was lost, along with over 50,000 American lives.

Today, there is no mandatory military service. Still, ROTC units are active on most college campuses, training officers for service in the military branches of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and New Space Force. Volunteering Reserve officers have played a significant role in America’s military defense.

Many high school graduates choose to seek higher education and overlook the campus turmoil that has spread to almost every campus in the land in minor or major proportions. As the war rages on in Israel over Gaza and Hamas, the demonstrations are apt to continue onward into summer at the Democrat and Republican conventions, with the Republicans in Milwaukee and Democrats in Chicago.

There is considerable civil unrest across the nation regarding illegal immigration, with millions of migrants entering the borders.

Add the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Middle East turmoil, and campus hostilities, and it is going to be a turbulent summer.

So, we bid farewell to our graduates, releasing them into the real world to learn the hard lessons of life and living in troubled times.

If there is any solace in current events, conflict and warfare have plagued the United States since its infancy as 13 colonies fighting the Revolutionary War, defeating the British and founding a nation.

One war on American soil was not enough. The nation endured a Civil War with over 700,000 American casualties. The war reached Colorado at Raton Pass in 1862 with the Battle of Glorieta Pass when the Confederates came looking for Colorado gold. The Colorado militia, led by Major John M. Chivington, fought a heroic fight against the Confederate forces, destroying their supply wagons and sending the rebels back southward without any Central City gold.

I remember a famous passage in American literature from my college days about two of America’s greatest writers, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. During the Civil War era, abolitionists protested to free the enslaved people. The story goes that Ralph Waldo Emerson was in jail for protesting, and Henry David Thoreau came to see him. Thoreau is said to have asked his longtime friend, “Henry, what are you doing here in jail?” The reply by Emerson to Thoreau was reportedly,” Well Henry, what are you doing out there?” The bottom line, protests have been a part of U.S. history.

President Abraham Lincoln penned his eloquent Gettysburg Address before he spoke at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, now known as Gettysburg National Cemetery. 

This is what he penned:

The GETTYSBURG ADDRESS, delivered at Gettysburg, PA. on November 19, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on the continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. “But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which, they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 

As we watch the turmoil of history unfold before our eyes and ears, let us remember these immortal words of President Lincoln.

– Robert F. Sweeney/Publisher