A contribution to Atmore and to America

Published 3:32 pm Monday, February 16, 2009

By By Tray Smith
Since I was surprisingly awarded the Citizen of the Year Award at last week’s Chamber Banquet, many friends have expressed interest in the speech I had planned to give. Therefore, this week, I have amended the speech for the newspaper and submitted it for publication as my column. Below is the text of the remarks concerning the Presidential Inauguration I had prepared:
The theme of President Obama’s swearing in ceremony was “renewing America’s promise,” and in his inaugural address Obama called on a new generation of Americans to serve. I did not vote for Barack Obama and I would have rather gone to an inauguration for almost anyone else-Republican or Democrat. But Barack Obama’s campaign brought millions of people who once felt separated from their government into the political process, and he did our nation a favor by proving true the axiom that democracy is not a spectator sport.
It was rough standing on the cold, crowded national mall with 1.5 million other people two weeks ago. But I am proud to say I was present at America’s coming together, when people from across this country joined in a great patriotic moment, united by the belief America is the greatest country ever known to man and by a common resolve to keep it that way.
Standing in front of me were a female Hispanic immigrant with her young son. He had an “O” for Obama shaved into the side of his head. While many, including myself, find such overt displays extreme- we must all admire the excitement our new President has generated, especially among groups that have long felt disenfranchised.
As a result of that excitement, every kindergartner in America today knows that anything is possible, and kindergartners around the world view America as a bastion of freedom and opportunity.
I stand here not to provide a summary of the experience I had at the inauguration, though, but rather to put the greatness of that moment in the context of this night, as we gather in our community. I thank the Chamber for trusting me with this speaking task and giving me an opportunity to express my fundamental belief that a contribution to Atmore is a contribution to America. Service starts at the grassroots level and change does not have to come from Washington; it can come from our student bodies, our church congregations and it can come from anyone in this room who resolves to make a difference.
Everyday I walk into the halls of my high school wondering how many fewer kids would have dropped out if they had a mentor to look up to, and I know some of you go to work or to volunteer wondering how many fewer prisoners would be re-incarcerated if all of them had a missionary to pray with or how many fewer young people would die in a drunken driving accident if they had another place to go.
Tonight, we have a new President leading us, calling all of us to service not in the name of a political party but in the name of our nation. All of us can heed his call, not out of blind obedience to the President, but out of respect for this great country.
We can do so by getting involved right here in Atmore. Indeed we can all play a role healing our national wounds by treating our local needs; we can start remaking America by remaking Atmore into an even better community.
Finally, we can stop waking up wondering how much better the world would be if more people served, and instead go to bed at night knowing that the world is better because we decided to do something good.
Thank you and God bless Atmore.
Tray Smith is a former page in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at tsmith_90@hotmail.com. His column appears weekly.

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