Making Patriotism Cool Again
● By Rick McGarry
David and Andrea Reiser offer these suggestions on what you can do in your everyday life to put a positive face on being patriotic:
Reinforce at home what your kids learn in school.
They're learning about the Founding Fathers, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Bill of Rights, and more. To make sure that these subjects really sink in, take a few minutes to discuss them at home. Share, for example, what having the right to vote means to you. After all, how your kids feel about their country today will impact how they shape it tomorrow.
"Don't be afraid to get creative when discussing civics and patriotism with your children," David suggests. "For example, The New York Times prints a full-page copy of the Declaration of Independence on July Fourth each year. We tear it out and hang it in the kitchen for everyone to see and explore. I've also seen placemats with the U.S. Presidents on them that kids love, as well as kid-friendly civics games at education stores."
Observe patriotic etiquette.
Much like saying "please" and "thank you" to others, observing patriotic etiquette is a way to show respect and deference to the nation in which we live. No one's going to throw you out of a sporting event if you don't remove your hat and place your hand over your heart during the national anthem—but doing so certainly fosters a sense of gratitude and reverence among those present, and also creates a sense of identity and pride in America.
"Familiarize yourself with proper patriotic etiquette—including flag etiquette—and encourage the whole family to follow it," Andrea advises. "In addition to showing proper respect to our country, you'll spark those important 'why' conversations with your kids."
"When elections roll around, don't just zip in and out of the voting center if you can help it. Try to make going to the polls an event for the entire family," suggests Andrea. "Take your kids with you when you vote, and teach them that what you're doing is an important part of being an American citizen. Explain to them how fortunate we are to live in a country where we get to select our leaders. And if they're old enough, ask them who they'd vote for, and why."
Learn about patriotic Holidays
You can't flip too far through the calendar without hitting a national holiday. Learn and share with your kids this Independence Day and and get involved in local celebrations.
Take a historical vacation.
Reminding everyone in your family how America got to where it is today isn't just a valuable educational opportunity. It's also a way to drive home lessons—positive and negative—that can still be applied today. Depending on how much time and money you've got to work with, you could take a quick field trip to your county's history museum or mount an expedition to Colonial Williamsburg, the Gettysburg battlefield, or the beaches of Normandy, just to name a few.
"Our four sons have really enjoyed the historical trips we've taken—and they've learned quite a bit, too," Andrea shares. "Our family trip to Washington, D.C. stands out especially. It's our nation's capital and center of government, and it contains so many fascinating memorials and museums. David and I really believe that it should be a required field trip for all citizens, regardless of age."
Do your part on the home front.
Thousands of servicemen and women are serving far from home—and they could use your encouragement. Put together a care package for a deployed soldier, thank a veteran, or ask a military family how you can help out while Mom or Dad is overseas.
"We really can't extend enough gratitude to the members of our armed forces and their families," David states. "While we're enjoying our homes, our comfy beds, our favorite restaurants, and more, thousands of military men and women are voluntarily going without what most of us would consider to be 'the basics'—all in service of our country. And that's not even taking into account the sacrifices their families are making while they're gone!
"If you want to do something to support our military communities, organizations like the Department of Veterans Affairs, The American Legion, and the American Red Cross all offer opportunities to get involved."
David Reiser is co-author along with his wife Andrea of the new book Letters From Home: A Wake-up Call for Success & Wealth (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-4706379-2-0, $27.95, www.ReiserMedia.com).
David and Andrea Reiser are proud to contribute 100 percent of royalties and other income from the publication of the book by supporting three personally meaningful charities in the following proportion: 50 percent to Share Our Strength (www.strength.org), 40 percent to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (www.mskcc.org), and 10 percent to FORCE (www.facingourrisk.org).