Commentary #3
29 September 2006

AFA St. Petersburg and
New Millenium Club in Melbourne

In the aftermath of the 2006 Primary Election, I had two quasi-political events I was asked to address on 18 SEP. The first was an invitation from the Commandant of the Admiral Farragut Academy (AFA), Major General Robert Flanagan USMC (Ret), located in St. Petersburg. The second event, later the same day across the State in Melbourne, was the New Millennium Political Club, a non-partisan group.

General Flanagan wanted me to address his AFA Battalion of Cadets, approx 350 students ranging in age from 8-18, to commemorate U.S. Constitution Day. With me being a retired Naval Officer, addressing such a patriotic occasion at the only Navy-based secondary school in America was honor enough. But knowing General Flanagan and his background as a combat-proven Marine Aviator, made the opportunity irresistible.

Arriving just before 0800 enabled me to observe the massing of the entire Battalion of AFA Cadets in formation for hoisting the Nation's Colors, accompanied by the Cadet band playing the National Anthem. Younger children from the elementary school within AFA paraded the flags of all 50 States. Immediately following, all Cadets proceeded to the auditorium for my presentation.

Following my introduction, I asked for a show of hands from those who had taken a course in Civics (including Scout merit badges)...only a very few. How about American History? Perhaps 50 hands went up. With that backdrop, I asked who could recite the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution (as my American History teacher had me do in 1950)?

There was an unsettling murmur, and looks of fear in some faces; most looked away, hoping not to be called upon to recite (I remember the feeling!). One Cadet looked up and cautiously inquired "We the people...?". Then, a barely audible "...of the United States," and from the opposite side of the room " order to form a more perfect Union..."

Hearing these ragged phrases piecemeal from her older schoolmates, Sixth Grade Cadet Green bolted upright - all of 4 feet tall, at attention with eyes straight ahead and without the slightest hesitation, in confident recitation and with full expression, out came

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The whole room erupted in cheers and spontaneous applause for young Cadet Green. I asked her to come forward (she shied with her newfound celebrity status). With her standing by my side at dutiful attention (see photo attached), I presented her a pamphlet published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies containing the entire Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and numerous topical quotes.

I spent the next few minutes reminding the AFA Cadets that all elected officials from the U.S. President down to the Town Councils, and even all members of the U.S. Armed Forces take oaths, under God, "to support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

I also observed that it took our country from 1781 (when the British surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown VA) until 1787 to acknowledge a stronger Federal Government and a new Constitution, i.e. a full six years. (Compare that with Iraq today, from the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein to having its new Constitution in place in only three years...not bad).

We next identified the first Ten Amendments as the Bill of Rights; they knew that. How many Amendments are there? Someone volunteered 26. Close; there are 27. What/when was the last Amendment ratified into law?....1992, i.e. Congress cannot change its compensation "until an election of Representatives has intervened". I reminded all that while there have been many attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution, it has succeeded only 17 times in the past 211 years! The principal reason may be it is considered so sacrosanct, and/or that the Congress does not want to run the risk of it becoming cluttered with minutia to the point of irrelevance.

In the Q & A session which followed, most questions were directed at my recent race for the Republican Nomination to the U.S. Senate. I was profoundly impressed with their depth of knowledge/interest re the issues of today, especially those in foreign policy, e.g. the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, international terrorism, immigration control, alternative fuels, tax policy, and more. At the end of the hour, I was presented an inscribed biography of the Academy's namesake (and the U.S. Navy's first Admiral), David Glasgow Farragut, the hero of the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War. Following a brief tour of the Academy's museum (which houses Admiral Farragut's sword), and viewing some of the memorabilia of AFA's two most famous Alumni, i.e. astronauts RADM Alan Shepherd USN, and BGEN Charles Duke USAF, I drove 3 hours to Melbourne to address the New Millennium Political Club headed by Ms. Regina Anderson.

I started them with the same challenge as the AFA cadets i.e recite the Preamble to the Constitution. Ms. Anderson responded as if catapulted from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. She was exactly on-target, and won her copy of the coveted pamphlet I carried for the occasion, like Cadet Green at the Academy earlier the same day. The balance of the hour was mostly devoted to political Q & A with the very well-informed members of the New Millennium Club.

What an inspiring day it had been with enthusiastic American citizens ages 8 to 80, who DEEPLY CARE ABOUT THEIR COUNTRY AND ITS GOVERNMENT. /s/ LC

Admiral Collins with Cadet Jessica Green
(6th grader at AFA)

Admiral Collins with Major General Robert Flanagan, USMC (Ret)
and AFA Cadet LTJG Margo Gates-George


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