2011-06-07 / Opinion

Idle American

When news turns on a dime...
by Don Newbury

Rarely does the world news spotlight swing as quickly as it did in the hours at April’s end and May’s beginning.

When a prince takes a bride in a $50 million wedding and a dictator takes a fall in a historic counterterrorism operation, the interest and curiosity of billions of people are piqued.

We are ravenous to learn more details—probably more than we should rightly know— from London, where Prince William and Kate Middleton were wed, and from Abbottabad, Pakistan, where terrorist Osama Bin Laden was felled by a crack team of U. S. Navy Seals….

* * *

The world awaits the dropping of other shoes on both of these mega-topics. For the time being, though, a great majority of Americans are cherishing freedom’s richest blessings like few times before in recent history.

Old Glory flies high. Our national anthem’s words have deeper meaning, as do those in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Dusted off are the telling words of an old poem: “No one escapes when freedom fails. The innocent languish in filthy jails. And those who’d screamed, ‘Appease, appease,’ are hanged by those they tried to please.”

May this new breath of patriotism cause us to inhale deeply as we consider—and reconsider—what freedom means, and what it costs….

* * *

One first grade teacher wanted to help her youngsters understand basic geographic concepts. She pointed to England, then to Pakistan, on the world globe. Then, she showed the children a map of the United States.

The students responded gleefully when asked to approach the map and identify Texas. They marched proudly to the front of the room, placed their index fingers on the Lone Star State and received tiny U.S. flags to take home.

The teacher, touched by the children’s exuberance, asked for questions. A freckle-faced boy waved his hand.

I kinda understand maps,” he said. “But what I really need to know is this: Where is Kingdom Come?”

Mystified, the teacher smiled broadly, then asked him why he needed to know so badly.

“Well, so my folks can come to visit me if they want to. Kingdom Come is where my big brother says he’s going to knock me to if I don’t quit putting frogs in his bed.”…

* * *

May brings with it thousands of graduation exercises in schools and colleges across the land. There is understandable rejoicing.

Prospective graduates are making lists and checking them twice to make sure they’ve sent graduation announcements to relatives on the farthest branches of the family tree, as well as to friends they’ve made along the way.

Sometimes they go overboard.

A friend received one the other day addressed “Occupant.”…

* * *

I offer congratulations and best wishes to all graduation participants. To superintendents, some of whom already are squeamish about that moment when they hand out diplomas, a reminder is offered: This, too, shall pass. When superintendents hand out diplomas with one hand and shake graduates’ hands with the other, sometimes they get something back. I pray that whatever it is won’t stain, embarrass or reproduce. (One year, Dr. Bob Riley, longtime president of East Texas Baptist University, ran out of pockets where he’d deposited most of the 250 marbles—one from each graduate. A few dozen marbles rolled off the stage.)

And to graduates this reminder: A diploma, really, is a license to continue to learn. It should be a goal throughout life. Strive to emulate green tomatoes. That is, remember that when we’re green, we grow; it’s when we think we’re ripe that we start to get rotten.

May the 2011 graduates lead honorable lives, dealing positively with whatever comes next, always honoring both God and country….

Former university professor Dr. Don Newbury, who was educated in Brown County, now is a fulltime speaker and writer. His weekly column of humor and inspiration is in its eighth year of syndication.

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