Two nationally captivating events are taking place now that should cause people to pause for a moment to think.
Thousands of young people are graduating from high school, and many families are celebrating. It is a transitional state for many teens who will leave home to go to college, join the military or enter the job market and hope to remain there for at least 40 years.
But the country also is commemorating the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York in honor of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that sent commercial flights into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania from a failed attempt to target an additional U.S. building.
At a program Saturday in Topeka commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case outlawing segregated schools, an educator remarked that high school graduates today have to be encouraged to think about the high court ruling and even the 9-11 attacks because each was just history to them.
Although many of America’s schools are segregated now than they were in 1968, those graduates who did attend integrated schools can thank the Brown decision for the racial and ethnic diversity they enjoyed in their classrooms. But none of today’s graduates were alive in 1954 when the Supreme Court handed down the landmark ruling.
When the planes hit the towers in the 9-11 tragedy today’s 18-year-old high school graduates were only age 5. They didn’t feel the sense of outrage, horror, loss, sorrow and anger that reverberated throughout the United States and led to the start of the war against terrorism under President George W. Bush.
Troops went to fight in 2001 in Afghanistan and two years afterward the U.S. was embroiled in the war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. High school seniors in 2001 and afterward joined the service to fight for U.S. freedoms in those wars.
But today’s graduates couldn’t be expected to feel the pain of the 9-11 tragedy any more than 1954 graduates were expected to connect with the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. World War II by 1954 was long over, and even the Korean War that followed was done by 1953.
Many of the early soldiers in the war against terrorism have been veterans now for about 10 years. That’s a long time. Some may have suffered homelessness, joblessness, post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, lost limbs and got swept up into the negligence scandal of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For the sake of all veterans as Memorial Day approaches, the nation has to do better.