For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
May 29, 2002 - Memorial Day--The Numbers
Recently, I read David McCullough's biography of John Adams. It enthralled me. Adams was the true architect of our whole form of government. Moreover, he was genuinely wise.
Too often these days, we predicate our lives on our rights, on what we believe we are entitled to receive. Adams' life was based on something seldom even mentioned today: the concept of duty.
As we contemplate Memorial Day, I offer the following reflection on our history. First, Memorial Day itself. For many years known as "Decoration Day" (for the decoration of Civil War veterans' graves), the first observance is generally regarded to have occurred on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York.
Consider these facts as well. Since its inception, the United States of America has participated in at least 10 wars.
Not everyone is a soldier. Expressed as a percentage of the population, here's who enlisted:
* Revolutionary War - 5.7%
* War of 1812 - 3.8%
* Mexican War - .4%
* Civil War (combined) - 11.1%
* Spanish-American War - .4%
* World War I - 4.6%
* World War II - 12.2%
* Korean War - 3.8%
* Vietnam War - 4.3%
* Gulf War - 1.1%
Here's how many people died or were wounded in those conflicts:
* Revolutionary War - 10,623
* War of 1812 - 6,765
* Mexican War - 17,435
* Civil War - 970,227 (634,703 Union, 335,524 Confederate)
* Spanish-American War - 4,108
* World War I - 320,710
* World War II - 1,078,162
* Korean War - 136,935
* Vietnam War - 211,471
* Gulf War - 760
* The total: 2,752,243
And for the fiscally minded among you, here's what it cost per capita, in 1990 dollars:
* Revolutionary War - $342.86
* War of 1812 - $92.11
* Mexican War - $52.13
* Civil War (combined) - $1,294.46
* Spanish American War - $84.45
* WWI - $1,911.47
* WWII - $15,655.17
* Korean War - $1,739.62
* Vietnam War - $1,692.04
* Gulf War - $235
What does all this mean?
First, it means that those who lay their lives on the line to defend our country are always a surprisingly small fraction of the whole. In the history of our nation, it has never risen above 13 percent.
Second, as shown above, many of those who have put their lives on the line did in fact die as a result. They gave all their days to their nation. And their deaths had significance not only for their country, but also, enduringly, for their families.
Third, the costs of war are shared. We commit tax dollars for defense. There are personal costs. But as many have observed, liberty is not cheap, and some wars have purchased that, even if others have not.
The Douglas Public Library District closes each year on Memorial Day. We do this, as do many governmental institutions, to honor the dead. We also do this to allow our staff to attend whatever observances they may choose.
As John Adams wrote, "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people." The library is a good place to explore not only how our soldiers fought, but for what..