Cary’s Police Chief Patricia Bazemore retired on 31 July 2015 after 29 years of service. Bazemore began her career as a patrol officer in 1986. She served as the department’s first female lieutenant, female captain, female major and female deputy chief. She was promoted to chief in 2008. The skril of the bagpipes sounded as Chief Bazemore took the oath in 2008 — the same piper bookended this event playing as she walked through a sea of blue and was escorted home as she went 10-42. It’s been said that – “music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is”. We’ve been honored to extend our friendship to the men and women of the Cary Police Department.
You’ve face so many challenges in life. Congratulations on 3 decades of service – marked with prominence and success.
When a good cop leaves the ‘job’ and retires to a better life, many are jealous, some are pleased and yet others, who may have already retired, wonder. We wonder if she knows what she is leaving behind, because we already know. We know, for example, that after a lifetime of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing for those past times. We know in the law enforcement life there is a fellowship which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet. We know even if she throws them away, they will be on her with every step and breath that remains in her life.
These are lingering burdens from the job. You will still look at people suspiciously, still see what others do not see or choose to ignore and always will look at the rest of the law enforcement world with a respect for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing. Never think for one moment you are escaping from that life. You are only escaping the ‘job’ and merely being allowed to leave ‘active’ duty.
So what we wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called children of God,’ and you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.
On Thursday, 30 July 2015 Wake and District was once again honored to send a piper to participate at a promotional ceremony for the Raleigh Fire Department. CONGRATULATIONS to all those promoted – we wish you tremendous success as you begin a new chapter in your career with the the Fire Department. Photos from the event by Mike Legeros can be seen here.
The tradition of bagpipes played at fire department ceremonies in the United States goes back over one hundred fifty years. When the Irish and Scottish immigrated to this country, they brought many of their traditions with them. One of these was the bagpipe. While more traditionally recognized in larger cities like New York and Chicago — Wake and District has been proud to share this tradition with the Raleigh Fire Department since our formation in 2006.
How to Accelerate Skill Development: Here are the five principles I would want to share with a younger version of myself. I hope you find something of value on this list as well.
1. Focus is everything: Keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused. This may be as short as 10-20 minutes, and as long as 45-60+ minutes.
2. Timing is everything, too: Keep track of times during the day when you tend to have the most energy. This may be first thing in the morning, or right before lunch. Try to do your practicing during these naturally productive periods, when you are able to focus and think most clearly. What to do in your naturally unproductive times? I say take a guilt-free nap.
3. Don’t trust your memory: Use a practice notebook. Plan out your practice, and keep track of your practice goals and what you discover during your practice sessions. The key to getting into “flow” when practicing is to constantly strive for clarity of intention. Have a crystal clear idea of what you want (e.g. the sound you want to produce, or particular phrasing you’d like to try, or specific articulation, intonation, etc. that you’d like to be able to execute consistently), and be relentless in your search for ever better solutions.
When you stumble onto a new insight or discover a solution to a problem, write it down! As you practice more mindfully, you’ll began making so many micro-discoveries that you will need written reminders to remember them all.
4. Smarter, not harder: When things aren’t working, sometimes we simply have to practice more. And then there are times when it means we have to go in a different direction.
I remember struggling with the left-hand pizzicato variation in Paganini’s 24th Caprice when I was studying at Juilliard. I kept trying harder and harder to make the notes speak, but all I got was sore fingers, a couple of which actually started to bleed (well, just a tiny bit).
Instead of stubbornly persisting with a strategy that clearly wasn’t working, I forced myself to stop. I brainstormed solutions to the problem for a day or two, and wrote down ideas as they occurred to me. When I had a list of some promising solutions, I started experimenting.
I eventually came up with a solution that worked, and the next time I played for my teacher, he actually asked me to show him how I made the notes speak so clearly!
5. Stay on target with a problem-solving model: It’s extraordinarily easy to drift into mindless practice mode. Keep yourself on task using the 6-step problem solving model below.
Define the problem. (What result did I just get? What do I want this note/phrase to sound like instead?)
Analyze the problem. (What is causing it to sound like this?)
Identify potential solutions. (What can I tweak to make it sound more like I want?)
Test the potential solutions and select the most effective one. (What tweaks seem to work best?)
Implement the best solution. (Reinforce these tweaks to make the changes permanent.)
Monitor implementation. (Do these changes continue to produce the results I’m looking for?
While it may be true that there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going, there certainly are ways of needlessly prolonging the journey. We often waste lots of time because nobody ever taught us the most effective and efficient way to practice. Whether it’s learning how to code, improving your writing skills, or playing a musical instrument, practicing the right way can mean the difference between good and great.
You have probably heard the old joke about the tourist who asks a cab driver how to get to Carnegie Hall, only to be told: “Practice, practice, practice!”
I began playing the violin at age two, and for as long as I can remember, there was one question which haunted me every day.
Am I practicing enough?
What Do Performers Say?
I scoured books and interviews with great artists, looking for a consensus on practice time that would ease my conscience. I read an interview with Rubinstein, in which he stated that nobody should have to practice more than four hours a day. He explained that if you needed that much time, you probably weren’t doing it right.
And then there was violinist Nathan Milstein who once asked his teacher Leopold Auer how many hours a day he should be practicing. Auer responded by saying “Practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in 1 1/2 hours.”
Even Heifetz indicated that he never believed in practicing too much, and that excessive practice is “just as bad as practicing too little!” He claimed that he practiced no more than three hours per day on average, and that he didn’t practice at all on Sundays.
It seemed that four hours should be enough. So I breathed easy for a bit. And then I learned about the work of Dr. K. Anders Ericsson.
What Do Psychologists Say?
When it comes to understanding expertise and expert performance, psychologist Dr. Ericsson is perhaps the world’s leading authority. His research is the basis for the “10,000-hour rule” which suggests that it requires at least ten years and/or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve an expert level of performance in any given domain – and in the case of musicians, more like 15-25 years in order to attain an elite international level.
Those are some pretty big numbers. So large, that at first I missed the most important factor in the equation.
Deliberate Practice — meaning, that there is a specific type of practice that facilitates the attainment of an elite level of performance. And then there’s the other kind of practice that most of us are more familiar with.
Have you ever observed a musician (or athlete, actor, trial attorney) engage in practice? You’ll notice that most practice resembles one of the following distinct patterns.
1. Broken record method: This is where we simply repeat the same thing over and over. Same tennis serve. Same passage on the piano. Same powerpoint presentation. From a distance it might look like practice, but much of it is simply mindless repetition.
2. Autopilot method: This is where we activate our autopilot system and coast. Recite our sales pitch three times. Play a round of golf. Run through a piece from beginning to end.
3. Hybrid method: Then there’s the combined approach. For most of my life, practicing meant playing through a piece until I heard something I didn’t like, at which point I’d stop, repeat the passage over and over until it started to sound better, and then resume playing until I heard the next thing I wasn’t pleased with, at which point I’d repeat the whole process over again.
Unfortunately, there are three problems with practicing this way.
1. It’s a waste of time: Why? For one, very little productive learning takes place when we practice this way. This is why you can “practice” something for hours, days, or weeks, and still not improve all that much. Even worse, you are actually digging yourself a hole, because what this model of practicing does is strengthen undesirable habits and errors, increasing the likelihood of more consistently inconsistent performances.
This also makes it more difficult to clean up these bad habits as time goes on – so you are essentially adding to the amount of future practice time you will need in order to eliminate these undesirable tendencies. To quote a saxophone professor I once worked with: “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”
2. It makes you less confident: In addition, practicing mindlessly lowers your confidence, as a part of you realizes you don’t really know how to produce the results you are looking for. Even if you have a fairly high success rate in the most difficult passages, there’s a sense of uncertainty deep down that just won’t go away.
Real on-stage confidence comes from (a) being able to nail it consistently, (b) knowing that this isn’t a coincidence but that you can do it the correct way on demand, because (c) you know precisely why you nail it or miss it – i.e. you have identified the key technical or mechanical factors that are necessary to play the passage perfectly every time.
3. It is mind-numbingly dull: Practicing mindlessly is a chore. We’ve all had well-meaning parents and teachers tell us to go home and practice a certain passage x number of times, or to practice x number of hours, right? But why are we measuring success in units of practice time? What we need are more specific results-oriented outcome goals – such as, practice this passage until it sounds like XYZ, or practice this passage until you can figure out how to make it sound like ABC.
So what is the alternative? Deliberate, or mindful practice is a systematic and highly structured activity, that is, for lack of a better word, more scientific. Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful process of hypothesis testing where we relentlessly seek solutions to clearly defined problems.
Deliberate practice is often slow, and involves repetition of small and very specific sections of a skill instead of just playing through. For example, if you were a musician, you might work on just the opening note of a solo to make sure that it “speaks” exactly the way you want, instead of playing the entire opening phrase.
Deliberate practice also involves monitoring one’s performance – in real-time and via recordings – continually looking for new ways to improve. This means being observant and keenly aware of what happens, so that you can tell yourself exactly what went wrong. For instance, was the first note note sharp? Flat? Too loud? Too soft? Too harsh? Too short? Too long?
Let’s say that the note was too sharp and too long with not enough of an attack to begin the note. Well, how sharp was it? A little? A lot? How much longer was the note than you wanted it to be? How much more of an attack did you want?
Ok, the note was a little sharp, just a hair too long, and required a much clearer attack in order to be consistent with the marked articulation and dynamics. So, why was the note sharp? What did you do? What do you need to do instead to make sure the note is perfectly in tune every time? How do you ensure that the length is just as you want it to be, and how do you get a consistently clean and clear attack to begin the note so it begins in the right character?
Now, let’s imagine you recorded each trial repetition, and could listen back to the last attempt. Does that combination of ingredients give you the desired result? Does that combination of elements convey the mood or character you want to communicate to the listener as effectively as you thought it would? Does it help the listener experience what you want them to feel?
If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Which might explain why few take the time to practice this way. To stop, analyze what went wrong, why it happened, and how they can produce different results the next time.
Simple though it may sound, it took me years to figure this out. Yet it remains the most valuable and enduring lesson I learned from my 23 years of training. In the dozen or so years since I put down my violin, the principles of deliberate practice have remained relevant no matter what skill I must learn next. Be it the practice of psychology, building an audience for a blog, parenting, or making the perfect smoothie, how I spend my practice time remains more important than how much time I spend practicing.
Join the members of Wake and District this Saturday, 25 July — as we head to Tir Na nOg to bid a bittersweet farewell to lads of My Three Kilts (@MyThreeKilts).
My Three Kilts ain’t your grandpa’s Celtic music. They have as much in common with the Ramones as they do with The Dubliners. Combining traditional Celtic influences and instrumentation with punk rock influences, ideals and attitude, they played a unique brand of Celtic/Pub/Punk. Their shows have been punctuated with blasts of music and interactions with the audience. My Three Kilts have been the dog’s bollocks of the NC Celtic scene since 2007.
They have built a steady following from the mountains to the coast – and we’re humbled to have been a part of their shenanigans — and to call them friends.
Raise a pint with members of Wake and District and Nine Times Around as we toast the lads from My Three Kilts – and bid fond farewell.
There’s an important difference between history and tradition. Both are ways of seeing and presenting our collective past, but tradition is not bound to comply with either objectivity or historical accuracy. Nowhere is this creative and imagination spin on the past more prevalent and important than in the annals of the world’s military forces. Tradition and history are both key binding elements that keep groups of otherwise diverse individuals together with a common purpose and sense of continuity. It can be very difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially once a particular meme has been written as regimental history. Tradition also helps soldiers deal with the difficult jobs they have to do; not least, killing other people and not being killed themselves. Fighting men like to be assured that they are both on the side of good, and more than capable of facing whatever hardships lie ahead. Because soldiers very often have more in common with their enemies individually and culturally than it might be healthy for them to admit, the bare bones of objective history won’t always do in the context of regimental and unit history. Which brings me to the subject at hand – nicknames. Specifically, the name “The Ladies From Hell” as applied to the kilted units of the British and Canadian armies in the First World War (another claim for the Canadians can be foundhere). Clearly this is meant to paint the men in question as something out of the ordinary; soldiers so tough that they can cross-dress and still be shining examples of fighting manhood.
This traditional image, as a feature of the propaganda of Empire, was parodied in the irreverent film Carry On Up The Khyber, released just four years after the rather more “on message” Zulu. Given how rare the variant nickname “Devils in Skirts” is in the literature, I have a feeling (unconfirmed!) that it was the Carry On team who coined that version as a deliberate subversion of “Ladies from Hell”. In any case, today you will find both names in use to describe the Highland soldiers of the past. I say “the past” because the kilt made its last operational appearance at Dunkirk in 1940, though it continues to be worn with more formal uniform and in pipe bands as a symbol of identity, with all the connotations and gallant actions that this recalls. The Highland warrior, as reinvented in the early 18th Century by the British Army, is a truly iconic figure.
So where does this colourful nickname come from? The traditional story, which you can find all over the web, including the official British Army website, goes like this. German troops, respectful and even outright fearful of these strange and fearsome warriors, who paradoxically, by their cultural standard were also transvestites, coined the name as an expression of these feelings. The problem is that, as with other such names that are attributed to an awestruck enemy in or immediately after time of war, is that the historical sources are very one-sided. A German historian, Benjamin Ziemann, asserts that the Germans were no more or less afraid of kilted troops as any other Allied unit, and claims of some official list of “most capable” enemy forces are unfounded. This caused a bit of anindignant reaction from Scots, and they have a point in that Ziemann’s refutation does nothing to address the perceptions of individual German soldiers. So this leaves quite a gap for the “Ladies from Hell” to hide in. Ziemann himself admits that there was commentary upon kilted soldiers that expressed at least curiosity, if not any special measure of respect.
The biggest problem with the whole story is not the outright lack of evidence. There are many sources, and many of these are contemporary, right back to 1917, so this is no latter-day rewriting of history that we’re dealing with. Poems of the day use it, and an entire book (1918) uses the name for a title. Rather, it’s that all of the sources are what students of the urban myth would call “FOAF” or Friend of a Friend. They mostly refer to other Allied soldiers using the term, whereas what we would wish to see as quality (though still anecdotal) evidence, is a claim to have heard this from a captured enemy. Likewise I can find little reference from German sources of this term. There are brief mentions here and here, the latter actually a mocking reference to the skirt-like kilt. Perhaps after the fact, the Germans were understandably reluctant to admit to their respect for the “kilties”? This would be unusual though, because German memoir writers that have been translated into English are not backward about coming forward with such sentiments though. Especially a phrase as ambiguous and potentially ironic as “Ladies from Hell”. It needn’t be read as a compliment. In fact one theory says that it was originally a good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon piss-take, “reclaimed” by the Jocks when they heard about it. So why would German writers hide it? I should point out that John Gibbons’ “Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases 1914-18″ gives this explanation;
“..: Highland Regiments. Kilted troops. A name coined in the War by the German newspapers and adopted among the German troops on the Western Front.”
Some sources even claim that the nickname was official, something for which there is no corroborating evidence. “Private 12788” by John Jackson (a soldier’s memoirs of the Great War) that mentions the….
“…devil’s ladies, as the Kaiser himself had named us”.
However, I can find no further leads on either of these suggested German origins. If any German readers can point me to these sources, if indeed they exist, I would be very grateful. Meanwhile, and in the absence of testimony from PoWs, we have to ask how a private soldier would have known that this nickname had been bestowed. Something from the Allied press of the day perhaps? The alternative is that the name was an organic military myth, originating within the ranks. Whatever the case, the idea was propagated by these men during and after the war, but attributed to their enemy.
So is this just a piece of Allied propaganda? History being written by the victors? There is evidence that, like other unit nicknames, it may well have begun as such. But the culprits are not the armed forces. Then, even more so than today, civilian and soldier alike had limited access to news from the front. For all but the most senior officer and politician, it came from the media; the newspapers. A lack of concrete information, due to censorship and lack of sensational stories, led to some creative licence increasingly being taken, especially where it gave readers what they wanted – made them feel that the war was being won. Military commanders were of course quite happy for this mild form of propaganda to be put out. This was especially true of the American media, whose civilian audience were even more removed from the reality of war than Britons.
And so, two of the earliest references to the “Ladies From Hell” actually comes from an American newspaper – the New York Times, which refers to a visit by the pipe bands of Canadian contingents of the Gordon Highlanders:
“..it will be New York’s first glimpse of a really numerous body of Highlanders in uniform, who have earned from the Germans the nickname of “the ladies of hell”.
“The Germans already know what they look like, and they call them ‘the ladies of hell’”.
This is significant because the first (or at least, most definitive) appearance of another contemporary military nickname, that of “Devil Dogs” to describe the US Marines, was also in the New York Times (see here). Direct reference is made to the Highlanders;
“Gee, those guys rank us with the ‘ Ladies from Hell,’” declared a grizzled old marine sergeant, swelling with pride when he heard the new title.”
The German origin story for “Devil Dogs”, or “Teufelhunde”, has been debunked, not least by H. L. Mencken as this site relates;
In The American Language (1921) Mencken comments on the Teufelshunde term in a footnote: “This is army slang, but promises to survive. The Germans, during the war, had no opprobrious nicknames for their foes. The French were usually simply die Franzosen, the English were die Engländer, and so on, even when most violently abused. Even der Yankee was rare. Teufelhunde (devil-dogs), for the American marines, was invented by an American correspondent; the Germans never used it.“
I think he’s right. Despite a shared cultural history, snappy epithets were not in the German lexicon. They did not even typically differentiate between soldiers of the British nations, using “Englander” as a catch-all. Now, note in the header of original article the anonymous attribution to a “German writer”, and the generally vague nature of the full story. Similar media (in fact, New York Times!) origins can be argued for the other main nickname of this type in the Great War; the French “Blue Devils“. The same anecdotal quality is reflected not just in the paper, but in all mentions of the “Ladies” idea, right down to this recent US attribution that claims it’s a translation from the German. It’s always “as the Germans/Boche/Hun call them”, and never with reference to a German source or anecdote featuring one. To me, this suggests that the press were happy to plant the seeds of catchy new PR-friendly anti-German ideas in the minds of servicemen and those at home. Word of mouth as well as newsprint, would assure the meme a place in history, and victory over the Germans would make its origin unquestionable. The “noble savage” view of the Scottish Highland soldier in other media of the day was certainly bolstered by this idea.
I’d just like to touch again on the possibility of an organic military origin. It’s possible that other units, eyeing the “kilties” with a mixture of awe and amusement, might have conferred the nickname first, with the papers picking it up later and changing the origin for effect. TheIndianapolis Star (not free unfortunately) for Wednesday 27th of March 1918 tells us that;
“‘Ladies From Hell’ is the cheerful name given to Scotch soldiers in kilts by their associates at the front”.
Bearing in mind the later date of the piece, this is just as likely to point to a media origin as to the ranks. You be the judge. What we can say is that these three names were almost certainly bestowed by friendlies, not the enemy.
In closing, I’d just like to stress that whatever the source of this classic nickname, this and other military nicknames are not “BS” history. Though by my estimation we are in the realm of tradition and folklore rather than pure history, we can’t have one without the other. The very existence of the name is a fascinating insight into the social history of the Great War and tells us a great deal about concepts of our own military and national identity rather than that of our former enemy. And though these names are not proof of the terrible fighting prowess of the Highlander, the US Marine, or the French Chasseur Alpins, the exploits of those men should, and do, speak for themselves.
Thoughts and prayers to all those impacted by the domestic terrorism attack on members of the United Sates Navy, United States Marine Corps and Chattanooga Police Department today in Tennessee.
In a crowd you’re bound to spot him,
He’s standing so very tall
Not too much impresses him;
He’s seen and done it all.
His hair is short, his eyes are sharp,
But his smile’s a little blue.
It’s the only indication
Of the hell that he’s gone through.
He belongs to a sacred brotherhood,
Always Faithful ’til the end.
He has walked right into battle
And walked back out again.
Many people think him foolish
For having no regrets
About having lived through many times
Others would forget.
He’s the first to go and last to know,
But never questions why,
On whether it is right or wrong,
But only do or die.
He walks a path most won’t take
And has lost much along the way,
But he thinks a lot of freedom,
It’s a small price to pay.
Yes, he has chosen to live a life
Off the beaten track,
Knowing well each time he’s called,
He might not make it back.
So, next time you see a Devil Dog
Standing proud and true,
Be grateful for all he’s given;
He’s given it for you.
Don’t go up and ask him
What’s it’s like to be in war;
Just thank God that it’s your country
He’s always fighting for.
And thank him too for all the hell
He’s seen in that shade of green,
Thank him for having the guts
To be a United States Marine
Wake and District is excited to be partnering with Whisky and Tartan (W&T) on the Official North American Pipe Band Calendar. About >> W&T is a lifestyle blog feat. Scottish music, businesses & events throughout the U.S., Canada and Scotland. Event production and fundraising.
Throughout the next month, Whisky and Tartan will be highlighting their 12 calendar musicians, along with the amazing supporters that share their vision and are just coming from EVERYWHERE. Scotland, Canada, and all over the U.S — including Wake and District’s very own — Jason Lane. We are not certain which month Jason will end up spread across — but you can follow all the W&T updates from their blog @ www.whiskyandtartan.com
For those of you who do not know Jason Lane –he is a founding member of our band and a Lieutenant with the Raleigh Fire Department. Jason is our Senior Drum Major. He is married to the very tolerant and loving, – Mrs. Kelly Lane. Together they have two beautiful children – Jackson and Carson. Without a doubt — Wake and District would not be who we are, or where we are today without the likes of Jason. We love you dawg.
These calendars will provide money DIRECTLY to the pipe bands involved. The bands will receive a minimum of 75% of all proceeds. This money goes toward (very expensive) hand sewn kilts, travel to competitions and parades, lessons and instruments. Current endorsements include that of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association(EUSPBA) and The American-Scottish Foundation.
How do we stack up? It’s a question we seem to constantly ask ourselves. Our brains, hands and hearts want to know how we are measuring up compared to every other piper, drummer and band. Do we “matter more” than other players and bands? Are our tunes more enjoyable than another band repertoires? Is our band “bigger” than your band? Is our tuning and tone better than theirs? Do our tenors have more sass?
Pipers, Drummers and bands can spend their entire lives trying to determine where they stack on the proverbial pipe band totem pole, however, those who do will one day be sorely disappointed to find out that there was no ranking measurement against anyone else at all.
“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world…
if you do so, you are insulting yourself.” – Bill Gates
When we compare ourselves (our bands) to someone else (another band) we will always have to rank ourselves as either superior or inferior to that other person or the band they play with — and neither of those assessments will ever be factually accurate. Admittedly, some organizations can be better than others else at one particular task, but that doesn’t qualify them as superior. Attempting to gauge how we are doing in comparison to someone else will never lead to an accurate evaluation because no two people are ever exactly alike. We come from different backgrounds. We possess different talents. We have different strengths and weaknesses. So how then would it ever be a fair assessment to hold ourselves and any other person to the exact same measuring stick?
In life there is no “superior” or “inferior” and there is no measuring stick that ranks us in order of importance. Everyone is exactly equal in importance to this world and it isn’t possible for any one person to become more or less important than any other person. So then what do we aim for? How do determine excellence? How do we become “the best”?
We start by redefining what we believe “the best” is. We start by recognizing that being “the best” is something relating to you, and only you. It’s about achieving YOUR best, ranked solely against yourself and your own past performance and your own future potential.
Some exercises that can help us do this are:
Look at your own natural talents and abilities and write them down in a list. Then ask yourself, how you can further develop those talents and abilities? How can you hone them to make them the very best they can be? In addition, ask yourself what natural gifts you have that you have not yet begun to grow and develop? Write those down too. Recognize that becoming your very best will take an ongoing effort of improving the talents you already have, discovering your gifts still waiting to be developed, and continuously looking for undiscovered gifts and talents yet to rise to the surface.
Make a list of the qualities we don’t like about ourselves that we would like to change. For example, are we impatient, are we judgmental, are we lazy, etc. Write these qualities down and then set goals to help you change these into qualities you can be proud of.
Recognize that every day we are the result of every past decision we have made up to that point. And tomorrow we are going to be the direct result of the decisions we are making today. So if we are doing things today that will make us better tomorrow, and we continue that pattern day after day, we are always going to be in the process of becoming our best. One way to do this is to ask yourself, “Where are the decisions I am making today going to lead me?” and, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?” and, “Do I have goals in place to help improve me tomorrow?
Coming to recognize every gift and talent we possess within us takes a lifetime. Many of them surface during times of trial and difficult experience. Many surface as we gain more wisdom. Let’s face it, we will likely never know everything we are truly capable of until life forces us to prove it to ourselves.
It is often said that “If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter, but if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.” We have to remind ourselves daily that our goal isn’t to be better than anyone else. Our ultimate goal is to be better today than we were yesterday, and have a plan in place to help us become even better tomorrow.
Daniel Burnham is famously quoted as saying, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” With a solid foundation and a plan in place – Wake and District is better today then we we’re yesterday — and look forward to tomorrow.
Becoming the best takes people. Like minded people coming together and sharing the passion and pride of the pipes and drums.
We wouldn’t even think about trying to compete with a fireworks display, especially on the Fourth of July. So instead – we will reflect on some words from the 40th President of the United States of America — President Ronald Reagan…
It’s worth remembering that all the celebration of this day is rooted in history. It’s recorded that shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia celebrations took place throughout the land, and many of the former Colonists — they were just starting to call themselves Americans — set off cannons and marched in fife and drum parades.
What a contrast with the sober scene that had taken place a short time earlier in Independence Hall. Fifty-six men came forward to sign the parchment. It was noted at the time that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. And that was more than rhetoric; each of those men knew the penalty for high treason to the Crown. “We must all hang together,” Benjamin Franklin said, “or, assuredly, we will all hang separately.” And John Hancock, it is said, wrote his signature in large script so King George could see it without his spectacles. They were brave. They stayed brave through all the bloodshed of the coming years. Their courage created a nation built on a universal claim to human dignity, on the proposition that every man, woman, and child had a right to a future of freedom.
For just a moment, let us listen to the words again: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Last night when we rededicated Miss Liberty and relit her torch, we reflected on all the millions who came here in search of the dream of freedom inaugurated in Independence Hall. We reflected, too, on their courage in coming great distances and settling in a foreign land and then passing on to their children and their children’s children the hope symbolized in this statue here just behind us: the hope that is America. It is a hope that someday every people and every nation of the world will know the blessings of liberty.
And it’s the hope of millions all around the world. In the last few years, I’ve spoken at Westminster to the mother of Parliaments; at Versailles, where French kings and world leaders have made war and peace. I’ve been to the Vatican in Rome, the Imperial Palace in Japan, and the ancient city of Beijing. I’ve seen the beaches of Normandy and stood again with those boys of Pointe du Hoc, who long ago scaled the heights, and with, at that time, Lisa Zanatta Henn, who was at Omaha Beach for the father she loved, the father who had once dreamed of seeing again the place where he and so many brave others had landed on D-day. But he had died before he could make that trip, and she made it for him. “And, Dad,” she had said, “I’ll always be proud.”
And I’ve seen the successors to these brave men, the young Americans in uniform all over the world, young Americans like you here tonight who man the mighty U.S.S. Kennedy and the Iowa and other ships of the line. I can assure you, you out there who are listening, that these young are like their fathers and their grandfathers, just as willing, just as brave. And we can be just as proud. But our prayer tonight is that the call for their courage will never come. And that it’s important for us, too, to be brave; not so much the bravery of the battlefield, I mean the bravery of brotherhood.
All through our history, our Presidents and leaders have spoken of national unity and warned us that the real obstacle to moving forward the boundaries of freedom, the only permanent danger to the hope that is America, comes from within. It’s easy enough to dismiss this as a kind of familiar exhortation. Yet the truth is that even two of our greatest Founding Fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, once learned this lesson late in life. They’d worked so closely together in Philadelphia for independence. But once that was gained and a government was formed, something called partisan politics began to get in the way. After a bitter and divisive campaign, Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency in 1800. And the night before Jefferson’s inauguration, Adams slipped away to Boston, disappointed, brokenhearted, and bitter.
For years their estrangement lasted. But then when both had retired, Jefferson at 68 to Monticello and Adams at 76 to Quincy, they began through their letters to speak again to each other. Letters that discussed almost every conceivable subject: gardening, horseback riding, even sneezing as a cure for hiccups; but other subjects as well: the loss of loved ones, the mystery of grief and sorrow, the importance of religion, and of course the last thoughts, the final hopes of two old men, two great patriarchs, for the country that they had helped to found and loved so deeply. “It carries me back,” Jefferson wrote about correspondence with his cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, “to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless . . . we rowed through the storm with heart and hand . . . .” It was their last gift to us, this lesson in brotherhood, in tolerance for each other, this insight into America’s strength as a nation. And when both died on the same day within hours of each other, that date was July 4th, 50 years exactly after that first gift to us, the Declaration of Independence.
My fellow Americans, it falls to us to keep faith with them and all the great Americans of our past. Believe me, if there’s one impression I carry with me after the privilege of holding for 5\1/2\ years the office held by Adams and Jefferson and Lincoln, it is this: that the things that unite us — America’s past of which we’re so proud, our hopes and aspirations for the future of the world and this much-loved country – these things far outweigh what little divides us. And so tonight we reaffirm that Jew and gentile, we are one nation under God; that black and white, we are one nation indivisible; that Republican and Democrat, we are all Americans.
Tonight, with heart and hand, through whatever trial and travail, we pledge ourselves to each other and to the cause of human freedom, the cause that has given light to this land and hope to the world.
My fellow Americans, we’re known around the world as a confident and a happy people. Tonight there’s much to celebrate and many blessings to be grateful for. So while it’s good to talk about serious things, it’s just as important and just as American to have some fun. Now, let’s have some fun — let the celebration begin!
Government is the people’s business, and every man, woman and child becomes a shareholder with the first penny of tax paid. With all the profound wording of the Constitution, probably the most meaningful words are the first three, “We, the People.”