We must ensure our modern-day patriots do not stand alone

Carl Hendrickson

Carl Hendrickson

February. To some — perhaps to many — it is “Super Bowl Month.”

But to me it is “birthdays’ month.” No, not my birthday. That was last month. I am a “New Year’s Day Baby,” and my wife, children and grandchildren gathered together to celebrate the new year and my birthday with a bang.

February marks the birthdays of two men who lived a century apart. One commanded an army that gave us our freedom.

The other was commander-in-chief of an army that preserved our Union. They were different in many ways, residing in two different ages and cultures, but they had one thing in common. Each was a patriot.

It has been four decades since I first met them — 40 years since my family and I first visited our nation’s capital.

But I can still vividly remember my awe as I first gazed upon the Washington Monument, that great obelisk standing 555 feet tall by the Potomac River. And the thrill that was felt as I stood inside the Lincoln Memorial looking upon the majestic statue of our 16th president — two individuals who were willing to sacrifice everything to give to us and to preserve for us this free land in which we live. It is only right and fitting that we should celebrate their birthdays this month.

Unfortunately, today there are far too many who when celebrating the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln view them as the last of the patriots. These cynics believe that the concept of patriotism has become an anachronism in today’s complex industrial society. Not in my opinion. The modern-day patriot is no sunshine warrior who volunteers only when the odds are with him or her. Nor is he or she a café philosopher who is always available to talk about a plan of action but rarely finds time to implement it. Today’s patriot is neither a larger-than-life figure nor a superman or superwoman.

Last month, the Call said that the election of Ernie Trakas to the County Council was the top story of 2016. I have met Councilman Trakas, and he is no superman. Also last month, the local chamber of commerce swore in its new officers — of which I am one — and directors for 2017.

Sen. Scott Sifton and Reps. Cloria Brown and Marsha Haefner were the installing officers. None is a larger-than-life figure, but I would argue that each is a patriot.

You see, freedom is the heritage that we have received from Washington and Lincoln.

But just as the mighty oak requires both the acorn seed and the fertile forest soil, good government requires more than freedom alone. We must plant the seed of freedom in the soil of individual responsibility.

Trakas, Sifton, Brown and Haefner, along with many others, are taking responsibility to make a positive and lasting contribution to our local and state government.

Each of us, too, has a responsibility. You and I must ensure that Trakas, Sifton, Brown, Haefner, and other elected officials understand public opinion on important policy questions. We must communicate with our elected representatives. We must support them when deserved, but we must not be afraid to criticize when necessary.

Washington and Lincoln, two great patriots, were not alone when governing. We must ensure that our modern-day patriots do not stand alone. It is the only way to ensure that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish.”