Before Hart’s speech, Sandra Myers introduced Skye Darnell, who won the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ “Voice of Democracy” essay contest. Darnell spoke of the role freedom plays in a democracy. She said the two are different but go hand-in-hand.
“Democracy should have more to do with people and less to do with government,” Darnell said.
When Hart approached the podium to speak to the freshman class, he told them that he was not here to recruit them for the Army, but wanted to speak to them on what Veterans Day is all about. He said that when he was in high school, assemblies ranked second only to field trips on his list of welcome ways to get out of class for two reasons. The first was sleep time and the second was non-testable material. He told the students that he would not begrudge them if they fell asleep, but that he had one request.
“Please don’t snore so loud that your neighbor can’t hear,” he said. If he did hear snoring, he said he brought ping-pong balls to throw at students if he needed.
Hart said that if there was one thing he wanted the students to remember and take with them when they left the assembly, it was that they needed to stay in school. He said that all job applications had one thing in common. They all ask if the applicant is a high school graduate, and if the applicant answers no, the person reading the application would have preconceived notions and stereotypes associated with that answer.
Hart asked students what a possible honorable reason to drop out of school would be. When one freshman answered that joining the Army might be an honorable reason, Hart said that recruits must be high school graduates. He talked of a theoretical situation in which a student’s parents were unable to work and that student had to get a job to take care of his or her family and tied it in with his definition of heroism.
“Do you have to be in the military to be a hero?” he asked. “No. Being a hero means sacrificing your own personal interests for others.”
Unfortunately, he said, there is no checkbox on a job application for “hero,” and that it why it so vital for them to finish high school.
Hart said that when he was in combat in Vietnam, he was deprived of things that he had always taken for granted. When he asked students what those things might be, one said electricity and another said having food readily available on the table. Another said running water, which hit close to Hart’s point.
“I learned how much I loved having a toilet seat,” he said.
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.