Teaching Patriotism

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Lucian Spataro, President and CEO of the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute talks about how the organization is teaming-up with veterans to teach elementary students about the values of patriotism and public service.

Ted Simons: Veterans inspiring patriotism is a program offered by the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute. It sends veterans into classrooms to discuss patriotism and public service with students. Here to tell us more is retired Air Force Major General Carl Schneider. It's an honor to have you here. Thank you for joining us. Tell us about this program, inspiring patriotism. What are we talking about?

Lucian Spataro: Basically we go into classrooms and just talk to kids tell them a few war stories, not too gruesome, about what we did in the service. Each veteran sort of integrates the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and how we got all the great freedoms with our own personal experience.

Ted Simons: What kind of age groups are you targeting?

Lucian Spataro: We start from elementary through high school.

Ted Simons: Do you present -- do you tell your story, do you have a power point? How do you do this?

Lucian Spataro: Each veteran is a little different. We have a general theme of what we do, we want to cover appreciation for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and then just integrate that in with what your own experience was when you were on active duty.

Ted Simons: Kids pay attention?

Lucian Spataro: They really pay attention. They really do. Never have a peep out of them.

Ted Simons: What kind of questions are you often asked?

Lucian Spataro: If you're Air Force, where did you fly, what war did you fight, what did you like about it, just general questions.

Ted Simons: For those who say we have civics classes, we should at least, and these kids should be taught the Bill of Rights, at least a general understanding of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Are they not getting that information?

Lucian Spataro: I think they get it, but it's a bit watered down in my opinion. It's not as strongly emphasized as math and science and so forth. Not to downplay the other subjects, arts as you were just talking about, and the other subject, but they really need to understand the fundamentals of how this country was founded and the importance of understanding how we got the freedoms and the sacrifices of the persons fighting and the families involved.

Ted Simons: Bill of Rights as an example. What do you tell the kids about the Bill of Rights?

Lucian Spataro: Basically we hit the high points. We don't try to go into detail. But we encourage them to use books like this. You can get the U.S. Sonstitution, it's called a constitutionfacts.com. You can get that on the Internet. You can get these booklets, one of them you can get free, or order them in bulk. We've passed down I think overall about 2 million copies total and that's a really good tremor of the history of the country, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and so forth.

Ted Simons: When you walk in dressed like that I bet the kids pay apt attention.

Lucian Spataro: Rapped, yeah they do.

Ted Simons: Did they -- what -- I asked this before, I'm curious. Does it seem -- shouldn't there be a general understanding in terms of the questions they're asking? What do you get when you walk in?

Lucian Spataro: Well, basically what we do is make a presentation. I use a PowerPoint presentation to show a lot of the aircraft flaw, and just talk about the life in the military. We don't try to recruit anyone, we don't have any agenda. But just tell them what it was like to serve our country and how proud we are to be able to serve your country, and give all these freedoms to all the folks that we have here.

Ted Simons: When they asked for war stories what do you tell them?

Lucian Spataro: I tell them fun stories. I've got a story in Vietnam, I tell them the tiger story about a fun time when I was down to the delta and a bunch of army guys had a tiger that they tied up outside just outside of window, and they set you right behind at this window and one guy would let out a loud yell and the tiger would come up over your loud shoulder. So you tell some stories.

Ted Simons: I guess think would get a kick out of that. How long have you been doing this?

Lucian Spataro: I was on the original board started 10 years ago, when Joe started it, and I had breakfast with Joe and a men's bible study for 20 years before he passed away in 2003. A wonderful guy. He shot down 26 Japanese airplanes in World War II, and got the Medal of Honor, was the governor of South Dakota for two terms. After the war, first commissioner of the American Football League, President of the National Rifle Association. He's one of our great heroes.

Ted Simons: This program sounds like it must be royally rewarding when you go into classrooms and talk to these kids.

Lucian Spataro: Yeah, it's great. I've got a stack of thank you notes from kids. That high.

Ted Simons: That's fantastic. It was good to have you here. It's great to have you here. And thank you for your service.

Lucian Spataro: Thank you.

Lucian Spataro:President, CEO, Joe Foss Institute;

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