9/11 at 20 … 5 and 51; Anniversaries of Remembrance and Joy

Joe Dorman, Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy 
OKLAHOMA CITY – Anniversaries recognize very different events. They can either be a celebration of joy or a painful memory of something lost.

Just weekend, Americans held solemn recognitions for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the crash of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
Four American Presidents spoke at these ceremonies, each delivering messages paying tribute to the victims, and all calling for unity in our nation. Their speeches hearkened back to the after September 11, 2001 and the sense of unity felt by our nation in the attacks’ aftermath.

Watching the 9/11 ceremonies, this anniversary struck me more than in past ones. The reason was that it was noted this generation of kindergarten through 12th grade students is a group yet unborn when these attacks occurred. All their knowledge about this comes either from outside sources.

The 9/11 attacks are one of the “where were you” moments, like Pearl Harbor, or President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the space shuttle Challenger explosion, or Oklahomans’ recollection of April 19, 1995. The lessons we teach the youth of our nation about our history correlate directly to the outcomes in how they treat these anniversaries and in how these events shape their views.

We succeed as a nation when we do this correctly. Educating future generations accurately about these lessons is what scares those who would seek to tear apart America’s sense of unity. These lessons make us stronger and more resolute as a whole and drive future generations to do better than past ones.
This past week also held two very special anniversaries for me personally. 

Monday, September 12, 2016, was my first day on the job with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. Over these past five years, I have been very fortunate to work with a team to improve awareness across that state about children’s policies and issues. Our work with policymakers to shape the state for the better for our children is incredibly rewarding.
OICA could not do this work without those of you who read this column, contribute donations to our work, and who also deliver on improving the lives of Oklahoma’s children with the work that you do yourselves.

Please help me celebrate this special anniversary by making a donation to the youth nonprofit of your choice, and also sign up at oica.org to receive the OICA weekly email newsletter.

Another anniversary is my upcoming 51st birthday on September 18. I appreciate how fortunate I have been through those years. It seems unbelievable to me at times that a small-town kid from rural Oklahoma could have the opportunities that I have experienced.
I credit this back to having great parents, loyal friends, wonderful teachers, a strong support system in my community and sense of not believing people when they said something was not possible.

If we instill these concepts in the roughly 900,000 youth of our state, where might they also be as they grow older?  That is my birthday wish for you and all Oklahomans: please do your part to positively inspire a young person like was. And, let’s hope they also can look back on a future anniversary at what they accomplished, knowing they made our state an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.

About OICA: “The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action, and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.” Joe Dorman, whose essays appear regularly on CapitolBeatOK.com, ran for governor of Oklahoma in 2014. He is now executive director of OICA.