For a moment of pure, unadulterated patriotism, imagine the scene on the Portland waterfront last Saturday, where three hundred people gathered to celebrate the next round of scholarship winners at the 24th annual Schweiger Scholarship Dinner.
It’s a beautiful evening, warm and windy. Lee Greenwood’s voice fills the air. The song is “Proud to Be an American,” and everyone knows the words. Suddenly, our attention is directed to a helicopter 5,000 feet overhead. A parachutist leaps from the chopper and begins to plummet in our general direction. A trail of smoke follows him down. The wind is gusting at 25 or 30 knots, and if his intention is to land near the pavilion where we’ve gathered, he’ll need to be very proficient or very lucky. As he falls, a couple of tugboats employ a number of water cannons, shooting ribbons of H2O high into the air. Little rainbows form in the mist. Somehow, a big American flag appears from the leg of the parachutist, trailing behind him has he falls toward the earth. The flag snaps in the breeze. Lee Greenwood finishes his famous number, and a twelve-year-old girl with a voice like a grown-up picks up a microphone and begins singing The National Anthem. No one takes a knee. Everyone sings along. The parachutist – a guy named Brent – comes in hot, but sticks the landing perfectly. I run over to help him manage the flag. Together, we walk it over to the crowd, now applauding with a level of enthusiasm best described as “unbridled.” The event has officially begun…
I was flattered to say a few words after dinner, because the people behind this event have shaped their foundation to mirror the principles of mikeroweWORKS. In fact, they use the same SWEAT Pledge I wrote ten years ago, to articulate the work ethic they wish to encourage in their applicants. But unlike the parchment paper that I use, these guys have literally burned the pledge into tablets of brushed aluminum, and awarded one to each of their scholarship recipients. (That’s an idea worth borrowing!)
Like mikeroweWORKS, The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund is focused on training the next generation of skilled workers, and I want to thank Dee Burch and everyone at Advanced American Construction, Inc. for supporting their efforts, and along the way, awarding over a million dollars in scholarships so far. It occurred to me, (again), as I congratulated each of the sixteen men and women entering the skilled trades, that our best hope in closing the skills gap, and making a more persuasive case for the many opportunities in this country that don’t require a four-year degree, lies not with our elected officials, but with companies like Advanced American Construction, leaders like Dee Burch, and the donors who support them. It would a great thing, if more companies followed in their footsteps.
In the meantime, check out the video. It’ll be the most patriotic thing you do today.