Saturday night provided an inspiring lesson in democracy. I attended the Lincoln Day Dinner, which was held at Adams State University’s student union building. A number of protestors gathered at the entrances with messages for the Republican leaders who attended the event, and the venue inside was sold out. I was given a ticket, so I was allowed inside the building.
Extra security was on hand, but there were no altercations, at least that I was aware of. I understand one of the ticket holders showed up to cause trouble before I arrived, and she was told if she didn’t behave she would be escorted out. She behaved.
Actually everyone behaved. Acknowledging their right to protest, the speakers were courteous to their naysayers and even hoped the presence of folks from out of town would bolster our hotel business for the night. I don’t know where all the protestors were from, but some had come quite a distance to participate. I hope they enjoyed our local restaurants and hotels.
Inside the building, the spirit was inspirational and patriotic.
I heard a prayer for our president, asking God to give him wisdom and safety. I heard a crowd of 200 people in one voice pledging allegiance to the flag and this country “under God.” I heard speakers talk about the way this country was founded, which as far as I am concerned could be nothing short of providential.
I saw the entire audience rise to its feet in a standing ovation for our World War II veteran “Mac” McFadden.
I heard our elected leaders — unashamedly proud of the United States — speaking about their hopes and efforts to improve the country they love. I saw folks from all over this diverse San Luis Valley coming together to celebrate the values they share.
I heard laughter as the senator’s 5-year-old son threw in comments during his daddy’s speech — “good one, daddy,” he said at one point.
I heard the senator refer to his little boy’s school paper from the previous year, “when I am 4,” and how the tyke said that now that he was 4 he could “carry big rocks.” His daddy added, “We’ve forgotten we can carry big rocks. Sometimes we are ashamed to carry big rocks … That’s what we do. That’s who we are.” As a nation, we can “carry big rocks” for those who cannot lift them for themselves.
I was proud Saturday night to be an American. Yes, we as a country have made many mistakes and still are making mistakes. Yes, we as a country could do better in carrying the big rocks, and not throwing them.
But we can also be proud of what we have accomplished in the last 240 years, not the least of which is the fact we have remained united.
We can also be proud of those who serve in so many ways. Those in uniforms of varying logos and colors — whether they serve in the military or local police and fire departments — represent some of the best of us.
I was reminded of this when I was leaving the event Saturday night. Thanking him for being there, I gave our police chief a hug (I can get away with hugging people at my age) and commented that his ears were cold. He said he had just come back inside from escorting one of the attendees to her car because she was concerned about going out into the night alone.
That is the kind of public servants we can be proud of — and know we never have to go out into the night alone.