Earlier this week we honored those important people whom the Sailor’s Creed refers to as “those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.” Memorial Day always reminds me of an article I read during the last winter Olympiad about a young Army National Guardsman who also happens to be an Olympic athlete. The article talked about this young man’s interaction with a much more famous athlete, and how things really should be the other way around—famous athletes asking for the autographs of military service men and women. This happens in our society—we let things get out of perspective. We think that our children should aspire to be famous athletes and coaches. These same athletes and coaches sometimes turn out to be dishonest, greedy, and underhanded.
I want to say from the outset that I am not complaining about all athletes and all coaches. I’m not even complaining about their salaries. I think there are some athletes and coaches whom our children should aspire to be like. David Robinson, Coach John Wooden and Kurt Warner have all been role models for various aspects of my personal life. I don’t even know that I’m complaining about anything. I think what I’m doing is suggesting that maybe, particularly with our children, we put the wrong priorities first. We want success for our children. We want them to have more material resources than we did. But what has that created? A society where a recent survey showed that at least one third of all teenagers believed they would be famous, regardless of having a talent or ability to make them famous. Yet, as we grow older, we tend to see that’s not reality. We know that not everyone is going to be famous. We understand that some people are going to continually try and cheat the system and profit from it while others will continue to follow the rules and seemingly be punished for doing the right thing.
That understanding brings about some different priorities. I was honored and humbled on Monday—to be part of a community where numerous people showed up for a community Memorial Day service. When I first crossed the road to the cemetery I heard someone say, “I don’t think they were planning on this many people showing up.” What a great problem to have—a community where the sacrifice of those who have served the nation is honored so greatly as to run out of space.
So, while many of you who attended thanked those of us in uniform, let me turn around and thank you today. After all, my children were all present at that service, and they learned an important lesson about not getting life backwards. Nobody honored that day will ever have their name mentioned on “SportsCenter.” Nobody will have a jersey sold in a store. It’s unlikely any of them will ever write a motivational book about a championship game. But in seeing the way our community responded to service (both the service of the military and the service of those who support the military), my children have seen a shining example of keeping priorities in order. Thank you.