Is it just me or does it seem like our American way of life has been under increasing attack as of late? Just this week alone, we continue to reel from the antics of the NFL and their players demonstrating against honoring our flag and those who sacrifice(d) for it and now the politicization of the horrific murders in Las Vegas! When will the insanity end?
As an optimist, I am always on the lookout for us as Elks to turn misfortune into opportunity and believe it or not, I think there is gold to be mined in these turns of events!
Adversity often brings out the best in people and as Elks we often go above and beyond! Take the recent hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. In these, Elks across Florida came together, even sometimes forsaking their own needs and those of their lodges, to aid those more severely affected by these disasters. Marathon Lodge, for example, stood proud and strong in their support of the first responders in the Keys offering food, water and shelter from the heat. Our very own Past State President, John Harris, as did many other Elks, gave of their time and money to support victims of the flooding in Texas. Who would have ever thought of the Elks as the first responders to the first responders? It seems I wrote about this a little over a year ago after the disaster that befell Orlando after the Pulse nightclub shootings. Once again, we have done ourselves proud and we should never miss the opportunity to market ourselves to others as the remarkable people we are and welcome other like-minded citizens to join us in our caring and sharing pursuits.
Another area I believe we often sell ourselves short in is our undying commitment to our values as citizens of the USA. Elks members everywhere bleed red, white and blue and espouse daily the virtues of being American. We vow to preserve and defend our republic and we stand (yes, stand) proudly and salute every time we cross paths with Old Glory! One thing that drew me to the Order of Elks some 32 years ago was the pride exhibited by Elks for the flag, the Heritage Corners in our lodges and our proud history of devotion to Americanism: conducting bond drives, promoting civil defense programs and Flag Day observance. In 1961 the Order of Elks went even further adopting a “Declaration of American Principles.” In this is addressed our responsibility to moral values, our freedom of choice, and our individual responsibility and duty to citizenship. It also addresses our ability to self-govern and the use of orderly process to accommodate the changing needs of our nation. It emphasizes the need for more freedoms, not less freedoms, and promotes interests common to our nation as a whole, not just those who yell the loudest. Finally, it asks all citizens who believe in these principles to speak up for them and set an example by applying them fully in their daily lives.
Who better than the Elks to promote a wider understanding of these principles and their practical application? For years we have been leaders in promoting drug awareness education to our youth. Let’s now add youth patriotism education! Presently, at our Florida Elks Youth Camp, campers in our summer program are exposed to the proper raising, lowering and folding of our flag and are instructed in the proper salute and respect for our flag. Perhaps we should take that a step further and develop an off-season camp curriculum around helping children develop the skills needed to become active participants in American democracy. Our camp director, Nick Miller, is an educator and has passion for teaching children. Perhaps Nick could develop different-length curriculums that could be marketed to schools across Florida combining the camping experience with education and the promotion of youth patriotism.
Ben Franklin was asked after signing the U.S. Constitution if the founders had created a monarchy or a republic. Franklin was said to reply that America would be “a republic, if you can keep it.”
Developing our youth and their respect for our country while rededicating ourselves to our American values and promoting our lodges as a place where like-minded people gather to do good by others and support and practice being good citizens – what a draw that would be! Our bars and restaurants are a draw but they do nothing to distinguish us as different than all the others. We are more than just a fraternal organization; we are a fraternal and patriotic organization. After WWII, our ranks soared with Americans proud of our nation and wishing to celebrate their love of country. Are we in the midst of another opportunity to grow our ranks? Will we take advantage of the popularity of being American or will we lose yet another opportunity to attract new members?
My aim in these articles is to inform, educate and instill a sense of responsibility in our success. I do this by sometimes offering ideas that are not your normal run-of-the-mill thoughts and ideas. We are not perfect and sometimes we have to look at ourselves as others see us before we realize the need to improve. So, how am I doing? Let me know what you think! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org