Recent events are a warning that American politics have reached a tipping point. As a nation, we cannot hope to maintain political stability without a shared conscience on fundamental principles that our nation was founded upon and understanding of what it takes to be a citizen.
The alternative is political tribalism that places an unhealthy emphasis on the things that divide us, rather that which unities us as Americans: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the American flag, liberty, and freedom.
As veterans, in war we have witnessed firsthand people who do their worst to destroy civilizations. Now, back at home, we join together as members of the Rockwall Terry Fisher American Legion Post to serve our fellow Texans as champions for patriotic values, morals, culture and citizenship.
The American Legion’s pillar of Americanism embodies devotion to law and order, respectful and wholesome youth, well educated and law-abiding citizens and the respectful observance of patriotic holidays and remembrances.
One of the ways we do this is by sponsoring and funding high school juniors to Boys State and Girls State.
For over five decades, the Terry Fisher Post has used these nationally acclaimed programs to educate our youth in the duties, privileges and responsibilities of American citizenship. This year we proudly sponsored 20 juniors from Rockwall, Rockwall-Heath and Heritage Christian Academy to attend both Boys State and Girls State.
Each June over 1,000 young Texans attend the American Legion’s one-week program: Boys State at the University of Texas-Austin, and Girls State at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.
It is an intense week where students, or “citizens,” learn the foundations of our American democracy by participating in a mock-government by running for leadership positions and then governing based on our democratic principles.
In a non-partisan environment they organize their own city, county, and state governments and elect their leaders in accordance with regular election procedures. In addition, they learn the duties of elected officials and the mechanisms of government as they introduce and debate legislation. The week concludes with a visit to the State Capital, where the meet elected state leaders and officials.
Bonds are formed and friendships are made that extend long after the program ends.
Talk with someone who attended either program and they will tell you in their own words about how they learned about the rights, duties and privileges of American citizenship and the importance of personal responsibilities and the obligations we all have to ensure a functioning democracy.
Boys State and Girls State alumni rolls include well known federal, state, and county political leaders, U.S. and Texas Supreme Court justices and state and county Judges, civic leaders, captains of industry, senior military officers, astronauts, and even entertainers.
In Rockwall, we are blessed to have several well known community and business leaders, including our Larry Parks, who, like astronaut Neil Armstrong (a Boys State alumnus), learned the importance of commitment and the importance of giving back, and devotes his time and energy to making Rockwall a better place.
Students return to first apply what they learned in their senior year at high school, then throughout life.
In early October, the Terry Fisher American Legion Post will begin taking applications for high school juniors to attend next June. We encourage anyone interested to contact their school counselor or a member of the American Legion. Visit the following web sites to learn more:
• Rockwall Terry Fisher American Legion Post: http://www.legionpost117.org
• Texas Boys State: http://www.texasboysstate.com
• Texas Bluebonnet Girls State: http://girls-state.org
The Rockwall County Commissioners Court honored our 2017 Boys State and Girls State delegates on September 12, 2017, in Rockwall’s historic County Courthouse. We are very proud of each one of these young leaders who join us in our dedication to stop the attacks on our nation’s cultural, moral and patriotic values by educating our youth to be stalwart champions of American values as educated and law-abiding citizens.
Mark Kipphut is First Vice Commander of Rockwall Terry Fisher American Legion Post 117.