I’ve never lived in a small town, but I hear that when certain holidays come up, the whole town turns out to cheer on the parade. I love a parade! I love all facets of it- marching bands, people in costumes, dancing groups, candy. I’ve even been in a few parades in my life, but none has touched me more than the one I witnessed last week in Putnam City. I learned that a new tradition has developed between the Putnam City and Putnam City West JROTC groups on the day they play each other in football. The groups both march in uniform to a central location in Bethany for a push-up contest. The Putnam City Police Department escort these young men and women down Ann Arbor to 36th street, blocking traffic so the young people can safely traverse busy streets.
As the Putnam City JROTC passed by the administration building, the district level employees came out of the offices to cheer them on. Though there was no candy, no band, and no crazy costumes, the earnestness these hard-working students displayed brought tears to my eyes. My happiness stems from the fact that these are great young people, doing their best to make wise choices for their future. They have strong leaders- both adult and student- to guide them. When they got to the Bethany Fire Department, they did some cadences, and then the leaders walked through how the competition would unfold. The students were instructed that when they petered out, they should get up and cheer on those teammates who were still doing push-ups, until only one person remained. There was nothing to win except bragging rights- I can’t even tell you who did win. They cheered, passed over the game ball, and behaved respectfully of their rivals. To use some language from our past, they acted like ladies and gentlemen.
THIS is the story we should be telling on the nightly news. It’s the kind of story that happens every day in Putnam City. All across the district we have young people making wise choices, being good leaders, and serving as examples to their peers. I know these stories aren’t as flashy as the latest car chase, or the gossip about marriages falling apart, but I daresay they are far more important.
I hope this new tradition will continue, and even grow. I would love to see it turn into a full on parade with our sports teams marching behind the JROTC, and a marching band behind them. But even if it stays just the way it is, the example that JROTC sets for us all, from the tiniest kindergartner to the superintendent, from the average citizen to those running for office, is worth the effort. Thank you to both groups for your leadership!