We are rarely provided with such poignant opportunities to contemplate our role as citizens as we were this past Thursday. We were humbled as our inaugural First Responder Day brought us so many people who stand ready to do what must be done if our republic is to be permitted to flourish. There were representatives present from the Armed Forces Recruiting Stations, Colorado Army National Guard, Colorado State Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Protective Services, Larimer County Search and Rescue, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, Poudre Valley Fire Authority, Poudre Valley Health Paramedics, UC Health Paramedics, and the Forest Service.
It is not a grandiose claim to assert that citizenship in a republic demands that we acknowledge both who and what it is that holds relative peace and security in place. As James Madison expatiated about the character of human beings more generally, “there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”
Not only presupposes, but requires, and if we wish to call ourselves a community, we shall find that we must determine what type of community we will be. Shall we be a mere body of people bound together by the happenstance of locality, or shall we live our lives in association with one another and in pursuit of something common? If we choose to fence out the world and say, “We shall teach about the community as an abstract ideal, but we shall live removed from our neighbors and fellow citizens knowing it shall never be realized,” we will lose the genius and temper that defines our republic, and collapse divided into the diffidence Madison warned was the other side of our character.
If the first responders are always and everywhere invoked with vague dread and cold impersonality, it will not leave the young with much impression of them as the stewards and civil servants of a republic of individuals. What shall remain will be a more punitive residue that poisons the types of community we hope to foster. Having so many first responders at Ridgeview at one time is the sort of exhibition the young require to understand the choices and sacrifices that permit civil order, and without which no education could take place since our rights would be less secure, and our security less certain. Such an exhibition is a proof that citizenship is the service of each one to every other, and that without a fraternal respect for those who serve, our youth become unnaturally divided from them.
As William Penn commented on at length, no free society can maintain itself by enforcing laws against a majority who disagree with them; instead, free societies are preserved because the majority have an affinity for the laws and a faith in their reasonableness. Our collective condition is improved when we see and know our fellow citizens who uphold this order. For us to grow apart, is to damage the health of our republic.
We extend our appreciation to all of the first responders who contributed their time and equipment. We are grateful to you for everything you have done and continue to do to preserve our community. We appreciate the parents and private businesses that donated time, food, and other material goods. We appreciate the Student Ambassadors who worked to help us welcome and thank our guests. Finally, we thank our students, faculty, and staff for showing their respect, being genuine, and asking intelligent questions of our visitors. We look forward to welcoming everyone back in a year’s time.