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Students’ visit to DC memorials may foster better understanding

    Sixty-four Mississippi high school students have just returned home from one of the most exciting experiences of their young lives. These students, the class of ‘17, spent a week in Washington, D.C., at the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. They visited historic sites and memorials of national significance, toured the U.S. Capitol, and met Congressmen face to face—all courtesy of their local electric power association.
    I’m a firm believer in the value of personal experience as an educational tool. Books and digital media, as effective as they are, cannot convey the awe and wonder one feels while standing in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, inside the Washington National Cathedral or at the gate to the White House.
    The emotional power of the World War II, Marine Corps, Vietnam and other veterans memorials can be realized only when you stand in their midst, confronted by the names of those whose military service cost their lives but protected our freedom.
    The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial further reinforces the idea that Americans are quite prepared to reject social injustice and to fight for freedom anywhere in the world, but especially right here at home.
    I hope these 64 Mississippi students will think beyond cookouts and fireworks on Independence Day. Having just visited Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington, during the Youth Tour, maybe they will be reminded how 13 little British colonies in the New World revolted against the Kingdom of Great Britain, then one of the most powerful nations on earth. The colonists knew their Declaration of Independence would provoke war with Britain, but they also believed freedom is worth fighting for. With the help of France, those colonies were victorious and the new, independent United States of America emerged from the conflict.
    After the students return to school in the fall, their Youth Tour memories will take a back seat to sports, band practice, class projects, clubs and many other activities. I suspect, however, that when Veterans Day rolls around on Nov. 11, the holiday might mean more to them. Maybe they will remember seeing all those names on the war memorials in Washington. Maybe some of them will offer a silent prayer of thanks.
    Because they have stood before those memorials themselves, I think this is a reasonable expectation.
    We will have more about the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in our August issue.

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