Business 1.0 November/December 2018

August 3rd, 2021 by Bryan

Take A Knee … Or Maybe Not

By Lyle R. Hill

At first glance it looks like an Ivy League Campus. Built in the early 1900s it has a certain aura about it—a certain charm. But it is not an Ivy League university; it is Proviso East High School in Maywood, Ill., which sits on the east side of First Avenue between Madison Street and Washington Boulevard.

As a sophomore, the students in my public speaking class received an assignment to prepare and present an extemporaneous speech on any topic of our choice not to exceed 10 minutes. The speech would be graded and would become 75 percent of our semester final grade. I spent a lot of thought and time on that speech and after it was presented to the class, I was asked to repeat it for some class assemblies and even the year-end PTA meeting. The school had more than 4,000 students at the time. The more times I presented the speech, the more comfortable I got.

The speech was titled “Without Apology” in which I heaped a great deal of praise on my teenage friends and schoolmates for their ability to deal in a very positive way with race relations. At the age of 16, I had become quite convinced that the racial problems that our forefathers had handled so poorly would rapidly become a “thing of the past.” My generation would not allow “prejudice” to exist. The world was ours to change and I did not doubt for a moment that we were up to the task. My generation would show the world how to live in harmony regardless of color, creed, political or religious persuasion. After all, Kennedy was in the White House, the world was at relative peace and Maywood was humming along with all of its racial and cultural diversity in place.

All of that was in the spring of 1963. In November JFK was assassinated. By the time I graduated in ’65, kids I had grown up with were over in far-off Asian jungles killing other kids for reasons I never understood. Some of those kids never came home. Then on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated and the riots that followed devastated entire portions of Chicago’s west side and quickly spilled into Maywood. The next year, on December 4, 1969, Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was gunned down by Chicago and Cook County policeman while he slept in his Chicago apartment. As kids, Fred lived across the alley from me in Maywood. We sometimes sat around a picnic table in the backyard and played cards with his older brother and my younger brother.

This past season, several NFL players refused to stand during the National Anthem at their games. Some NBA players have now started to do the same and even some high school players in my area have taken up the practice. I certainly respect the right to protest and participated in a few protests during my younger years. But I have a hard time accepting any form of disrespect for our national anthem or our country’s flag. The freedoms we have … including the right to protest … only exist as a result of the sacrifices of those who went before us and were willing in many cases to lay down their lives to defend our freedoms. But in talking with certain people, I find that there is another side to all of this and I am told that I should support the protesters because they represent what our country is all about. I am not inclined to feel this way but every now and then I start to think maybe I have become too closed-minded. It is all confusing to me and while it seems that everyone agrees there is a problem, nobody seems to have a real clue as to how to solve it. So in my search for an answer to all of this, I decided to reach out to an old friend from my era that had lived where I lived and experienced what I had experienced. This wasn’t the first time I had called him and won’t be the last.

“Reverend Ike,” I began, “I am very confused and troubled about the protest thing going on where people, mostly professional athletes, take a knee and won’t stand for the National Anthem. This greatly troubles me. Back in our day, I thought all of this would be over by now but here we are 50 years later and if anything, it seems like it’s all gotten worse.”

“Brother Lyle,” he replied, “I too am very concerned and a bit confused. Things have not turned out the way I had imagined either. And at times, it does seem like it is getting worse. The politicians have not helped and there seems to be no common ground.

“So Reverend Ike, are you saying it is alright to take a knee in protest during our National Anthem?”

“No my old friend, I couldn’t do it though I am not going to condemn those who do. And I will say this … Every morning when we get up, every one of us should be taking a knee and seeking forgiveness, understanding and tolerance from The One we worship. The bickering politicians can’t solve this, a new government program won’t solve this and all the talking heads on TV or in the media won’t solve it either. It is up to each one of us as individuals to look into our own hearts and then begin to listen, truly listen to each other. I am glad you called my brother, and I thank you for listening to me.”

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America and a former owner of a window film company in the Midwest. He also provides auto glass and film-related advice on Glass.com.

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