By JAMIE ALLARD
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” – President Ronald Reagan
Just as the trees stretch their leaves into the sky this month, Alaska’s high school graduating Class of 2021 are tossing their mortarboards skyward.
Along with those mortarboards, face masks are flying through the air as well – into the bonfire.
The Class of 2021 is moving on from all that, and well they should.
No red-blooded American parent ever thought they’d see our young people hidden behind a cloth mask for the best years of their lives, nor did we wish for them to be home-bound, ordered to shelter in place by the government for indefinite periods of time.
That’s not what we dreamed for them as newborns, and it’s sure not what we want for them on their journeys through adulthood. We cannot accept that an ever-present government threat of house arrest is the new norm for this generation as they take on the responsibilities of running their own lives, and ultimately our nation.
As Americans, we expect more for our graduates, and we, the adults in the room, must protect that precious foundation of freedom that allows them to dream, achieve, and live their destinies.
To regain the sense of American promise, we must recommit to our responsibilities because our liberties, as explained so eloquently by Ronald Reagan, are just a generation away from being taken from us.
Therefore, I can think of no better gift for this graduating class than a copy of the U.S. Constitution, with our precious rights delineated in the Bill of Rights. Forget the car, computer, or diamond necklace. Those are tangible but temporary; liberty is intangible, and wholly irreplaceable.
It would be my hope to see a copy of the Constitution in the hands of every single senior this year, whether they walk across the stage or get their GED in the mail and head to their first real job.
The Bill of Rights guarantees their liberties as individuals: Rights like freedom of speech, religion, due process, and rule of law. It reserves all powers not delegated to the federal government to the people or the states. Why wouldn’t we want to issue each graduate a copy of this sacred document?
Indeed, we should wear it on our shirts, print it on our business cards, and talk about it at least as much as we gossip about the Kardashians. Let’s print that Bill of Rights on the back of every diploma, to remind graduates of what they have as citizens: Rights endowed by the Creator, as described in that other great document, the Declaration of Independence.
We should motivate our new graduates to take to heart the Bill of Rights, and dare I say we should hope they would be obsessed with them.
These rights have had a severe trampling this past year and our graduating class might have absorbed the notion that the taking of their God-given liberties is normal and part of our compact with government. It is not.
I would not want to overstate the difficulties of the past year, of course. Perspective is important. Those who have endured wars, Holocausts, Biblical plagues, and desperate poverty saw horrors that make this past year’s “policy pandemic” look tame. We’ve seen an erosion of our rights, not a wholesale decimation. I believe there’s a path back to restore the balance, but it will take all of us, graduates included, to take that path.
I hope today’s graduating class and their parents take away this lesson as they look back and look ahead: Governments are organisms that like to grow and gather power unto themselves. From the White House to the local City Hall, bureaucracies and those who run them want to gain more control over our lives, not less.
For America to continue as the land of promise and opportunity, we cannot allow government at any level to overstep its bounds. We, the people, must stand in the gap to protect the next generation — including this Class of 2021 — so they, too, may have the opportunity to live long and fruitful lives.
Let this be our promise to the graduating class of 2021: We know we didn’t meet our own expectations for fighting for your freedom this past year. But we will do better. We will keep fighting for your future. Our Constitution will be our sword and shield. We do this for you, and we expect you will do this for the next generation.
Jamie Allard is the Anchorage Assemblywoman representing Chugiak / Eagle River.