I myself was graduated from New Hartford Central School in 1968! This year marks the 50th Anniversary for our Class! It is hard to grasp the reality that fifty years have passed since the Summer of 1968! I remember that it was in the month of our graduation that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Riots broke out in over 100 cities throughout the United States, including Rochester, NY. My cousin Bob was called up with his National Guard Unit to help in Rochester. I also remember thinking that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to bring about change through nonviolent protest was being ignored. As I spent my last summer at home with my parents before heading off to college in Rochester at RIT, I really wondered how united we were as the United States of America!
In the fifty years since then so many gains have been made in our society in addressing injustice and issues of civil rights but we still have a long way to go. In many ways I believe this year’s graduating classes from high schools also are living in a time when our nation seems to be divided. In a nation founded by immigrants we seem to be divided over the issue of who can be one of us in this blessed land. It saddens me so to see little children being separated from their parents. Parents who themselves are seeking protection and a better life for their children. It reminds me of the words Jesus spoke to his disciples as he placed a child in their midst, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” Mk9:37
When I was in Kindergarten the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. As a child I was proud that our nation made the change. When I first learned the Pledge of Allegiance it read, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” With or without the words under God, the pledge we make has been more of a goal than a reality throughout the history of our country. We haven’t always been one nation, we haven’t always been indivisible, nor has there been liberty and justice for all. But under God I truly believe the words of the pledge can become the reality.
I believe we are still paying for our past sins of injustice. We as a nation of immigrants committed injustice and genocide against the Native tribes. We first built up our nation and commerce accepting the practice of enslaving Africans; men, women and children whose families were often broken apart as husbands and wives were sold to different slave owners. Many of the founding fathers of our nation being among those who were slave owners. As a nation I believe in many ways we are still paying to the third and fourth generations for the sins of our fathers.
But I also believe that under God we can be forgiven when we seek forgiveness, when we humble ourselves as a nation under God. Jesus, taught his disciples, when they were arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mk 10:35 It is my hope that our nation becomes the greatest, number one under God and that we truly work towards liberty and justice for all, by being the servants of all. Let us pray for our nation and for the generation of our young people who were recently graduated that we all live together as children made in the image and likeness of God.
God bless you, Father Bill