This train has been rolling for a long time.
When the Griffith Rutherford Chapter of the Daughters of The American Revolution recently honored five high school students for their citizenship, they rolled a train that has been on track since 1890 when the national organization was founded.
Part of what makes the citizenship award so important can be found in the fact that it is an idea. Academics and sports are mostly measurable. Players make the first down or they don't. Scholars either make the grade or they don't.
But the DAR challenges young people in four areas: dependability, service to the community, leadership, and patriotism, all less easy to measure, yet so important in the democratic process.
DAR Regent Leechie McDonald exudes enthusiasm for the awards, "Oh my goodness. It's absolutely the epitome of everything the students value."
That effusive praise sure rang true in the essay written by East Rutherford's award winner, Addie Harris.
Harris wrote, "There is no future for America if the future leaders of America do not care. The individuals of my generation need inspiration and leaders who are positive role models in their lives in order to place passion in their souls. Passion to make the nation we call home the very best it can be for the future. America will always have challenges to face; but having citizens who are devoted to their country, who fight for the less fortunate, who have a passion for American success, and who are prepared to take on those challenges is essential."
Harris also expressed caution that much of the hatred on the national scene will not serve our country. When asked about her extracurricular activities she said, "I am in the Arts on Campus club (a club for all things artistic and creative to do on campus). I am Senior Class Vice President in my school's Student Government Association. I work as a cashier at Washburn's General Store in Bostic. And I also run my own personal art business/ facebook page called Bloom. I love all things artistic and I spend a lot of time creating artwork and selling commissioned work."
R.S. Central's Nathan Craig wrote about the impact of change on our culture, "As fast as technology advances, we will discover new medicines, but most likely produce new sickness in the process. Of course we will build our fast food industries, self serving kiosks and all. Then dumbfounded, we will question our unemployment and weight problems. New generations are latching on to a lifestyle of 'out with the old, in with the new'. In my eyes, this hurts and helps our country at the same time. Until the end of time, solutions will have to be formed to fit our own obstacles we created."
Craig said he was thrilled to win the award and added, "It's nice that anybody wants to hear from the kid."
Clearly the DAR challenge is far outside the normal give and take of a high schooler's life; and the proof of its value is seen in the hopes of dreams of these remarkable young people.
Mercy Witherspoon, who attends Lake Lure Classical Academy, wrote about uniting the country around a complete view of history, "The problem comes when the citizens of a country are divided on how recognition should be handled. We must decide who should be recognized and what should be showcased from their lives. The true way to preserve history is to show all of it. Accept the good and the ugly, ask for forgiveness for those we've hurt, and praise those who sacrificed so much to give us the opportunities we have now. If we can come together and agree on those things then we can successfully keep our history. Right now though, the people are so pitted against each other that it seems one side will always be unheard from. That is the problem that we have right now and will have until the country is more united. I worry that history books will become one sided and that one group of our ancestors will be ignored. I sincerely hope that it not the case, but that seems to be the problem with preserving our heritage and history that we have at the moment."
Witherspoon said of her extra-curricular activities, "I am a senior representative on Student Council, I attend the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) regularly, and I very much enjoy art and theater. I have tried to take as many theater classes as I could and I've participated in the spring musicals since eighth grade. Outside of school I enjoy sewing, drawing, and baking. The latter happens to be what I would like to pursue a career in."
Dylan Emory is also a student council stand out at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy having been elected student body president this year. He plays the male lead in the current school play and is also appearing in a musical at Gardner Webb.
The citizenship award prompted him to say, "It is our duty and moral obligation as Americans to ensure that every citizen of this great country is treated equally in practice, not merely in theory."
Chase High School's LyndaZha Burkins expressed a concern that health care costs and availability keep pace with the rapid changes in America's future. She expressed deep gratitude to doctors and nurses who have kept so many of us alive.
Although the Burkins essay alludes to some anxiety about the future of medical care, she expressed confidence that we will face what's ahead and end up enjoying the outcomes.
All five of these outstanding teens expressed a belief in their country and its citizens who are building tomorrow. For their writing and their overall service to the community, the Daughters of The American Revolution believed they deserved to be honored.