Living in America

Published 12:34 pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Grass-cutting day is my normal time to relax and take my mind off of the work pressures of the week. Together with my mower and iPod, it’s off for three hours of physical manual labor.

Briefly during the session I do reflect on key incidents or concerns of the work week. This week I consistently reflected on our recent Franklin Summer Super Jam trip to Washington, D.C. I first of all thought about the many times that for myself as a little boy, it was normal to travel many times with my parents and my grandparents from my hometown of Clifton Forge to points such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Atlantic City, N.J., and Boston.

Because of my extensive travel as a youth, it aided me to observe early in my professional career as a recreator that many youth were not offered that same opportunity to travel. It therefore became one of my purposes of life to fulfill this experience to youth that were enrolled in summer playground programs that came under my leadership.

The Super Jam program is sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club and the Franklin Department of Parks & Recreation. A key component for this annual program is a diverse selection of field trips that are both educational and recreational to the youth ages 6-18.

Going back into the recent trip to the nation’s capital, some questions and concerns flashed back through my mind that came from one of the six young boys who were in my group. After visiting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, all in the group wanted to see the White House. During our visit to D.C. all group leaders have the liberty to take their group to locations that are in walking distance in the downtown Washington area and, specifically, the Smithsonian and National Mall area. After a brisk walk, we arrived at the back of the White House, where we viewed the grounds and took photos. We next walked the distance to the front of the White House. Explaining as we walked about, the reason that the street that the White House is on, Pennsylvania Avenue, is heavily barricaded to protect it from possible terrorist attacks. I shared how in earlier post 9/11 years one could drive a car, bus, etc. down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Arriving at the front of the White House, we of course took more photographs to document our visit. Our next observation was a man standing there holding a Bible and delivering a speech on his views of policies of the United States. One of the young boys was quick to ask me why this man was permitted to be able to deliver this type of speech. I gave him my explanation that this man has the freedom of speech to communicate his opinion and ideas in a peaceable way because this is America. He next asked if President Obama was aware that he was out there. In answer to this question, I told him that it was very unlikely that the President would know unless it made a big news story.

I further told him that the front of the White House is used by many persons and groups to protest their stand on political issues against the United States. Hopefully, this answered this part of his questions. But he immediately next asked why President Obama could not come out to greet him during his visit. Answering again, I informed him that the President has a busy schedule and it would be impossible for him to greet the millions of persons that visit the grounds of the White House.

Hopefully again I satisfied this part of his question, but he again asked why he could not go into the White House. In answer again I presented to him that many years ago one could go inside the White House on a daily visit to tour parts of first floor of the President’s home. People or groups would arrive early and stand in line to receive this pass to enter the White House. But after 9/11 this policy changed and one was required to request permission though either their congressman or senators office at least 21 days before their visit. I went on to explain that even that was changed recently due to funding cost from the ongoing sequestration, which also carried me into a deeper answer that, broken down, simply equals budget cuts.

Again after hopefully satisfying his questions we pressed on to the United States Capitol where I had already arranged a time for our whole group to tour the Capitol building.

In my many years of trips to the nation’s Capitol, I have never been pressed with so many questions, not only from what I wrote about, but many more from this group of youth. My belief with field trips is that it is an attempt to expose youth to many experiences and places beyond their normal everyday lives. We never know what experience will make a difference in the lives of the young people that attend each trip. I am very thankful that the City of Franklin and the Boys & Girls Club are in a position to make this a reality.

I am also so very thankful for our combined staff of dedicated persons that work with our youth. Not everyone has the patience and commitment to take this time that is both physical and mentally challenging to successfully accomplish these experiences for our youth.

It may be years before the results of experiences as these produce results in if only one of these youth, but the seed has been planted as we all will continue to enjoy living in America and the many wonderful opportunities that are available to us.

Frank A. Davis is the director of Franklin Parks and Recreation.He can be reached at