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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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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

3 Responses to O’ Say Can You See?

  1. Mike Abels Reply

    June 23, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Skip & Bill. Is it possible that there is no war, but instead honest rejection of the new values and actions emanating from the Trump administration that are counter to those in the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance? For example, if you recite the Pledge of Allegiance you say you “pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.” A strong argument has been made that the United States is not one nation now but instead a series of competing tribes. That argument that the Pledge is no longer represents American values can be made by pointing out that the election of President Trump and the values his administration has espoused has negated “with liberty and justice for all. As shown by the actions Trump has carried forth as President, separating families being at the pinnacle, it can accurately be claimed that as a country we no longer believe in the value of “liberty and justice for all” so why should it be stated as a fact in the Pledge. With the new values emerging in the United States maybe the Pledge should be changed.
    And why is the exercise of first amendment rights by kneeling when the National Anthem is played a war on the National Anthem. Is it not freedom of speech about a very serious issue of police violence against minority individuals. Maybe using our strength of our multi-ethic culture public administration should seriously analyze why players are protesting the National Anthem, and as a nation determine if the cases underlying those protests are valid. If so as the field of public administration we should recommend corrective action. Such a positive action of grievance recognition would probably result in players standing for the Anthem. It is not a war. Instead the bottom line of causation is internecine war that is growing more intense between our self centered tribes.
    I believe it is the role of public administration to put truth to power and facilitate a process to confront the underlying ills that is damaging if not destroying the American political system.

  2. Skip Reply

    June 20, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Go to any public school: the silence you hear answers your first question.

    If you were to follow the NFL shortcomings in 2017, you might have borne witness to that example. Kneeling for the National Anthem is not about a “movement” – its a catalyst to the decay of society and our freedoms and the impetus of factions (re-read paragraph six). Thank you to our VFW and American Legion Commanders for their efforts to boycott the NFL for such antics.

    This is not the forum to discuss MY views of “WHO” is leading what – rather an outlet to invite a conversation about the “efforts and the actions” of a broader society – and how, as Administrators, we manage these “efforts and actions.”

    Thanks for the comments, Mike.

  3. Mike Abels Reply

    June 18, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    Where is a “war” being conducted on the Pledge of Alligence and the national anthem? Who is leading the effort and what actions of war are they taking?

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