There was no hotter place on the planet than the school auditorium where most of the entertainment took place.
Mind you, we didn’t have central air in those days. If it was 100
degrees outside you could add another twenty degrees and you’d have
the stifling effect of the inside of the auditorium.
Today’s Peach Queens are markedly prettier than the girls in my day.
Back then, I used to think that they were selected by the pound and
not by their looks… but I digress.
The real meaning of the Fourth of July celebration was and is to
celebrate our country’s birth. Festivals like the one in Gilbert bring
the community together to break bread and have some fun in the process
of saying Happy Birthday America!
The average age of the world’s great civilizations is but 200 years.
That’s but a speck on the backdrop of time.
Most of these great civilizations progressed from bondage to spiritual
faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from great courage to
liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from
apathy to dependency and from dependency back into bondage again…
all within the short span of just 200 years.
In 2013, our country will be 237 years old. I wonder where we are
along the aforementioned path. For us to regain and retain our prowess
as a nation, we must refocus our efforts to what made this country
My best guess is we are somewhere between complacency and apathy, with
a slight lean in the direction of dependency. Liberty and freedom has
survived for 237 years, not necessarily because of us but in some
cases, in spite of us.
As a nation, we seem to have acquiesced entrepreneurial approach to
one of entitlement. When my grandparents came to this country in the
early 1900’s, they had no formal education and no one would even
consider hiring someone who could not speak English. That’s why so
many of them became self-employed business people. There was literally
no other way to make a living.
In those days there was no welfare. There were no entitlements. All
that existed was the promise of a “pursuit of happiness.”
The most significant line in the Declaration of Independence states:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
That promise was not for happiness but for you to be able to pursue
happiness. There are no guarantees warranted in the document. Somehow,
we’ve let that slip to the wayside, which is why we’re somewhere
between apathy and dependency in our country today.
The Poet Emma Lazarus in “The New Colossus” wrote, “Give me your
tired, your poor / your huddled masses yearning to be free / The
wretched refuse of your teeming shore / Send these, the homeless, the
tempest-tost to me / I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
(Inscribed beneath the Statue of Liberty in 1903).
That was about the time my grandfathers on both sides of the house
arrived in this country from Beirut, Lebanon. All they expected and
wanted was to pursue a dream of being free; free to succeed, free to
fail, free to blossom, free to fade.
We get so irritated when someone burns or desecrates a flag in this
country, but our forefathers actually fought and died for their right
to do so. Wikipedia defines freedom of speech as: “The political right
to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property
to anyone who is willing to receive them…”
The problem with that definition is that it didn’t take into account
the price that others paid so that you could exercise your right to
burn a flag.
So the next time we complain about the size of the beauty queen or the
warmth of the auditorium, remember… the reason we gather is to
remember those who fought, bled and died so that we could complain.
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for
this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at