Will December 7th, 1941 be “a date that will live in infamy?’ Not if we don’t pause, reflect on the lessons of history, and pass it on to our children. This week, I taught a Jr. High Civics lesson on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day to my students. They were particularly interested in the wreckage of the USS Arizona, the reaction of the American citizens to help in the war effort, and the process to make a yearly official Remembrance Day passed through Congress. (It took years).
Of course, we say we will remember. It’s tough to do amid turmoil, isn’t it? We get consumed with the present and lose perspective. However, let’s press the pause button on all of today’s challenges to recall the unbelievable resolve and bravery of our American heroes “on a date that will live in infamy”-December 7, 1941. That day, as Americans prepared for Christmas, the United States was suddenly attacked by Japan.
“Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty”
It may seem awkward to talk to anyone about the significance of the attack on Pearl Harbor when our nation is on pins and needles about so many serious issues. However, a generous helping of perspective helps in times like these. Take a look:
In the first five minutes of the two-hour battle, the Japanese sunk 5 battleships, and 188 aircraft were destroyed at Pearl Harbor. Think about that. We were caught off-guard. Yet, as a nation, we rallied. The WWII generation put these words into action: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Are we ready to preserve, protect, and defend our nation? Now you may be surprised to see unsung American heroes in every part of this nation doing just that. We need to seek them out and join the effort in whatever way we can. That’s what eternal vigilance requires. I write the words “eternal vigilance” on my Civics class whiteboard almost weekly. How else will students understand that liberty requires something of each one of us?
After Pearl Harbor, the Navy raised, repaired, and reused the battleships that sustained damage. They made recycling great before its time. For instance, my daughter dates an Air Force pilot. She told me that they still recycle, repair, and reuse planes were able. Think about repairing old planes to make them fit to fly in a tech-savvy world. Now, consider those damaged battleships at Pearl Harbor. Imagine resurrecting those ships to serve our nation again. It’s humbling work. What tough mindsets our military forces must have!
During the December 7, 1941 attack, the oil spills from the ships were ignited. Some sailors jumped into the burning oil rather than die by drowning. Yet there were brave young men saving fellow seamen on the water.
Lessons of Pearl Harbor
In conclusion, this is the lesson I hope to impart to my students: None of us can predict how we will handle the unthinkable. What dress rehearsal is there for untenable times? I believe that we do what we have to do in those moments. The dress rehearsal is in how we live every day. People jump in the water or run into burning buildings to save lives because they practice courageous thoughts and actions in their minds over time. The young men of Pearl Harbor didn’t look the other way. They ran toward the fire. It is what Americans do. On December 7, 1941, without realizing it, I believe our brave military forces had been preparing all of their lives to act at that moment.
Remember Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941, “a date that will live in infamy.”
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. 🇺🇸
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