Help our young people feel proud to be an American

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, June 30, 2024

By Sen. Roger Wicker

At the end of May, I visited my old college and law school to meet with the high school students attending Mississippi Boys State. Some people today worry about the rising generation.

In Oxford, I found plenty of reason to hope. I witnessed a group of young people excited about public service and dedicated to our country. I called the assembly to continue the American legacy our founders began, and the students responded enthusiastically. More than once, the group spontaneously broke out into a chant, cheering “USA! USA! USA!”

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I regularly speak at Boys State because I had such a positive experience as a delegate when I was in high school. It gave me a chance to experience how government works. I still keep in touch with friends I made at those sessions.

President Ronald Reagan once said that freedom is, “Never more than one generation away from extinction.” That means our traditions – of self-government, personal responsibility, and the separation of powers – don’t magically continue on their own. It is up to all of us to carry them on and to pass them down.

Boys State is helping to do that, and it is just one of many great civic education opportunities in Mississippi. Of course, Girls State is also a remarkable organization, serving the young women of our state and nation.

Junior ROTC also helps mold the next generation of leaders. Educators, parents, and students are clamoring for more JROTC chapters because they see its many benefits. In the U.S. Senate, I have authored and successfully passed laws helping expand the program – especially in rural areas, which had too few units. Just this month, I negotiated the first draft of the U.S. Senate Armed Services’ annual national defense legislation, which included language to mandate more JROTC chapters.

Congress established the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation in 1986, which awards annual research fellowships to high-school-level American history teachers, including many from Mississippi. I recently joined the board of the organization to lend my support to these educators as they share the story of our nation with their students.

Right here in Oxford, the University of Mississippi is leading college-level efforts to steep undergraduates in the founding texts of the United States. The new Declaration of Independence Center for the Study of American Freedom helps students wrestle with the foundational concepts that gave life to our system of government.

All these organizations, and others like them, provide a valuable public service. However, no one needs a formal program to help with the civic education of our young people. Everyone can play a part, and perhaps the easiest way to get started is simply to follow the calendar this summer.

We have already commemorated Memorial Day, observed the 80th anniversary of D-Day, and celebrated Juneteenth and Flag Day. As we move toward July 4th, we have been presented with numerous chances to tell the stories of American history. We can mark these occasions by attending community events, visiting an American Legion, or simply taking a moment to introduce a friend to the great legacy of this country.