A Dad Reflects on the First Day of School
Jim DalyJim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
- 2012 Aug 17
Posted by Jim_Daly Aug 16, 2012
A Morning I Will Never Forget
My wife and I walked our first-born daughter, Charlie Mae, to kindergarten the other day. The kids were decked out in new sneakers, sparkly clothes and backpacks so new they were stiff. The scene was full of parents with cameras in hand and tears in their eyes.
But something happened that I didn’t expect. The principal introduced five Cub Scouts who together carried and unfurled the American flag. The National Anthem then began to play over speakers and everyone stood quietly, many with their hands over their hearts. Even neighbors near the school took note, watching from afar, standing on their backyard decks. Commuters on the way to work slowed to catch a glimpse of the patriotic scene.
Over the last few weeks I’ve seen hundreds of flags raised during the recent Olympics, but none more stirring than what happened at Explorer Elementary.
The headlines are so often full of stories of ideological divisiveness, but here with hundreds of parents and children crammed on the corner lawn of our neighborhood school, there was unity. The principal then led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, and yes, they included the phrase “One nation under God.”
Our voices bounced off the homes in which many of these children's families live. The voices of the crowd were not hushed but strong and proud.
Nobody complained. No lawsuits were filed.
My heart swelled at the whole scene and my love of our country was raised to new heights. It struck me that what I experienced isn’t rare, it’s just under-reported. By the millions children recite that pledge every day in every state of the union.
And although such recitation isn’t rare, one gets the sense that it’s still a fragile freedom. To take it for granted is to risk surrendering what you and I assumed would always be.
The experience did something else to me. It steeled my resolve to see this type of moment protected. I want our two children to grow up in a country that celebrates the unity of citizenship that truly is “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
But we can’t assume that the future will simply be an extension of the present day. If we surrender our liberties to secularists determined to remake this country, we’ll no longer be one nation under God. We will no longer be indivisible – but distinctly divided. America won’t be a place where liberty is afforded to everyone and justice a right to every man and woman. Instead, we’ll become a country that oppresses the rights and liberties of many based on the demands of a few.
For those of us who are blessed with the responsibility of raising children, it’s important that we realize just how formative these years are for them. The late English preacher Charles Spurgeon summed it up nicely: “The voices of childhood echo throughout life,” he said. “The first learned is generally the last forgotten.”
Thanks for those thoughtful insights, James. Let’s remember to pray for all the schoolchildren of America who are starting the new year this month and next. Let us also do what we can to protect our religious liberties, not only for our children, but for generations yet to come.
One additional post-script to James’ story. His daughter’s teacher recognized his Focus on the Family name tag and shared with him that she had attended the Focus on the Family Leadership Institute several years ago. If your son or daughter is interested in exploring the possibility of spending a college semester here on the Focus campus, I’d invite you to click here.
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