[On Saturday, February 21, 2015, Mayor Steve Martin addressed members of the El Paso de Robles Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on the occasion of the organization’s 65th Anniversary. The event was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Templeton California.]
Ms. Cohen, honored guests and members of the El Paso de Robles Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, good afternoon, and thank you for the invitation to be here today to recognize your organization and its 65 years of service.
As I read about your works over the decades to promote patriotism, historic preservation and education, it took me back through a few decades of my own history. My first independent exercise of American freedom occurred during my high school years in Atascadero. I became aware of student politics as the national politics of that era were coming to a boil. I became involved in student government, began commenting on local issues affecting my school, even wrote for and co-published a student newspaper.
The deeper I got into exercising my rights as an American, the more I realized three truths.
Patriotism: The belief in the greatness of our nation and its ability, and responsibility, to keep a lamp of freedom burning, not only for our country but for the world. I was raised to believe the great majority of Americans are good people, industrious people, and even if imperfect, a people desiring to learn from their mistakes and create an ever-improving nation for everyone. It is a nation worth preserving, building up and believing in.
History: The process of building a nation, much like that of building a person’s life, is one of creativity, experimentation, success and failure. It has been said that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. Inevitably, one is inextricably linked to the other and to build upon both, each must be remembered. We hold up the glories of our successes as a testimony to the validity of freedom and the ability of free people to govern themselves. Likewise, we should not gloss over our errors. We should allow ourselves to heal from our wounds and cross off those misjudgments as we would cross off markers on a map leading to swamps and crevices, reminding ourselves of paths not to take again in the future.
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his mentor, George Wythe, America’s first law professor, a prominent opponent of slavery and the first Virginian to sign the Declaration of Independence:
“I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom, and happiness.”
I am a product of public education. If I am able to discern error from accomplishment, if I am able to plan and participate, if I am able to articulate and persuade… it is because of that public education. I learned early on, when debating with my young friends and more than a few instructors, that in order for representative democracy to succeed the electorate requires two things: a desire to be a participant in that democracy and information; information about the nature of our communities, our states, our nation and our world; information about where we’ve been and where we are going; information about the issues that faced our forefathers and how those issues still drive us today. It is a heavy, but worthy, burden of freedom that our citizens seek out, acquire and remember that information and the best way to deliver it is through a rigorous, accessible and well-utilized public education system.
And so, much to my delight, I read about the Three Pillars of your organization: Patriotism, Historic Preservation and Education.
Over the last 65 years the members of the El Paso de Robles Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution have put their hands to the tasks.
Tasks such as creating hundreds of blankets and other items for veterans who are in need or homeless; a real world recognition of their sacrifices to build and preserve America.
Tasks such as supporting and serving our local historical societies, mapping our trails, cataloging cemeteries, even recognizing the local oak trees that have grown massive from tiny acorns as history was created during the passage of time.
Tasks such as recognizing our students, raising up the ideals of good citizenship within them and planting the seeds of a future filled with an ever more productive, enlightened and effective representative democracy.
It is a fact that a stool with three legs is safe place to sit. For 65 years your organization has helped build a stable base for our communities by raising up your three pillars of service: Patriotism, History and Education. In doing this you have accomplished more than a secure place for people to rest. You have provided a platform where free people may stand, and from which they may climb.
And so, Ms. Cohen, honored guests and members of the El Paso de Robles Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, it is my pleasure as the Mayor the City of Paso Robles to stand before you today, to thank you for your works and recognize your many years of service and dedication.
Again, thank you and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.