Mother's Lessons

Robert W. Spanogle
National Adjuctant
The American Legion

A mother’s early lessons to her child instill a respect for American family values.

As a child, I learned respect at the end of my mother’s broom. It was an ordinary straw kitchen broom. But there was an extraordinary woman wielding it, and when she swept me into line, there was no mistaking her purpose: she wanted me to learn respect—respect for her, respect for others, respect for myself—and I’ll bet your mother did much the same.

Some of the lessons I learned from my mother seem quaint to many today, but I think most Americans recognize their value and the wisdom of teaching and learning them: stay seated until all have finished eating; pass the food to others first; open the door for your elders; offer your seat to ladies and to older people; be respectful of the opinions of others, even when you disagree.

While I treasure the lessons I learned at the working end of a straw broom wielded with love and determination, my education continued in church, in elementary school, and in the Boy Scouts where great men and women were shaping the minds and habits of young Americans. The broom was absent, but the purpose remained; they each built on the solid foundation my mother had built.

As I reflect on my childhood in the days of World War II and immediately after, I realize that the values I learned were the core values shared by nearly every American. We believed in hard work. We believed it is important to learn the lessons of history. We believed it is important to speak your mind, but also to respect the opinions of others. We believed in our country and the dreams upon which it was founded. And we honored the American flag.

Back in those days, you didn’t have to join the Army to get "basic training." Your mother was your "Drill Sergeant" and your teachers and neighbors were her able assistants. And from those hard-earned lessons, we also gained an understanding that God has given each of us but a short time in which to practice those values and to pass them on to our children and grandchildren.

Should we no longer believe in these ideals? Should we abandon respect for our family and national traditions? Are the core values we learned at our mother’s knees no longer relevant?

Like most Americans, I keep faith with the traditions handed down to me. I will treasure them with loving care. I still have a straw broom in my kitchen that reminds me not to stray from my faith and these values. If they are your values, too, as I believe they are, let us, together, always sustain them, always stay close to the timeless values of our nation and, in doing so, sweep away the distortions of those who sneer at the traditions and ideals most of us hold dear.

Robert W. Spanogle
is an Army veteran with service during the Vietnam War. Active in many veterans groups since college at Michigan State University, Mr. Spanogle served as Executive Director of The American Legion’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and as Director of Internal Affairs at the Legion’s National Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana He was appointed National Adjutant of The American Legion in July 1981 and is also the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Citizens Flag Alliance, Inc.