Wednesday, June 10, 2009

America's Greatest Generation, And Instilling Their Values in America's Next One

By Yomin Postelnik, Candidate for Florida House of Representatives District 91, June 09, 2009

  • The lessons of America's Greatest Generation
  • American Exceptionalism - America has nothing to apologize to the world for. On the contrary, America changed the world for the better in ways that are immeasurable.
  • Connecting youth with the elderly is essential to raising a new generation of Americans who will recognize the accomplishments of our American past and who will therefore see the need to continue the fight for human rights and American decency.
  • Comprehensive educational reform is the only way to achieve these goals.
  • National security is a human rights issue and education is both a national security and a human rights issue.

Today we stand in between the commemoration of two earth changing events that both took place in June of 1944. On June 6, Allied nations the world over honored the remembrance of D-Day, or of "Operation Overlord" as it was then called, and the Allied landing in Western Europe. June 15 also commemorates a key milestone in the war, as United States troops began an amphibious assault on the Japanese held island of Saipan in the Marianas.

These two events bring to the forefront the courage of those who have long been referred to as America's Greatest Generation. They demonstrate American excellence and stand as testaments to our rightful place as a force for good throughout the rest of the world. The determination of our troops to do what is right on far off shores led to a safer world and spread the principles of kindness and decency the world over.

The lasting impression that the United States of America has made on world society is an accomplishment that should be recognized and honored, not one that should be apologized. The Greatest Generation's struggle for human rights would spread throughout the world the simple but essential concept that every individual is entitled to a life of decency. America's noble quest to ensure that all who are born with inalienable rights, endowed by our Creator, are able to live lives of fulfillment and accomplishment, stands as a record of achievement that we as a nation can be proud of. Needless to say, we as a nation have nothing to apologize for.


The brave vanquishers of Nazism and those who stopped the spread of Communism in its tracks went home and changed our world forever. They were the ones who truly led the struggle for civil rights in the 1950s and early 1960s. And with the help of their elders, most notably that of our last general president, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, they achieved racial equality and eventually spread that concept the world over.

Eisenhower's actions were cemented by his two successors, as Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, both members of the Greatest Generation, pursued the struggle for civil rights, robust national security and fought the totalitarian oppression that was communism. In so doing, they brought American values to peoples across the globe. Their struggle is continued today in the global war on terror. And let us make no mistake, the war on terror is a struggle for human rights if ever there was one.

The World War Two generation are America's greatest generation. The fact that, today, racism is universally condemned is due to their efforts. America has led as an example time and time again, thanks to the efforts of that unique generation.

If we are to remain a force for good, if we are to recognize our unique achievements as a nation and use those achievements as springboards to continue to defend and promote the rights of humanity a world over, we must remain connected to the ideals of that generation. If we are to continue to recognize that America has nothing to apologize for, we must pay tribute to those who served this nation, and the world, so valiantly.


The youth of today need to have personal experiences with our greatest generation. Only then can we ensure that they grow up having a personal feel for the American exceptionalism so exemplified by those who fought in the Second World War. Only then can they recognize the need to fight for American ideals, wherever that struggle may lead them. And only then can they recognize that the concept that each of us are endowed with rights bestowed by our Creator is what makes America the force for good that was so exemplified by those who we refer to as our Greatest Generation.

Only by teaching our youth the ideals and struggles of our greatest generation can we hope for them to continue to be leading forces for good in the world. These concepts cannot be transmitted impersonally and without feeling. Our youth need to be exposed to the first hand experiences of those who risked their lives to fight against a cruel set of principles or against enemies sworn to destruction and world domination. Our children need to learn the dangers of racism and the real struggles and sacrifice of those who fought for equality in the 1950s and early 1960s, when the real hard work was done, not some glamorized version of that era.

Youth gain from volunteering. Study after study has shown that volunteerism leads to increased civic awareness, a higher graduation rate and decreased crime, truancy and substance abuse.

When volunteering is coupled with time spent with the elderly, the benefits are twofold. And in today's day and age, fostering a connection with the elderly is essential. That is why my platform has called for the implementation of intergenerational programs as part of existing high school and middle school community service programs. This missing ingredient in our educational system is necessary for us to continue to grow as a nation.


This week, as we commemorate D-Day and the Allied landing on Japan's fortress islands, we have received some very unsettling news in the field of education. Graduation rates of students in South Florida have fallen to below 58%. That is more than 10% below the national average.

Connecting youth with our elderly is a needed ingredient in the solution, but it is only a first step. Similarly, the financial literacy course that I authored and that is a key part of my platform is also a needed ingredient, as it focuses youth on their long term goals and shows them what staying in school and away from crime can really mean for their futures. These are needed partial answers, but the complete solution is far more complex.

To that end, we must strengthen our educational system by refocusing efforts on developing highly skilled teachers. Many within South Florida's business community are in the process of transitioning from one industry or another and recruiting the most qualified of them as teachers can have a positive effect on our educational system.


Most importantly, we must refocus educational priorities on teaching to the individual student. Standardized tests were a necessary first step in preventing the continued graduation of illiterates, but they were designed as a temporary fix, to be built upon once properly implemented. We are long overdue for the next phase of educational improvement.

As we go forward, we must give leeway to teachers to teach to the individual needs of each student. Teachers who serve as role models, who take time out of their breaks to help students during recess or after hours should be rewarded for their efforts and school boards should be mandated to actively recruit quality teachers.

Standardized tests are still needed to ensure a basic level of competency, but teaching to the test should be replaced with teaching to the student and the curriculum should reflect this philosophy. To begin with, shortening test material while not sacrificing quality would help immensely in forming a new and balanced approach to education.

These changes would not cost more to taxpayers and do not involve throwing more money at the system. They would be the result of thoughtful allocation of funding. We would spend smarter and more effectively and teachers would have a greater say in curriculum development.

Finally, the combination of hands on teaching, financial wellness training and volunteer work with the elderly would breed a growing generation who would be proud and able to carry forward the best traditions of America. Many of our military families, who live and display these values to their children, already do this and it's time for the public school system to be allowed to catch up.


Education can teach a child the need to stand up for human rights and against tyranny no matter what the cost. But a proper educational foundation also serves as the greatest deterrent of juvenile crime. This is another reason why improving education is a key part of my platform.

My platform calls for proactive national security. It calls for increased guarding of our ports. It stresses the fact that labor sentences prevent non-violent offenders from becoming career criminals and the need to end long sentences that have allowed radical Jihadists to recruit dejected and hopeless prisoners.

But as we discuss the need for shorter swift labor sentences that actually enforces the message that crime has consequences in a humane way that leaves the offender with hope of leading a better life, let us not lose site that the best defense against crime and the spiraling cycle of violence to which it leads can best be stopped by providing youth with a quality and real life education.

Education is not the sole deterrent to crime. I recognize this. In fact, one of my initiatives involves developing a dialogue between youth who live in higher crime areas within the district and their local police force. But education is by far the most sweeping tool that we have against crime.

No matter how you look at it, education is the most valuable tool for the success of a nation. Instilling in our youth the best of our values, those exemplified by our Greatest Generation who risked their lives in pursuit of a better world, can only be accomplished by connecting our youth to their past. They must learn first hand from those who were inspired by America, by its Judeo-Christian values and by the determination of American men and women to stand up against the forces of tyranny and oppression wherever they reared their ugly heads.

It is this sense of greatness that we must preserve as a nation. And education, motivation and connection to our seniors are the only ways to accomplish this necessary goal.

Thank you.

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