I have asked The Daily News to hold the column I had prepared for this week and print this one instead because it is time sensitive.
This morning I attended the Veterans Day Assembly at Greenville Middle School. This has been an annual event for a number of years and it is always an emotional time for me. Honoring our veterans is always touching, but for me what makes this program special is when we focus on the students.
The gymnasium was filled with middle school students who sat quietly and attentively as three of their fellow classmates read their essays describing patriotism. The third presentation was especially touching because it was so personal. It focused on Bill Delp, a gentleman who is well known locally for his many contributions and his devotion to the creation and development of the Fighting Falcon Military Museum. He is indeed a model of patriotism.
The band and choirs performed several patriotic numbers very well. The individual branches of the armed services were highlighted. Two students played “Taps.” Finally, the students and other audience members respectfully recognized the veterans present as their names were read individually.
The entire event was very moving. I am proud of what our students and staff wanted to do for those who have served their country. I can’t imagine that the veterans present did not go away feeling appreciated.
But I also thought of the impact on the students and other audience members. And some of the emotion I felt was because of the pride I had in the students and staff of our middle school. It would be very difficult to be present and watch this assembly and fail to recognize the value of our public schools. Of course, there are problems. Of course, we can do better. But if we love our country and care about its future we have to recognize the value of a program to educate all of our children and youth. And we have, in my opinion, an obligation to acknowledge the excellent work being done by many staff members to create citizens who will respect their country and be prepared to participate in our democratic process. I am sorry, but I do not believe that turning this enterprise over to the private sector is the answer. I think that those who agree with me need to make that clear to their representatives in Lansing and Washington.
Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.