The national issues we face, from the disparity of our taxation system to the politicizing of our judicial system, remind us that our struggle for a fair and equitable government is not behind us.
Two books from my high school experience long ago remain as fresh and relevant as the days when I could not go to sleep without the urge to turn yet another page — "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Cry the Beloved Country."
The first was a story of our own national experience during the Depression — the widespread consequences of the greed of the 1920s. The second was the pervasive nature of institutionalized racism and the struggle of millions to overcome unfair treatment by the powerful in South Africa, a more extreme form of the racism present in our own country in the 1960s.
I believe that it is the nature of a high school education to raise the level of awareness of students to the continuous struggle of humankind. We should energize them to create a world that is more just, and to help them overcome their weaknesses to build a better future for their families and society.
But somehow from history class, I was left with the impression that the heavy lifting toward democracy, and toward a more just society in our own country, was done by the founding fathers for us. It seemed as if we could just ride our future and good fortune on the masterful documents they created for us — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
I can't remember anyone telling me that all democracies are fragile. Somehow I must have skipped the chapter on Thomas Jefferson's warnings.
No one told me directly that it was up to us, individually, to help nurture democracy and keep a watchful eye on government to keep it fair and limited.
It seemed to me, then, that if we just salute the flag, recite the pledge and look up to the sky to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, that all would be well in this wonderful land.