11 Generation is the highlight of 2 high school speeches
I was invited to deliver several 9/11 10th anniversary speeches in the last two weeks. I accepted them all. Two stand out.
One week ago today, I spoke to nearly 3,000 students in two local suburban high schools. In the morning, I spoke to the entire student body of Central Bucks East in Buckingham, and in the afternoon, it was the entire student body of Central Bucks West in Doylestown.
The speeches came just after I’d completed a full week of guest hosting for Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball, and yet I found it more intimidating to speak to local high schoolers than go live on a national cable channel. West in 1980. The thought of returning to my alma mater, as well as visiting our crosstown rival, was thrilling and daunting.
How do you say something meaningful about a day teenagers have heard a great deal about but only vaguely remember themselves? After all, the only current high school students you’d expect to have a clear recollection of 9/11 are those who were then in Sandra Kay Daniel’s second grade class at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla., with President George W. Bush when he got the news. East was marked by approbation and patriotism.Cheap Jerseys china Principal Kevin Shillingford choreographed a moving 90 minute presentation that featured students and local dignitaries. Red, white, and blue the school colors were everywhere. Many students were wearing “We remember” T shirts that they’d been selling in support of the Garden of Reflection, Pennsylvania’s official 9/11 tribute in Lower Makefield. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) delivered a video presentation. Grace Godshalk, who lost her son William in the twin towers, thanked the students for their concern. A steel artifact from ground zero was presented by an honor guard.
At both schools, I tried to deliver a message focused on the role of individuals on a day remembered for its enormity. I also wanted to highlight the way in which judgments made in a matter of seconds had monumental consequences. West, my remarks came at the end of the day when principal Kevin Munnelly introduced me in the school’s auditorium, which was packed with the 1,400 member student body. Football players anticipating a game that night against William Tennent were wearing their legendary black and gold jerseys. East but no less respectful. Feet tapped and bodies swayed as two guitarists and a drummer warmed up the crowd, then played a stirring rendition of the national anthem. I asked Munnelly about his current crop of students and listened as he made a bragging reference to the wholesomeness of Lake Wobegon.
What I learned was that West students had something in common with their rivals at East. Each student body seemed eager to listen and learn about a seminal day in American history. They were respectful, reverential, and intellectually curious. All of which made me think about the difficult climate for both students and teachers. Too often both are underappreciated, while the aberrant get all the attention.
Mostly I keep thinking about the students. Too often we’re quick to judge future generations based on things such as their use of social media. But looking at their faces, it occurred to me that the only thing that has changed is the technology.
Vice President Biden spoke at the Pentagon on Sunday and referenced “an entire new generation of patriots the 9/11 Generation.”
“Many of them were just kids on that bright September morning. But like their grandparents on Dec. 7, 1941, they courageously bore the burden that history had placed on their shoulders. And as they came of age, they showed up they showed up to fight for their country, and they’re still showing up. Two million eight hundred thousand of that 9/11 Generation moved to join our military since the attacks on 9/11, to finish the war begun here that day.”.