A short time ago I had the privilege of reading the meanings associated with the folding of the American
Flag to some elementary students at the Fullerton City Library. I was sincerely touched by their attention
and reverence as the American Legion Veterans folded Old Glory. Duty and respect are always awe-
inspiring regardless of who displays it!
Our state legislature opens each day’s session with a prayer (usually by a pastor or a legislator) and the
pledge of allegiance to our flag (led by a legislator or a military veteran). These two rituals are followed
by a time (about five minutes) during which the senators record their presence as a quorum is required
in order to begin business.
Routinely the majority of members of one political party (Oops, we are supposed to be non-partisan!)
are not present for either the prayer or pledge. In fact, one of those members made a motion early in
the most recent session to cease having an opening prayer. Thankfully, her motion failed!
Recently I watched a movie about General Douglas MacArthur which both opened and closed with his
speech to the West Point Cadets. MacArthur ended his oration with this stirring admonition: “The very
obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country.”
Today we mistakenly confuse duties and rights. It seems everyone demands their wants and desires as
personal enshrined rights, but let’s compare and contrast the differences.
An individual has a right to free speech but is obligated by responsibility to be respectful and truthful in
that speech. One has the right to keep and bear arms but that right is accompanied by the duty to use
those arms properly and not to shed innocent blood. A person has a right to choose with whom to
associate which is bounded by the responsibility to choose wisely. We have the right to a free and open
government, but also a duty to vote and be involved in that government to keep government officials
accountable to the populace.
When rights are separated from duties, selfishness and anarchy are the result. As one preacher put it,
“Tell people their rights and incite riots; tell people their responsibilities and incite revival.”
Rev. Charles Finney, who was influential in America’s Second Great Awakening, exhorted Christians in
the 1830s: “The Church must take right ground in regard to politics… The time has come that Christians
must vote for honest men and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them… Christians
have been exceedingly guilty in this matter. But the time has come when they must act differently… God
cannot sustain this free and blessed country which we love and pray for unless the Church will take right
ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the
country as a part of their duty to God. It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were
becoming rotten, and the Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in
politics. But I tell you, He does see it, and He will bless or curse this nation according to the course they
(Christians) take in politics.”
General MacArthur lamented that “old soldiers just fade away,” and now our “Greatest Generation” is
fading away. Forged in the hardships of the Great Depression and honed by sacrifice in World War II,
members of that generation serving in Congress changed our national motto on July 30, 1956 from “E
Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one”) to “In God we trust.” That fundamental change, reflecting those
leaders’ understanding of just Who had preserved and protected the country through disaster and war,
was made by unanimous resolution and without debate.
As that generation of heroes preserved freedom and liberty for us, let us who follow in their footsteps
tend to our duties and responsibilities for the benefit of those who will follow after us! In these days of
moral relativism and chaos on every hand, that may seem like a futile effort, so let us remember the
words of President John Quincy Adams who said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.”