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O’ Say Can You See?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Bill “Skip” Powers, PhD
June 18, 2018

My columns have been devoted to many issues in this great opportunity to write for PATimes and our Administrator sector. My columns have touched on breaking the norms to herald change; hysteria; leadership and mentorship; and other foundational administrative principles. The latter really weighs on me this week. So rather than ignore it, I endeavor to poke it during my last column for PATimes.

Like all of you, I consider myself proud to live in a country where freedom rings and Independence Day is a cause for celebration from monarchal and tyrannical rule. Imagine the conversations of our Founding Fathers at a short-legged table, sipping homemade hooch: “…we did it… We actually created these, United States of America.” A mic-drop moment for sure.

Fast forward some 240 years and the issues capturing headlines are not about economic stability and furtherance of the Republic. Instead – we have a waged war on the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. This week, the cannons fired were from the famous address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and aimed at the Superbowl Championship team from Philadelphia (ironic, eh?). As custom, Championship teams are honored by our President and congratulated for their demonstrative athletic accomplishments. Circa 2018 – the accomplishments on the field do not trump the founding ideals of our United States of America. Subsequently, homage was paid to the Philadelphia fans by our United States Military bands: fife, drums and horns churning the melody of the Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic themes. No kneeling on bended knee for this ceremony.

In our country we are privileged to express what we believe openly and without reprise. If my views contradict your views, it is okay. When those lines become hostile and resonate a contradicting message – chaos erupts. The spurred movement of kneeling in deference to the patriotic privileges during our National Anthem should be viewed by all as a travesty. I am keenly aware not all share that view. However, as Administrators, how do we straddle those equities and promote the privilege of freedom and promote accountability at the same time?

This waged debate of removing the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools to balking at or refuting the National Anthem should toll a bell of concern to us as citizens as much as Administrators. In a politically correct society where does it end? Removing biblical commandments from our public buildings to statues of War General leaders were the beginning. Without the uniting words of the Pledge of Allegiance and the flapping of our Star-Spangled Banner are we truly the land of the free and home of the brave or are we a floundering neutral republic who has lost its heritage and Founding Fathers vision?

This piece is not about inciting controversy. This piece is about legacy and the work of our Founding Fathers who created a strong foundational Republic sans foible. Their lamentations warned about the temptation of a free people to allow human weakness to pull down a great civilization. Benjamin Franklin warned us to be wary of a “decay in society where the people fear for their freedoms.” George Washington spoke at length about the “perilousness of factions and its ability to encroach upon our freedoms.” John Adams warned to “remain virtuous if our Constitution and Republic were to be sustained.” Thomas Jefferson was quite vocal about “evil and subversive factions and its ability to destroy this newly formed Republic.”

I would suggest that the factions of removing homage to the words of our National Anthem in public to the removal of the words of our Pledge of Allegiance are the modern decay of a society as Franklin prophetically warned against. I am proud of an Administrator, our President, to stand tall amid the controversy and place heritage and patriotism above all else. What might we learn from this administrative action: balking in the face of criticism that exists to thwart patriotic encroachment?

Administrators, by far and large might consider themselves patriots. Present company included. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck still raise and goosebumps still protrude when I hear the charismatic playing or singing of our National Anthem. O’ Say Can You See? Now that you know… what will you do?

Author: Bill “Skip” Powers, PhD is an author, lecturer, Air Force Veteran and Senior Advisor with 25 years’ experience in federal government. Focus areas include emergency management, human capital, continuity, resiliency, and grants management. [email protected]

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