Last week I wrote about students who are bucking the trend of today’s college campuses and speaking out as conservatives. After reading my column mentioning high school senior Toni Woods, her teacher asked her, “Why would anyone talk about a 16-year-old know-nothing?” Gee, I wonder why only graying hippies and bra-burners want to attend left-wing conferences?
After word got around about the article, another teacher called Toni a “traitor.” After years of teaching with a liberal bias, Toni went off and became a conservative. How dare she! There are thousands of young conservatives (especially Joe Logue who has dreams about the Fair Tax) that walk into classrooms every day with a smile and the intent to annoy their liberal professors.
At the risk of getting Toni in more trouble with her teachers, I thought I’d dedicate another column to her and other students that are the real rebels on today’s high school and college campuses. Last September 11, Toni participated in the 9/11: Never Forget Project. She single-handedly raised money for supplies and constructed a 9/11 memorial with flags for the 2,977 lives lost that day. She also put up posters around the school in order to educate her fellow students about the war on terrorism and those who fought for freedom. Apparently, this is considered traitorous by some teachers at Amherst County High School. The memorial was a huge success, garnering coverage in several newspapers and local radio and TV stations. Toni told me, “I still have people come up to me in the grocery store say ‘You're the girl that did the flags’ and they thank me. I never thought I could do something that would have such an impact on people, but the memorial really did.”
What started as a solo project grew into a larger effort for this year’s anniversary. In addition to enlisting other student volunteers, her principal also helped set-up the display. Administrators at other schools haven’t been so accommodating. Two girls at Walt Whitman High School in New York were told by their principal that Never Forget buttons couldn't be distributed because their “pins could be used as weapons.” Some other excuses used by various administrators from others schools included calling the flags a fire hazard (only the left could come up with this one) and insisting that the campus conservatives must camp outside so the flags could be watched 24 hours-a-day.
These students are members of the September 11 Generation. In a poll conducted by the Tarrance Group for the Independent Women’s Forum, nearly every student said September 11 changed their behavior. Many said they now pray more or volunteer more. Dr. Drew Pinsky observed, “I think that the students have changed – my perspective is that their attitude has shifted from a sense of entitlement to one of gratitude.”
Given the dedication of conservative activists and their worthy cause, the positive responses to their memorials and other activities overshadow the handful of bureaucratic administrators who object to the memorials. The number of schools participating in the Never Forget Project has tripled from 55 to 150 high schools and colleges across the country.
For the last several years, I’ve attended the Freedom Alliance’s Freedom Concert, hosted by Sean Hannity and Ollie North. Proceeds from the concert benefit the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, which provides educational scholarships to children with a parent that has been killed or permanently disabled while serving in the U.S. military or classified as a POW or MIA. Since its inception, the Fund has given out more than $1 million.
This year there were a five Freedom Concerts, the last one will be held on September 11 in Jackson, NJ. I’ll be there, along with Hannity and North, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Jon Voight, Laura Ingraham, Senator Joe Lieberman, and thousands of other patriotic Americans.
Like other moments in history, many of us will remember the moment when we heard or watched the September 11 terrorist attacks unfold. I was on a plane when they happened. After the plane landed, I drove a rental car 10 hours back to DC. My cell phone was out and I could barely pick-up a radio station. To this day, I haven’t seen much of the television coverage from that day. However, that night was the same for all of us. As Mark Steyn wrote, “[I]t’s harder to recreate the peculiar mood at the end of the day, when the citizens of the superpower went to bed not knowing what they'd wake up to the following morning.”
The September 11 anniversary shouldn’t be about politics. What makes the Freedom Concert and the 9/11: Never Forget Project extraordinary is that those who participate do so to show their patriotism and remember the fallen. They aren’t doing so to make a political statement. Coming from DC, a city saturated in politics, their sincerity is encouraging. It would do many professors and administrators some good to leave their isolated worlds and join their fellow Americans in remembering a day that is bigger than our differences.