Archive for July, 2011

Red Skelton’s America

July 17, 2011

Today, July 18th, is Red Skelton’s birthday.  For those too young to remember, Red Skelton was one of America’s favorite comedians.  He had a rubber face like Jim Carey and the ability to improvise like Billy Crystal.  Red Skelton made generation after generation of Americans laugh.

But, Red Skelton did something else … he reminded us about how wonderful it is to be an American.   He’s still reminding us today with his recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance that continues to make the rounds through cyberspace and You Tube, heard by millions of Americans. 

Red Skelton’s is the quintessential American story, a rags to riches journey that can only happen in America.  Dropping out of school at an early age to go to work to help support his family, he rose to become a successful entertainer, television host, artist and composer. 

His journey was anything but easy.  Red’s father died two months before he was born.  He had to quit school at an early age to go to work and help support his family.  Two divorces, a child who died from leukemia, a nervous breakdown, rejection by his television sponsor, and a changing culture that shelved his style of comedy were other hurdles Red Skelton overcame during his lifetime.

But, he was loved by the American people, loved because he made them laugh and sometimes, cry.  I remember watching one of his routines as a child that has stuck with me all these years.  It was shortly after the space program had been launched so everything that had to do with space travel captured our imaginations in a big way.

His routine was of an astronaut “walking” in outer space, hooked up to his spacecraft through an attached lifeline.  Without speaking a word, Red Skelton floated through space on the television screen, his face expressing amazement, surprise, levity and wonder as the astronaut revelled in his weightlessness and new found freedom.  But, eventually, his time outside the spacecraft was finished.  As the astronaut began pulling on his lifeline to return to the ship, he realized it had become unattached … and his carefree playfulness quickly turned to terror.  He feverishly tried “swimming” back, but to no avail.  Then reaching his arms as far as they could go, but again, without results.  The stage blackened with Red Skelton’s face frozen in disbelief as he realized the inevitable truth of his demise.

I was stunned.   I had entered the world Red Skelton had silently created and learned a little bit more about the fragility of life and the risks astronauts took to advance space exploration.  Red Skelton was quite a talent.

 His love for America was quite evident.  In 1969, he performed a skit centered on the Pledge of Allegiance, acting out his own childhood experience of his school principle explaining the meaning of the Pledge to the young students.   You can watch it here.    

What is equally amazing is that this type of entertainment was normal a generation ago.  Actors and actresses were patriotic and proud to be so.  There were no rancid diatribes about America, no commentaries about America’s failings.  At the same time, neither was there a robotic fantasy that America had no room for improvement.  There was simply an unapologetic respect for America.  

Interestingly, Red Skelton mentioned at the end of his routine that it would be a shame if “under God” was ever taken out of the Pledge because someone claimed it is a prayer.  That was in 1969, after Madeline Murray O’Hare had successfully fought for the removal of prayer from public schools.  It would take another 33 years before “under God” was challenged.  Michael Newdow  sued his daughter’s school over the phrase. 

Thankfully, Newdow lost his argument.  But, the phrase is still under attack as is the Pledge itself, being put on the back shelf by more and more schools.  One Massachusettes student  fought to have his school keep the recitation.  NBC recently omitted “under God” in its opening for the U.S. Open.  Americans were outraged, and rightly so.

The Pledge of Allegiance is one of America’s most beloved traditions, a unifying recitation that has gone through two edits and encouraged multiple generations of Americans to continue their quest for liberty and justice for all.

Spend a little time today celebrating Red’s birthday by listening to his patriotic routine about the Pledge of Allegiance.  And pray that more American entertainers will openly and unapologetically declare their patriotism to our great nation.

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Happy Independence Day, America!

July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day, America!  Or should I say, Happy Independence Day, Republicans?

 According to a recent Harvard study, patriotic fervor resides with Republicans considerably more than with Democrats.  (Substitute “conservative” for Republican and “liberal” for Democrat, and this study would be spot on.)  It goes on to say that children are likely to be “socialized into Republicans” when they attend patriotic celebrations like Fourth of July parades and that Democrats are pretty much wasting their time to cheer the red, white and blue.

 Go figure.  It took Harvard researchers to discover that?!

Every red-blooded American intuitively knows why Fourth of July parades, saluting the flag and placing our hands over our hearts to recite the Pledge of Allegiance reaffirms the tremendous pride we have for this great nation.

 It’s because such displays of patriotism reminds us that freedom is precious, bought with the blood and sacrifice of our nation’s finest heroes, defended even today by brave men and women who volunteer to risk lives in a far off land so that we can live securely at home.

 It’s because we realize that each generation of Americans is charged with the awesome responsibility of passing the torch of freedom on to the next generation.  We don’t want ours to be the generation that messes things up.  Instinctively, we are drawn to displays of patriotism.  It re-energizes us to continue to do our part to pass along this blessed privilege.

It’s because we know we don’t deserve the freedom we enjoy – especially, the freedom to pursue what we believe to be God’s destiny for our lives. And yet, we accept the gift with humble gratitude, hoping our life choices bring honor to our families, our nation and our Lord.

Our ancestors practiced these things much better than we do today.  Way back when … before political correctness … Americans actually looked for ways to impart patriotism to young Americans while refurbishing their own national pride in the process.

On October 12, 1892, national leaders created a nationwide birthday bash to recognize the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.  Christopher Columbus was celebrated like a rock star.  Every town and city throughout the nation proudly celebrated the wonder that is America. The Chicago World’s Fair was dedicated amidst tremendous fanfare.  Recently arrived immigrants of every nationality waved the Stars and Stripes as they marched alongside their new American friends.  On that day, the entire nation joined together under the banner of freedom and for the first time, recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

There’s a lot to be said about patriotic fervor.  It helps us renew our national values, reminds us of our common history and allows us to demonstrate our deep respect for the nobility of America’s ideals.  It’s an object lesson for our children to appreciate the blessing of liberty.  It keeps America strong.

 Whether Democrat or Republican, we are all Americans!  Let’s show our love of country today and every day! 

 Happy Independence Day, America!