Each year we gather as a school and share feelings, poems, songs and stories...lest we forget.
Each year I am moved as our youth connect to the past. This year we hosted a WWII vet at our assembly. He read the names of four friends that did not return home with him. You could feel the sadness in the room as he quietly saluted the memories of his brothers. He lay a wreath to honour his fallen comrades...lest we forget.
As the ceremonies came to an end, one of our grade 5 students shared her thoughts on why we remember. She graciously thanked those who had sacrificed their lives for the freedoms that she enjoys. She expressed empathy towards families of current war casualties who had to look across the dinner table at an empty seat. She then shot a shiver up my spine as she paused and looked up at the audience and stated in a plain tone, "It is depressing that it seems that we have not learned from our past mistakes".
From the mouth of babes...lest we forget.
Our school celebrates the multi-cultural nature of our population. We have 21 different nations represented, 14 different languages and at least one student from every continent in the world (excluding the antarctic). Our school hosts international students that pay to attend our school district, we also enroll refugee students from three different conflict zones. I can confidently say that while race does enter conversations in our classrooms, it is in an effort to understand and learn from our differences and to mine for our similarities. On a day when we are to remember the fallen and those who serve, I am asked by a ten year old to question if we have learned. I can't say that we have, but I can say that many of us are trying.
On Nov. 4th, 7 days earlier, I sat on my couch watching the election results in the USA. As a Canadian, I felt anxious as the numbers trickled in. Beside me sat my mother who told me stories of traveling through the southern states in 1967. Her and my father recount being scared for their safety as they witnessed tensions between races. As CNN called the election in Obama's favour, tears streamed down my mother's face as the power of the moment overwhelmed her. When Barack took the stage in Grant Park she could only manage to whisper through her emotion that she never thought that this day would come. We sat in silence as Obama gave the world hope that we were going to enter a new era of social responsibility. We believe him. We have to...lest we forget.
At the end of the evening, I walked my mother back to her car. She smiled at me and expressed that we had just witnessed a turning point in history. She paraphrased the story Obama related about all that the 106 year old voter had seen in her life-time. My mother marveled at how far Americans had come (noting that there was still a long way to go). She again repeated that she never thought that she would witness this growth before her passing. So I asked her a question that had been sitting with me all evening.
In thirty years as my son walks me to my car after an evening visit, what will I have seen that I never thought would happen?
Would I have seen the world electing a council of leaders that had risen above our petty differences of nationhood and religion?
Would I have seen a race of men and women who had learned from the conflicts of the past?
Will peaceful measures ever be the default position?
Lest we forget.