Veterans, Students Urged to Participate in 'Lessons of Liberty' Program
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2001 The Department of Veterans Affairs is encouraging veterans groups to help schools find veterans in their communities to tell students about their military experiences during National Veterans Awareness Week, Nov. 11-17.
The "Lessons of Liberty" initiative is an opportunity for American students to learn more about their country and its values, as well as the people that have been called upon to defend its freedom, VA Secretary Anthony Principi said in a Nov. 6 interview with the American Forces Information Service.
"We need to educate the young people about military service," said Anthony J. Principi, secretary of Veterans Affairs. Photo by Rudi Williams.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Principi said he was with President Bush Oct. 30 at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. It was there, he said, that the president talked about veterans' contributions to America's freedom and announced the creation of the Lessons of Liberty program.
After declaring the week-long veterans awareness observance, Bush asked public, private and home schools across the country to invite veterans to speak about their military experiences. Veterans are asked to stress the significance of Veterans Day and the importance of supporting the ideals of liberty, democracy and freedom.
Principi said schools have been asked to encourage and help students learn more about America's history and values, participate in community organizations and public service projects and the "Friendship Through Education" program. The program, he remarked, is an international project that evolved from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In it, schools in the United States and in other countries spread the message that people care for each other.
The Wootton student body's response to the Bush address was "extraordinary," the secretary said. "Very inspirational. I was so proud of the patriotism and flag waving from our high school students."
Principi said getting the message out to young people during this time of war is "important to understanding what people in uniform do and how important it is."
"We need to educate the young people about military service. Whether they choose to serve or not, that's a personal decision they have to make, but I hope more people choose to join the military, including the Coast Guard, to serve their country," he said. The secretary and his wife, Elizabeth, are both military Vietnam War veterans.
The aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack brings a renewed sense of importance of patriotism to Lessons of Liberty, he said.
"I have two sons on active duty, so I have a personal interest in this as well," Principi said. "We can't do enough for our servicemen and women because they're keeping us free. They're our instruments in responding to this extraordinary act of evil that killed so many innocent people. We look to the people in uniform to avenge this act. I'm confident that our military men and women in uniform will bring these people to justice."
Schools wishing to participate in Lessons of Liberty will find a multitude of resources through VA and the Department of Education. Schools, educators, parents and students can visit the VA Web site at www.va.gov/vetsday to find classroom materials and curricula, ideas for activities and resources for getting in touch with a veteran in their community. This site is also accessible through the Education Department Web site at www.ed.gov.
Schools are encouraged to continue Lessons of Liberty throughout the year, Principi said.