- - Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mark Cuban announced earlier this month that the national anthem would no longer be played before Dallas Mavericks games. Eventually, the NBA stepped in and reversed his decision, but the mere fact that he thought it was acceptable to cancel the anthem of our beloved nation sends a troubling message about the state of our union.

The American flag and the national anthem have historically been things that united us in this country. Regardless of race or sex or ethnicity or age or even political party, these were the things that united us as Americans. They still should.

More than individual heroes, our flag and anthem stood for all of us. Each of us, a thread woven into the fabric of this remarkable country — just like the star-spangled banner that inspired our anthem. Great countries need things that bring people together. Historically, the flag and anthem were two of the most obvious.  

As the national motto says: out of many, one — e pluribus unum. Some of our ancestors were here long before we declared our independence from Great Britain. Others came here generations ago. And still many come here today. 

More than 1 million legal immigrants come to America every year. In fact, there are more foreign-born citizens here than in any place in the world. They come for the freedom and opportunity available in the United States. They come to flee the failures of places like Cuba and Venezuela. They come to flee the oppression of places like Iran and Somalia. Many still come here from the old Soviet bloc countries.  

Those seeking freedom and opportunity come to America. They love our country. At the same time, sadly, many of our own children are taught to hate the United States. 

Ronald Reagan warned during his farewell address that “younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer in style.” He clearly foreshadowed what we are experiencing today.  

Our 40th president went on to remind us that “we’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.” And he gave us a path forward with the charge of “more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual.”  

During Black History Month, I hope our students learn that Harriet Tubman rescued enslaved people and she wasn’t afraid to use a gun against anyone who stood in the way of freedom. I hope they read speeches from Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and gifted orator who used his voice to inspire freedom fighters. I hope they are taught about Clarence Thomas, the senior associate justice and longest-serving member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and how he uses his position to uphold our constitutional rights. I hope they understand the genius and skill of Ben Carson, a groundbreaking neurosurgeon who answered the call to public service. 

Young people need to know that many of the impactful Black Americans in our history are not woke liberals. I also hope that, during the month of February, our students learn about some of our iconic presidents. 

George Washington was more than just our first resident. He was our primary example of servant leadership. After winning the Revolutionary War, Washington could have been declared President-for-Life. Instead, he headed back to his beloved Mount Vernon after eight years in office. His birthday is on Feb. 22. 

Abraham Lincoln was a bit of a reluctant leader who preserved the Union and abolished slavery — temporarily through the Emancipation Proclamation and permanently through his active support of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His birthday was Feb. 12. 

Ronald Reagan’s leadership helped bring the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War. His policies brought unprecedented economic recovery and a restored sense of American patriotism. His birthday was Feb. 6.  

Each of these leaders deserves to be remembered and revered on the anniversaries of their day of birth. Too many of our fellow citizens view President’s Day as a time to get good deals on mattresses, washing machines and automobiles. 

Overall, ours is a great nation. We were founded on the simple concept that all people are created equal. Each of us inherits different backgrounds and circumstances. And it is up to each of us to determine our own destiny. Unlike so many other places in the world, however, that destiny is not determined solely by our class or income or sex or race or age.

That star-spangled banner does still yet wave. O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. Just like our flag, the American Dream is there for everyone still today. 

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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