Honoring our veterans with a vision America needs
elfies.” You’ve probably heard of them. They are the photos that teens (and, too often, young adults) take of themselves and post far and wide for the admiration or amusement of friends. Snap-chat, Facebook and Twitter are full of selfies. Although great fun when used in moderation, they also have become classic examples of teenage narcissism, self-absorption and lack of vision — and icons of a nation struggling to remember its greatness.
Our children live in a culture that celebrates self-gratification and scorns sacrifice. It’s a culture that has gradually lost the vision of greatness that drove our country forward, brought freedom to captive peoples and inspired our veterans to give their lives. Even our schools, which spend hours on trendy thinking and political fads, often seem to have forgotten the mission of cultivating greatness in our children.
It’s up to us to give our children something more. One of the enduring tasks of parenthood — in every time and culture — is to raise children who see beyond their immediate self-interest to the transcendent realities that call them to live for something beyond themselves. Today is Veterans Day, when we honor the men and women of our military for their vision of something greater than themselves: freedom. We salute them for their service to others — not self — in the day-to-day work of keeping our country safe. Every veteran — whether having served in peacetime, faced communist guerrillas in Vietnam, or fought the Taliban and al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan — knows the reality of things worth fighting for. Because the truth is that it is impossible to serve in America’s military without a commitment to something bigger than oneself. Soldiers fight for the buddies at their sides and to protect our country and the liberty enshrined in our Constitution — not so they can live another day to post another selfie.
That vision of something larger than self is sadly missing among many of our young folks. But we can change that.
A new book, “Rebound: Getting America Back to Great,” written by Heritage Foundation scholar Kim R. Holmes, goes a long way toward helping Americans recover a sense of greatness. I encourage you to purchase a copy for that young person in your life who may need to shift focus from cellphone selfies to a vision of helping preserve and promote something far more important than themselves — something like the enduring promise of freedom. “Rebound” helps readers see, with fresh eyes, what has made America great and what we must do to keep it that way.
Mr. Holmes brilliantly explains the history of American greatness and how we as a culture have lost our way. In his chapter “A Great Deal of Ruin,” for instance, he astutely illustrates how Steve Jobs’ wonderful technological inventions were birthed in a worldview that rejected sacrifice, duty and personal responsibility. Although these amazing tools can be used to accomplish amazing things, it’s ironic how much of the younger generation uses them with the same attitude in which they were created: a celebration of “self” over all else. Mr. Holmes notes: “Jobs’ ‘all about me’ mentality was broadcasting a key value of the counter-culture. A decade long known for narcissism, the 1960’s was also a time of rebellion against the idea that freedom requires self-restraint. In fact, it espoused the opposite — that the individual must be rid of traditional moral constraints to be truly free. One must be dedicated to oneself first and foremost. What had been deemed boorish behavior before was now supposedly a sign of a deeper ‘authentic’ kind of freedom.”
Our children must learn the difference between the value of the individual and the promotion of “self”; the cost of freedom and the trashing of virtue; the dangers of self-indulgence and the beauty of sacrifice.
The veterans we honor today understood these truths to the point of fighting and even dying for them. They exemplify the greatness of the American vision as established by our nation’s Founding Fathers.
“Rebound” helps us remember “when our nation was at the top of its game culturally, economically and socially, and globally,” to discover what’s gone wrong, and to “see what Americans must do to help America ‘rebound’ for future generations.” Ordering a copy today would be a lasting tribute to the many veterans whose military service has protected that vision for all of us.