It was the perfect weekend in East Tennessee, Knoxville, for a fall homecoming. The leaves were turning colors and there was not a cloud in the sky so you could easily see the surrounding mountains. The colors of the University of Tennessee are orange and white, but I do like the new gray shade, and they were perfect for this time of the year. My Saturday began with a nostalgic run from downtown Knoxville over to campus and stopped by Neyland Stadium to see my friend Dwight Teffeteller and the grounds utilities crew — great Americans all.Later I headed back to campus, Circle Park, for the Army ROTC Alumni reunion. Some of my colleagues I hasn’t seen in 30 years. It was great to see them: Lee Sherbekoff, Charlie Griffin, Bob Seals, Gary Harber, Robin Akin, Gary Potts, Logan Hickman, Ben Scott, and so many others with their families — if I didn’t list your name, well, I’ll do pushups. It was homecoming weekend on Rocky Top and we told tall tales and laughed heartily but we also shared concerns about our Army and the recent Islamic terror attack in Paris.
So, Sunday morning I ran the six-mile course along the Tennessee river and I thought about an American homecoming.
Homecoming is about coming together and remembering past experiences and looking to the future. That is exactly what we need in America, a homecoming experience. When I hear all this talk about Americans being entitled to free education, free healthcare, free housing, the right to not be offended, and all these man-granted rights — we need a homecoming.
We need to remember that our unalienable rights emanate from our Creator and they are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we fall into this belief that man can grant rights, then guess what? Man can also take them away. I remember being here at the University of Tennessee and all that mattered was getting my education, earning my degree, and completing the requirements to become an Army officer. I did not feel entitled to anything but the opportunity to achieve and excel. I wanted good instructors that enabled me to meet the expectations I had for myself. I wasn’t looking for college instructors and a campus administration that would consider my feelings.We need a homecoming in America that reminds us that individuals are responsible and policies should be enacted that advance their goals, dreams, and aspirations. We are not a nation of collectives, and we are not in need of folks who want to turn us into some groupthink monolithic collection of social egalitarians. America is about victors.
You know on Saturday, all across the nation, people were gathered in stadiums cheering their teams on to win, not to lose, not to tie. That’s who we are and sadly we have some who despise the concept of winning and victory, and prefer to make Americans victims.
We are Team America and then there’s Team ISIS. What do we not understand about the will to win? Why is it that we’re so careful about language and defining the enemy? You go anywhere in the SEC and it’s clear: we want our team to win.At the homecoming game in Tennessee, we played the University of North Texas. UNT only had one win — did that come into consideration and the Vols decide we should be compassionate and well, let them win? Nope. So why is it that we sit back, and when it comes to our survival against a savage and barbaric enemy, we don’t want to take the field and crush them? Why is it that we don’t want to run up the score on ISIS like we do against an opposing football team? We want our team to “take the field” but we don’t want to put our combat boots on the ground.
We need an American homecoming that reminds us what it means to make a stand and fight — after all, that’s how we got started in the first place.While some try to find ways to keep us divided and separated, you know, at homecoming everyone is united. There was only one color that mattered Saturday: orange. As Americans we need to understand, if we are to have a homecoming, that there are only three colors that matter — red, white, and blue.
Anywhere you went in Knoxville on homecoming Saturday — or any football Saturday — we are united with the greeting, “Go Vols.” We need to be united as Americans with a rallying call of “USA” and not just in times of chaos and in response to a horrific incident, but it should be our mantra, that which embodies who we are. We should wear our American colors just as proudly as we do our college colors and express that pride as strongly.
What really left a mark on me was Saturday night as I headed back to the hotel from the our ROTC alumni chow call at The Fieldhouse Sports Bar. Driving down Cumberland Ave past the construction site for the new Tennessee Student Union, lit up and shining for all to see was Ayers Hall, the iconic 1921 structure that sits upon “The Hill.”
It was the capstone vision for my University of Tennessee homecoming weekend. It reminded me of America, that shining city upon a hill. If there is one thing all Tennessee alumni are proud of, it’s having walked the 151-odd steps that take you up “The Hill.”
We need an American homecoming to remind us that we all need to climb that hill, because what makes us the shining city is the light that shines in all of us. Just as Ayers Hall stands as a beacon representing my institution, so does America stand as the beacon of liberty and freedom to all the world. And when we come together in that homecoming moment upon the hill, that beacon shines so incredibly bright.
Let us endeavor to take the hill in order to restore this great Constitutional Republic. Let us take the field in the stadium of competition for the survival of liberty and run the score up on the other team. Let us have an American homecoming to remind us that we all don the same colors — not that of our skin, but of the symbol of our great nation.
USA! USA! USA!