WEST BOUNTIFUL – Gregory Phillips would like every high school student to learn the oath of allegiance that new U.S. citizens pledge.
That oath goes beyond the pledge of allegiance we all say in that it pledges in part to defend the Constitution and laws of the nation, bear arms on behalf of the nation when required and “perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law.”
Phillips is director of facilities for the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He spoke on patriotism to the Bountiful Breakfast Exchange Club last week.
Phillips worked for a number of years with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Chile and as a mission president to Mexico.
He told members how living outside the United States gave him and his children a greater appreciation for this nation.
One of the greatest things that emerged from raising his children in Buenos Aires “is that they made friends from throughout the world,” he said. They had friends who were Saudis, Persians, Canadians, Chinese, Japanese Africans and Israelis. The boys keep in touch with their friends.” Through those associations, “they learned what it means to be a citizen of the United States.,” he said.
While the family was living near Seattle during one of its hiatuses home, one of Phillips’ sons saw a news report of a young man burning a U.S. flag in downtown Seattle in protest of something. Phillips’ son was ready to drive into Seattle and fight the protester.
“I helped him understand what freedom is ... that there’s two sides to patriotism,” Phillips told club members.
Phillips explained to his son that the young protester likely thought it was his patriotic duty to protest the issue by burning the flag, he recounted.
“I told him we need to be tolerant that freedom means we have the right to disagree,” he said.
In other countries, one man’s thoughts might put him in jail, Phillips told his son.
Phillips was a mission president in Mexico on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I had 19- and 20-year-olds asking me if they should go home and if we were at war,” he said. “That’s the kind of patriotism we talk about. It’s in the bones.”
None of the young men serving missions went home, but several went into law enforcement, became firefighters, civic leaders and school teachers ‘ all vocations of service to our nation, Phillips said.