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Sailing

Other triumphs worth cheering

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, June 7, 1994

Many of the youngest members of the twenty-something generation are graduating this month in commencement ceremonies all over America.

But this year, something is different. This year, Americans also are celebrating the 50th anniversary of D-day, which marked the beginning of the end of World War II and the struggle against fascism.

The spirit of triumphalism has been rediscovered by the media, and media moguls have found that pride sells. Americans are proud of their achievements — and we should be. We have much to be proud of.

As the newest members of Generation X receive their degrees, the D-day celebration shows in bold relief the legacy of Generations T, U and V — or is it VII, VIII and IX? The Iegacy is substantial and many national achievements have milestones this year.

During the past month, we’ve had the celebration of D-day 50 years ago June 6,1944) and the celebration of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education 40 years ago (May 17, 1954). Punchline: Our forefathers and mothers struggled against the evils of fascism abroad and state-sanctioned segregation at home — and they won. We need to be proud of them and their achievements.

Twenty-five years ago this summer July 20, 1969), we landed two men on the moon and returned them to Earth. This feat changed forever how we see ourselves, our planet and the universe. In retrospect, we now know the American moon landing sparked a new era (still under way) of rapid technological innovation in the U.S. and the beginning of the end of the struggle between the enterprise economies of the free world and the command economies of the communist world — a system that couldn’t compete in the space race or win the arms race because it stifled innovation and couldn’t feed its people.

Five years ago thus autumn (Nov. 9, 1989) will mark the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism — symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall. For reasons I will never understand, this nation’s opinion leaders (media leaders, corporate chiefs and elected officials) were unwilling to lead a celebration of that historic victory over the forces of darkness, a victory that cost this nation and its allies more than $12 trillion.

But America’s spent treasure and the cooperation between business and government, learned so well in WWII and the moon shot, preserved the freedom we enjoy today to live and work where we choose, to think as we will, to follow our instincts — and not the diktat of the state.

Indeed, Generations VII through IX led the 20th century’s transcendent struggle against statism of the left and statism of the right — though we still flirt with milder forms than those practiced by Hitler, Franco, Stalin and Gorbachev. Lesson: Each generation — not just the Founding Fathers or Civil War heroes, but even in the post-WWII era — has paid with blood and treasure for the freedom we enjoy today. It is a legacy worth having and worth defending.

So as the 1994 commencement speakers address the most fortunate members of Generation X, let’s hope “the last lecture” will devote some time to the historic and, indeed, monumental anniversaries that will be — or should be — celebrated before this year is out. The legacy, which belongs to each of us, will soon fall to Generation X to preserve and extend for all of us.

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