COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As we mark 18 years since the tragedy of 9/11, South Carolina honored our fallen heroes, first responders and our military in Columbia.
A Historic Morning of Remembrance was held at the 9/11 Memorial at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
WIS General Manager Lyle Schulze delivered the keynote speech. Read the transcript below and watch it in full in the video above.
"Good morning distinguished guests, Governor Henry McMaster, First Lady, Chief Holbrook, Chief Jenkins, Sheriff Lott, Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers, and all fellow citizens of the great City of Columbia. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of today’s historic 9/11 Remembrance. I am honored to be a part of this remarkable program today.
Patriotism is defined by Webster’s dictionary as ‘Love or devotion to one’s country.’
A hero is defined as a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.
Today we commemorate the anniversary of 2,977 fallen heroes on this date 18 years ago. Their courageous acts have preserved our freedom. Like our fore fathers, they are the reason we gather today in freedom from all tyranny and oppression.
The day was July 20, 1969. The first day at Indian Mound Boy Scout Camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, about 50 miles outside of my hometown of Milwaukee where I grew up in a middle-class family of six. My father worked a day job and served in the Wisconsin National Guard. That night, the Scoutmaster rallied our troop to the mess hall to assemble along with over 100 other scouts to watch one tiny 19” black and white television. The occasion was the lunar landing of Apollo 11.
Growing up in Wisconsin, we all were familiar with NASA and its hero Astronauts. Jim Lovell and Deke Slayton, two of the most famous Apollo-era astronauts were Wisconsin born and raised. They were about as big of heroes to us as was Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.
Now as we all squinted in silence in that mess hall, another hero, Neil Armstrong, emerged with a fellow astronaut, Buzz Aldrin. These were American heroes. They had done something no other human being had accomplished before – landing on the moon and walking on it.
It was the day American pride, or patriotism, became a part of who I am.
I would go on to spend the next 10 years of my life in scouting. We wore the American flag on our uniforms. We saluted the flag. We stood at attention. We learned discipline. We were patriotic. Back then, it was NOT cool to wear the uniform. Any uniform. Be it scouting, policing, or the United States military.
In fact, we were in the throes of the most unpopular war in American history. The Vietnam War. Patriotism was unpopular. The press, it seemed, focused on Vietnam casualties and war protesters. America needed some heroes. The astronauts of Apollo 11 were just what we needed as a nation. We would have to wait for a defining moment to come along and change this national apathy.
Fast forward to September 11, 2001. It’s 8:30 a.m. on that beautiful, crisp fall day in Houston, Texas. I was beginning the work day, like most of you. I heard the commotion and joined those gathered around a TV to see the catastrophe that we are today memorializing unfolding.
In the days and weeks that followed, the love for our country and our fellow man seemed to overflow in all of us. American flags were flying from just about every pickup truck in the state of Texas and around the country. People were painting patriotic sayings on their car windows. Unity, love of nation was being born again. Was it temporary? Was it a reaction that would quickly disappear when the news cycle died down? In fact, it was a turning point in our nation and an unfolding of a positive spirit for the United States military and first responders that we had not seen since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon on that fateful day in July of 1969. We began to come together again under the rallying cries of our President who clearly was not going to allow Our country to be bullied. Leadership when we really needed it.
America again stood for strength. Patriotism was back in style and many were reminded of our country’s rallying spirit from World War II.
A year later, I was standing in terrazzo at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. A place where American patriotism was in full strength. My middle son, Major Benjamin Schulze, United States Air Force, had just received his congressional appointment to attend this military academy and subsequently serve his country. Pride was again welling up in me. Patriotism was bursting through me, just like it did when I did my first flag raising ceremony as a Boy Scout 30 years earlier. Like any parent, I was proud that my son would accept this appointment and go on to graduate from the Air Force Academy, then earn his PhD and then continue to serve his nation still today, some 17 years later.
A few years later, my youngest son, Patrick, called me one day from his home in Nashville. He was 24 and he had a difficult time in his early 20’s trying to focus on a career choice. He dropped out of college, bounced around from job to job, and left me disappointed. His call to me was to tell me he had just enlisted in the United States Air Force. He said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother. He wanted to serve his country he told me, and he was leaving for basic training in just a few days. That was a powerful moment of patriotism I will never forget.
I am proud to say that we are a military family. I am also proud of my other family, the WIS family for supporting the military right here in the most military-friendly state in the nation, South Carolina. I am proud that our two-year effort to recognize the plight of all veterans in our state – Our Year of the Veteran initiative helped the City of Columbia earn the prestigious distinction as a Great American Defense Community for 2018.
We should not let today go by without recognizing and memorializing this beautiful memorial behind us. It reminds us that we should never forget. Patriotism should forever remain ‘in style.’
A couple of months ago, I toured the 9/11 museum in New York. If you have not done this, I would strongly encourage you to do it. It was one of those times in your life that you will never forget. The emotion in that place amongst all the heroes was truly palpable. I will never forget those moments or those faces of the victims.
It was striking to me that almost 20 years later, I saw people openly weeping for our heroes of 9/11. At times, I too was overcome with emotional sadness. Many of the fire stations around the city have their own tributes to 9/11 still abundantly visible. The fire engines fly the flag and FDNY stands for not only civic pride, but yes, national patriotism.
We should not let the day pass us by without thanking our lawmakers, and our president, for permanently reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Our obligation to serve this vital strength of our country, the veterans who gave their all, the first responders who continue to protect and serve us, should never be forgotten.
I am a lucky man to be here in Columbia as the General Manager of one of the greatest TV stations in the nation. I am reminded daily of my responsibility to serve this great community. Earlier this year, I decided that we needed to reinstate a broadcast tradition that had disappeared over the years; broadcasting the National Anthem every morning, just like the TV stations used to do.
We have all been brought here together today by one common thread. To honor our freedom.
To honor those who have gone before us and have done the most remarkable thing anyone could ask – service and sacrifice before self.
As I conclude my comments on this very humble and historic day, I would like to leave you with this thought.
In thinking about what I wanted to say today to all of you, I was reminded of a previous trip to New York when I visited Ellis Island and retraced my grandfather’s immigration to the United States. We are reminded by these visits to our historical past that our nation was not settled by one person or a single initiative. We are all descendants of immigrants which made us the most diverse and powerful nation in the world. Still today!
I leave you with this thought from a hero from our past, an unlikely hero, who never got to see just how beautiful our country truly is, but who paints an important picture of it nonetheless.
Helen Keller was the first blind and deaf person to earn a college degree. She became an educator and advocate for the blind and deaf. She is an American hero. Helen Keller leaves us inspired with this message of hope:
‘I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.’
Thank you for the honor to be able to speak to you this morning."