Searching For Relevance

Ideals That Matter

December 8, 2018

I found the services in honor of President H.W. Bush, to be quite moving.  It is only right that we pay respect as a nation, to those who have given so much in leading our country.  The before and after pictures of our presidents reveals the stress involved in holding that office.  

A moment of personal significance was Senator Bob Dole’s salute to the casket as it lay in state, the evening before the funeral.  It brought back memories of working with him in the presidential campaign of 1976.  Another individual of honorable service. Through it all, it was apparent that we were witnessing more than the passing of one particular leader.  We were living through the final stages of an entire generation.  A generation I greatly admired.

It was that generation — the G.I. Joe generation — who mentored me through so many stages of my life.  From childhood to adulthood and student to professional, they were always around and sound; solid and strong.  They taught me the value of hard work along with the importance of strong values and high ideals.  It didn’t matter whether I agreed with their politics, or they with mine, disagreements were always respectful and courteous.  I was treated with dignity, not because I always deserved it, but because the position/office I held as their minister deserved it.  They were committed and loyal, tireless in their labors, and faithful to the institutions that bound society together.  

These were the thoughts that flooded my mind as I watched the funeral and listened to each speaker.  It made me proud!  But also sad, because we have allowed many of these characteristics to slip away and take a peripheral place in our corporate life.

We are not as respectful to one another as we should be.  We do not honor those holding key roles in our culture - teachers, public servants, etc.,- the way we once did.  In fact, there are those who do everything possible so they wont’t succeed. We have not become a “kinder, gentler nation,” but a suspicious and entitled nation.  I say this without malice, but in all honesty.  We can do better!  We are better!

In a book recently published, entitled, “Behold, America,” Sarah Churchwell attempts to trace the origins of the phrase “America First” in our nation’s history.  What she uncovers is relevant for our times:

     1)     This phrase only begins to appear in the 20th Century, around WWI, and it is used in conjunction with economic prosperity

     2)     Similar phrases were used earlier, but not in association with wealth, but a specific set of higher ideals — truth, liberty, justice, tolerance, and freedom.  

These were the same ideals spoken, again and again, at the service for President H.W. Bush.  It seems critical to me that we reclaim this earlier definition again.  They are not the possession of any one generation, but the heart of God’s dream for our world.  If they are sacrificed on the alter of self-serving,  they will be difficult to recapture.  Someone said, “The church is but one generation away from extinction.”  The same can be said for our society.  

It is my prayer this will never happen, but it could.  And the only thing in the way of that happening is ..... us!

May God grant us the courage to stand for those high ideals that have made our country unique. And may we do so with decency and mutual respect.  


Rev. Dr. Keith Haemmelmann