From an early age, the kids in our family were taught respect.
Mom and Dad were church-going people. Every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening we attended the First Baptist Church in Germantown, Ohio.
Both in Sunday school and church, we were taught the fundamentals of our Christian religion. We were also taught to be always be respectful. Whenever referring to an adult, we were expected to refer to them as “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
Besides respect, we were also taught about love. Over 20 times in the New Testament we are told to love one another. Jesus even told his disciples, “A new commandment I give you. Love one another. Even as I have loved you, so must you love one another.”
That’s a pretty strong, clear statement about love.
When I went to school (way back when), we started each day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Besides that, every Wednesday a different minister from a local church would begin our school day with a short devotion. We weren’t beat-over-the-head with religion during our Wednesday devotion, but we were exposed to the teachings of the various churches in our community.
Although classes in religion weren’t taught in our public schools, it wasn’t against the law to talk about religion or to pray in school. We were not restricted from talking about God or Jesus, Christian love or any other religious topics. I’ve always felt that, as long as there are final exams in school there, will also be prayer.
Then, 50 years ago the United States Supreme Court ruled that school sanctioned devotions and prayer were a violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state. Although that ruling has been debated for the past 50 years, public schools stopped the practice of weekly devotions.
During school, we were also taught to respect our flag and our country. Our teachers were free to teach us about patriotism and about the importance of loving our country and our flag.
At the beginning of each day, we placed our right hand over our heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. As a young school-aged boy, it didn’t mean a lot that we started each day with the pledge, but as I’ve gotten older I appreciate the Pledge of Allegiance more and more.
I’ve been told that the Wilmington City School system still starts each day with the Pledge of Allegiance. I’ve also been told that not all of the kids stand during the pledge and that many remain quiet. If that is the decision the student wants to make, they are not forced to participate. I would hope that they wouldn’t have to be forced to recite the pledge, but that they would do it out or respect.
Nearly 30 years ago, just after our oldest son joined the United States Army, I purchased an American flag and a flag holder that is still attached to the large maple tree in the front yard. I have a light that shines on the flag at night. Night and day, the American flag is respectfully displayed in front of our house.
Often, when I get up in the morning, I look out the front bedroom window to see what the weather is doing. I usually sleep with the window open because I like a really, chilly room and enjoy the sound of wind and rain. So, one of the first things I see each morning is the American flag hanging on our tree. I like that.
One morning, just as school was starting this past fall, I woke up to a gray day. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I looked out the front window. There, I noticed people standing on our sidewalk. Some were old. Some were young. That’s when I realized that we now had a school bus stop right in front of our house.
I noticed an older man and a little girl standing in front of our flag. They both had their hands over their hearts. It looked like they were singing as they saluted the American flag. I was very moved by that sight.
Early Riley family history is very sketchy, but an old military record indicates that Dan Riley spent time at Valley Forge and later fought at the Battle of Brandywine Creek. It was during that battle on September 11, 1777, that the American flag was first carried into battle. I have an ancestor who may have seen that happen.
From the days of Betsy Ross and Brandywine Creek up to watching a grandfather teach his little granddaughter the words to the National Anthem while saluting the flag, the American flag has meant a lot to our family.
We should all recognize that it is not up to the public schools to teach our children respect for God and country, it is up to each of us, parents and grandparents, to teach our children to love and respect each other, our country, our flag and God.
Whoever that grandfather was … thank you.
Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.