For Release June 29, 1999

Remember Your National Heritage

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

I was on vacation the past couple of weeks. As we usually do, my wife and I spent a fair amount of time visiting interesting locations in this great country of ours. Understandably, what we consider interesting may not be interesting to a lot of other people. This year we went to North and South Dakota. We spent a day at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, we visited the Black Hills, we made a stop at Scottsbluff National Monument in western Nebraska. On that last long day driving home, I had a lot of time to think about what I’d seen and heard and how it relates to the 4th of July.

I probably hold the 4th of July in the utmost reverence, of all the national holidays,. It seems to me that many people take our country for granted. We have freedoms beyond belief. We have a fantastic wealth of natural and human resources. People from around the world look at the United States in awe and disbelief and yet far too many of our citizens take this all for granted and treat it with absolute disrespect!

Those founding fathers who were brave enough to sign their names to that Declaration of Independence did not take this vast new country for granted. Nor did they take what they were doing lightly. By signing that document they knew that they may be signing their own death warrant. It would mean war with England, then one of the most powerful countries in the world. But these people knew oppression and being taken advantage of and not being able to do what they wanted. Here was a new country with vast resources and they did not want to see it simply become another colonial holding of a foreign power. I sometimes wonder what those founding fathers would think if they came back today, 223 years later and see what we’ve done with it all.

Theodore Roosevelt spent several tough years cattle ranching in the badlands of North Dakota. He learned the importance of our heritage and natural resources in that unforgiving environment and it led him to designate many areas as National Parks and Monuments. I have been fortunate to be able to travel to many of those sites and marvel at the fantastic things that have been preserved for generations yet to come. While I have a desire to see other countries, there is still so much to see in this great country and I encourage all of you to explore your own state and your own country first.

Chief Seattle was a Native American with a great deal of wisdom and foresight. He also had a deep appreciation for the natural world around him. There has been great discussion as to whether he actually said all that is credited to him. Regardles, there is much truth in those sayings. On this trip I came across a couple more Chief Seattle sayings that I had not heard before. Paraphrasing them they basically say, "The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth" and "Whatever you do to the earth, you do to yourself." There is a great deal of power in these words and you may find it impossible to hide from them the longer you think about them.

This 4th of July weekend, take a little time to contemplate what this country means to you. Think about all that we have that others don’t have and how your life would be different had you been born in another country. Think about all the incredible natural resources we have around us and how we should protect rather than abuse them. Think about where we’ll be seven generations from now if we continue on our current path. And think about how much the country has given to you, and how much you need to give back! Have a happy 4th of July!


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