Last week I was back in Nebraska for the Fourth of July congressional work period. On the way to work one morning I turned on the radio to one of the news talk shows in which I occasionally participate, expecting to hear a dialogue about the latest crisis du jour in Washington.
No matter how busy the calendar in Washington, or how tumultuous the political climate, it is a July 4th tradition for Representatives to have time back in the district to listen to constituents. As always, I had a number of excellent visits and conversations during this July 4th work week. Perhaps the highlight was the July 4th Seward Parade.
I recently toured the newly renovated United States Capitol dome. It contains a striking fresco—entitled The Apotheosis of Washington—of a stern and purple-clad George Washington exalted in the heavens. On his right is the Goddess of Liberty, symbolizing emancipation, and on his left the Goddess Victoria, symbolizing victory.
If you are starting to feel overwhelmed by our nation’s struggles, talk to a vet. If you see our policy battles as impossible to solve, talk to a vet. If you want to reconnect with those things that bind us, talk to a vet.
Earlier this week, a gunman opened fire on Members of Congress and staff assistants as they were practicing for the annual bipartisan charity baseball game. Among the many injured was my dear friend and colleague, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. As news of the event came in right before our weekly Nebraska Breakfast, I felt bewildered, shocked, and numb.
After 9/11, crime all but vanished from the streets of New York City. In other words, the shock and horror caused a community to rally together above any social discord in the spirit of unity. We glimpsed this same spirit of solidarity when Osama bin Laden was finally confronted.
On Memorial Day, I met a gentleman who had flown fifteen bombing missions from England to Germany during WWII. A quiet and unassuming man, he had come to the graveside ceremony in Elmwood, Nebraska to pay respects to our war dead. He shared with me that he was the last remaining member of his crew.
On Memorial Day, we honor those who gave their last full measure in service to our country. We stop the busyness and pause: to observe, to reflect, to remember. The formal remembrance of our nation’s war dead is more than a nostalgic tradition.
In front of a congressional building in Washington, there are two statues. One is entitled Majesty of Law, the other Spirit of Justice. Majesty of Law is a Moses-like figure, with a sword in one hand pointed downward and a book in the other emblazoned with the United States Seal.
In his book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World, retired Admiral William McRaven walks through 10 Life Lessons that he learned during his Navy SEAL training. The book flowed from a commencement address he gave at the University of Texas, Austin, where he now serves as chancellor.