Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Psalm 1: 1-2 (ESV)
Here’s what I remember. Some of you will remember too, unless you’d rather not date yourselves.
But there was a time when we celebrated the birthdays of both Presidents Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky, and George Washington, born February 22, 1732 in Pope’s Creek, Virginia.
Today, instead, we designate a federal holiday called President’s Day, this year designated as February 17, 2014, to acknowledge both men. A day where those men are honored by too few, commercialized by retails sales specials, leaving all too little known by the general populace about those two grand namesakes of our country.
My elementary school teachers, and in particular I remember Mrs. Goldberg in the 5th grade, fashioned a celebration around the occasions of those two birthdays throughout the entire month of February, even to the point of requiring the memorization and singing of a song, most of which remains with me to this very day—
“In February there are days we like to celebrate,
The birthdays of two famous men, forever true and great,
George Washington is often called the ‘Father of our Land,’
While Lincoln served in troubled years, with calm and steady hand.
They both became our Presidents when need for them arose,
Though not alike, two famous men, our Country ever chose…”
The rest of the song has been claimed by the passing of years, and I suspect, in part, by the aging process.
But my Grandpa Regula, born in the early 1900’s in Poland, knew the names of the first and sixteenth Presidents before he could speak English. He wasn’t formally educated, but was far from illiterate. When he finally learned to read, he read about the lives of those two great men, and other men and women like them, for he knew that their footprints had helped to mark the pathway of what would be his journey on the day of his arrival on these shores at Ellis Island nearly eighty years ago.
It was a day in which no amount of darkening skies or threatening storms could hide the sunshine in his heart as his eyes fell upon Lady Liberty as the ship he was on slipped into the New York harbor. I suspect each of you, if you looked hard enough, could find a Grandpa Regula in your family heritage, as well.
I suppose he was the first best-friend I ever had in my life—a confidant and comforter to a seven-year-old boy, whom both he and Grandma sheltered and cared for when he was left all alone. Funny how Grandpa knew that baseball and fishing were more important to that seven-year-old boy than catching the bus for school, but he made sure that I caught the bus anyway, because he wanted more for me, and wanted me to also know in my heart, what he held in his heart, for his new Country, and why.
Were he still with us, Grandpa would still be celebrating the birthdays of both Presidents, closing his shop, hanging the Stars and Stripes, and spending time reading about these and other great men and women who had gone before him. He would have wanted his great and great-great grandchildren to know all about them, their faults, their strengths and their never-ending passion for this great country into which they have been born.
The story of America is written in the hearts, and woven together by the actions of these three noble countrymen—George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Grandpa Regula— and others like them, in a remarkable tale of the triumph of the human spirit all under the watchful eye of God.
As we look to the future—looking back with an honest yet appreciative heart and while embracing and correcting our shortcomings, holding dear all those moments where as a nation we overcame much together, and never forgetting or letting go of our founding virtues and heritage—may we never forget who we are, Whose we are, and where we need to go, for the honor of those who have gone before us, and the sake of those who will follow.
Together, today and every day, and under the watchful eye of God who was with us from the beginning of our days, may we pass on our torch of liberty with honesty, with honor and gratitude, and with courage and pride for this grand and great land which these three men, and so many more men, women and children loved—America.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2014. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.