AL Post 102 celebrates Americanism Night 

  • Coral Grout, PhD of Winchendon, 1st Vice President American Legion Auxiliary, Dept. of Massachusetts, addresses Monday’s celebration of Americanism, sponsored by Athol American Legion Post 102 at the Athol Town Hall. Standing is American Legion E.H. Phillips Post 102 Commander William Graziano. photo/Greg Vine

  • American Legion Edward H. Phillips Post 102 Commander William Graziano welcomes attendees to the post’s annual celebration of Americanism, held Monday night at the Athol Town Hall. —Greg Vine

  • Each year, American Legion Edward H. Phillips Post 102 of Athol holds a flag-coloring contest to celebrate Americanism. The competition rotates between Athol Community Elementary School and Royalston Community School. This year’s winners, from Royalston, include 2nd-graders (l-r): Bryce Archambault, Honorable Mention; Abigail McNamara, 3rd Place; Abbie Lacasse, 2nd Place, and; Isabella Barton, 1st Place. In the background is 2nd-grade teacher Christine Hoegen. photo/Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 3/12/2019 9:00:03 PM

ATHOL — Monday night’s celebration of Americanism, sponsored each year by Athol’s American Legion Edward H. Phillips Post 102, was notable not only for what it included but also for what was absent: There was a notable – and refreshing – absence of politics. The overarching message had nothing to do with partisanship, with Republicans or Democrats, or with liberals or conservatives. It instead honed-in on the themes of duty and commitment: Duty to country, duty to community, and commitment to decency.

During introductory remarks, Post Commander William Graziano said, “Americanism seeks to inspire a love of country and good citizenship. In President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech on the 20th of January, 1961 – and there are a few people in this room who probably remember – he proposed a challenge to all Americans, and if you remember it you can say it along with me: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.’ Its simple meaning was to challenge society to contribute to improve the public good, and we can do this in many ways.’”

Graziano was followed to the podium by the night’s keynote speaker; Coral Grout, PhD of Winchendon, 1st Vice President of American Legion Auxiliary, Dept. of Massachusetts. Grout is also treasurer of Winchendon’s American Legion Eugene M. Connor Post 193 Auxiliary and American Legion Auxiliary National Historian. She is also former assistant superintendent for the Athol-Royalston Regional School District and former school superintendent for the towns of Acushnet and Winchendon.

“When I was your assistant superintendent of schools many year ago,” she said, “I was approached by the American Legion national organization in Indianapolis to invite our students in grades 2 to 6 to participate in an essay contest for each grade level. Well, the essays were written, and they were judged, and we selected a lot of winners. The neat part was the American Legion sent photographers from Indianapolis to photograph all the winners and their awards and what they’d written. These pictures were placed on the cover of the American Legion magazine. So, Athol Royalston kids were on the front page of a major American magazine for 3 or 4 million people across the country.”

“I think the easiest way to define Americanism,” Grout said, speaking directly to the younger audience members, “is to say it’s all the things we do to show our pride at being Americans. I was watching as you said the Pledge of Allegiance tonight. Most of you do that every day in school, as well. That’s Americanism.”

“When we say the Pledge of Allegiance, we hold our hands over our hearts,” she continued. “But there are other times when we should hold our hands over our hearts, as well. And those are signs of Americanism. One – you did it tonight – is when we sing the National Anthem. The other, which you could have done tonight, because a group of Legionnaires came forward with the U.S. flag…you should place your hand over your heart every time you come in contact with that flag.”

Grout said Americanism can also be displayed by flying the flag in one’s front yard, sending “care packages” to U.S. troops overseas, and – for families with members serving in the armed forces – by displaying a military service star (Blue Star) banner in the front window.

She added that Americanism “involves many important qualities that represent each and every one of us.”

“First is loyalty, which means having faith and commitment to the people around you; that means your family, your friends, your teachers, and others who are close to you. Duty. That means making sure you complete your obligations and accept responsibility for your actions. That applies to what you do in school every day.”

“Another good display of Americanism,” she went on, “is to treat everyone around you fairly and show that you care about them. Don’t tease your classmates. Don’t look at people walking down the street and make fun of them…that’s not American.”

Wrapping up her address, Grout thanked everyone in the audience “for what you’re doing as an American.”

Closing out the celebration was the presentation of awards to local elementary school students. The flag-coloring contest, organized by Post 102 member Alex Blake, alternates from year-to-year between Athol Elementary Community School and Royalston Community School. This year’s honor went to 2nd-graders in Royalston under teacher Christie Hoegen. Winners included: Isabella Barton, 1st place; Abbie Lacasse, 2nd place; Abigail McNamara, 3rd place, and; Bryce Archambault, honorable mention.

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