Generals re-enforce 'Citizenship Day' with core values

  • Published
  • By Capt. Geoff Buteau
  • (AFNS)
Two Air Force generals visited a Greenpoint neighborhood elementary school in Brooklyn, N.Y., Feb. 11 during the school's Citizenship Day, as part of school-wide programs to instill pride in America and community service.

The generals, Maj. Gen. Darren McDew, director of Air Force Public Affairs, and Brig. Gen. Allyson Solomon, the assistant adjutant general for Air, Maryland National Guard and special assistant to the National Guard Bureau chief, spoke to approximately 200 fourth and fifth graders in the historic Public School 34 building about the importance of serving their community and dedicating themselves to hard work. They also thanked those in attendance that gave the students freedoms and opportunities to pursue their goals, including veterans, teachers and school administrators.

"I want to thank all of you for participating in Citizenship Day," General Solomon said. As an African-American immigrant, she opened her remarks by asking how many of the students were born outside of Brooklyn. Nearly all the students raised their hands. She said that it is through strong community service and a widespread sense of citizenship that this diverse and hard-working community has thrived together.

"Seeing two African-American generals makes this community of immigrants and working class Americans believe in the greatness of a country where it is possible to succeed," said Alicja WInnicki, principal of Public School 34. She and her staff oversee the school's program to develop students into good citizens, which fits into their "Character Counts" series where students learn the six pillars of building character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

General McDew's message to students was that hard work and passion "embody citizenship." He pointed to the passion that the veterans attending the event had in their service to the country, the inspiring work the school administrators and teachers do to create a successful learning environment for the students, and the excellent job his fellow servicemembers are doing all around the world --despite dangerous conditions -- as examples of that citizenship the children should try to emulate.

After addressing the fourth and fifth graders, the generals visited classrooms of first, second and third graders. "Their visits in individual classrooms brought a lesson on citizenship to every child in the school," said Ms. Winnicki. "It will long serve as a reference in an ongoing conversation with students about the importance of citizenship and commitment to the country."