"We are seeing a rebirth of American patriotism," Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) told a roomful of fellow Arizonans last night at the Hyatt Regency. "Don't ask me where it's come from, but it's here. I know it's here, because I can feel it in my heart and it's stronger than it's ever been since Pearl Harbor. And thank God, because we've never needed it more."
Part of the tidal wave of patriotism that is sweeping America settled in at the hotel's Valley Forge-Yorktown room last night and eddied around the figures of Goldwater and three of his colleagues from the House: Reps. Glenn Anderson (D-Calif.) and John Rhodes (R-Ariz), who were cosponsors of the National Patriotism Week bill and Rep. Eldon Rudd (R-Ariz.), who was one of its most vigorous supporters. But the evening, which had been planed as a tribute to the members of Congress who pushed the bill through, ended as a tribute to 22-year-old Lori Cox of Scottsdale, Ariz., who originated the idea six years ago when she was a high school student and her principal told her she could not recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in class.
"I sometimes think she's kind of ruthless," Anderson said in a half-humorous tribute. "We don't mind if someone comes in and takes over a congressman's office, but she shouldn't take over my staff, too. They went all working for her. I'm glad it's all over now and I can get back to work." a
At a reception before the dinner, the scene looked a little bit like a junior prom at a military academy. Almost half the 155 people there were high school students from all over Arizona -- notably a group of Junior ROTC students from Tolleson Union High School, near Phoenix, who were decked out in U.S. Marine dress uniforms, and 35 members of the Choralairs singing group from Yuma High School who had worked to raise funds for their trip to Washington and each saved about $500 apiece for their own expenses. "He works at a pizza place and I work at a McDonald's," said choralair David Simpson pointing to his friend Pete Kvashay, "and Steve Esparza over there works for a local newspaper."
"I sold grapefruit on Sundays to raise money," said Kvashay proudly.
But nobody worked harder than Lori Cox, the daughter of Republic Airlines pilot Richard Cox, who decided it was "hypocritical" when her high school class recited the Pledge of Allegiance during a visit by Sen. Goldwater, because they didn't recite it any other time. She went to the principal and said she wanted to recit it; the principal said that would be out of the question, and she decided there ought to be a law.
With the help of the state legislature, she had a law passed allowing voluntary recitation of the pledge in school without making it mandatory. Then, she decided that was not enough. The pledge had originally been banned because of demonstrations of disrespect that had happened during the recitation, and these began to happen again. "Students burned parts of the flag and tore it to pieces," she recalled. "One student marched down the hall with a communist flag during the national anthem. So I decided an education program was needed to teach them the meaning of our flag and our symbols, and that's how National Patriotism week began."
Now, after five years as an Arizona activity, it has been made a national event by act of Congress. "It's been a dream for too long," said Rep. Rhodes, "and I hope it will become an institution that will endure for a long time."
Rep. Anderson recalled that someone had said to him, "Some day there will be a woman president of the United States, and it ought to be Lori."
"That's all right with me," Anderson said.
When the time came to express her feelings, Lori Cox nearly broke down in tears and finally summoned poet Bruce Sievers to say it for her. He did it with one of his poems, "Friendship": My mind will be with you though we're miles apart . . . Remembering times that made you close to my heart . . .