- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

Nobles: The students of Florida’s Okaloosa County School District, for head-of-the-class style charity.

Okaloosa students likely have little but summer vacation on their minds, yet they’ve already outfitted over 300 Iraqi students with back-to-school supplies. This week, about 30 airmen and soldiers passed out over 200 bags stuffed with books, pencils, pens, markers, crayons, Beanie Babies and Matchbox Cars to children from the town of Al Anwar (located north of Baghdad). Teachers were given supply packs; Okaloosa students even provided playground balls and shoes.

Over 1,000 Okaloosa students gave gifts, part of a grassroots effort — students and parents put forward the idea. Their efforts produced more than $10,000 in supplies and $2,500 for shipping.

The charity is even more surprising since so many in the community — based around Eglin Air Force Base — have already given so much. As Don Gaetz, Superintendent of Okaloosa Schools, said, “Hundreds and hundreds of our parents and many of our teachers have been deployed. So our students don’t look at the war on terror in an abstract way. Their moms and dads and brothers and sisters are in the front lines.”

Last year, Okaloosa students gave supplies to Afghani children. They also send care packages to troops in Iraq.

Mr. Gaetz concluded, “We’re an old-fashioned flag-waving patriotic community. We suffer the most when there’s a loss [in combat]. We’re the first to go and we’re proud of it.”

For their love of country and lesson in charity, the students of Okaloosa County are the Nobles of the week.

Knaves: The second-guessers and scolds of the September 11 Commission.

Charged with the solemn service of investigating the failures that lead to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people on September 11, the commission has become a panel of partisans and pontificates. Their pomposity was in pure form again this week, during a public hearing on the emergency response to that catastrophe.

While the hearing’s purported purpose was to recommend ways to improve the work of first responders, commissioners used the occasion to berate and belittle the individuals who survived that day. For instance, Commissioner John Lehman called New York City’s command, control and communications systems “a scandal,” and “not worthy of the Boy Scouts, let alone this great city.”

It took former mayor Rudolph Giuliani to remind the commissioners of their duty. In his opening statement, he declared, “Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us, murdered our loved ones and continue to offer a threat to our security, safety and survival.”

For preening for the cameras instead of preparing against another catastrophe, the September 11 commissioners are the Knaves of the week.

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