By Bruce Bobbins, Executive Vice President — Public Affairs
The Fourth of July felt different this year. Sure, as has become habit to demonstrate my patriotism, I placed miniature American flags at various points on my front lawn. Sure, in keeping with long-standing tradition, I donned my chef’s apron and grilled up a storm — burgers, hot dogs, chicken, veggies, and even some pineapple — for our closest friends. And sure, after walking our four rescue dogs on their evening outing — actually, it was more of a drag given their absolute terror of the firecrackers, cherry bombs, and M80s being set off by my neighbors — I sat down on the couch with my wife to watch the Macy’s fireworks on TV.
I found myself contemplating what it means to be an American today, when our country is being torn apart by divisiveness and extremism. Yes, I did live through the terrible turbulence of the 1960s, from the deadly clashes over Civil Rights in the South to the violent Vietnam War protests. I remember my dad and mom staring in horror at the small black-and-white TV screen in our Queens, NY apartment as the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy were reported. Yet, I still sensed hope in their words to me and my brothers and sister — that we would rise like a Phoenix from these ashes of destruction and despair and emerge stronger and better as a nation. In fact, my chest swelled with American pride on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, the lunar module hatch opened and Neil Armstrong floated to the surface uttering the now iconic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Later that year, I experienced similar feelings when my beloved New York Mets overcame their first decade of ineptitude and won the World Series — I was only 10 but life couldn’t get any better than that.
But today it seems our country has lost its way. I write this following three horrific mass shootings — in Uvalde, TX, Buffalo, NY, and Highland Park, IL. I’m thinking that the red, white, and blue of Old Glory now represents the massive amount of innocent blood being spilled, the skin color of the perpetrators of these acts of domestic terrorism, and the collective melancholy we should all be feeling by these senseless and heinous murders.
I write this also in the wake of three egregious Supreme Court decisions — the first stripping power from the EPA to protect our planet, the second allowing individuals to carry guns literally anywhere and anytime, and the third, the most appalling, taking away a woman’s freedom to have an abortion. It is inconceivable that guns now have more rights than women!
And I write this as we continue to learn more details about the horrific insurrection on our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021 — one that resulted in the death of numerous police officers, dozens of terrible injuries, and nearly left our very Constitution and country in tatters.
I consider myself an optimist, though; for me, the proverbial glass is not totally empty. I’m tremendously encouraged by research done by DKC client All in Together that shows a 25% increase in voting interest among young women ages 18–29 following the Roe decision compared to a previous poll on the same issue in September 2021. Similarly, I’m heartened by the countless thousands of students and young adults — including my own two sons — who have mobilized in the wake of the George Floyd murder and other racial injustices, by the climate crisis, by the school shootings, by the Roe ruling.
Over my 23 years here at DKC, I’ve been privileged to work — either through the Public Affairs division or through Impact, the pro bono initiative I created — with some incredible non-profit organizations that are doing life-transforming and life-saving work: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, K9s for Warriors, Emma’s Torch, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, to name but a few. I’ve been equally honored to work with some incredible people who are truly making a difference in this world, from Hayley Arceneaux, 29-year-old cancer survivor to launch on SpaceX flight promoting St. Jude hospital — CBS News, the St. Jude physician assistant who became the first pediatric cancer survivor, the first person with a prosthetic and youngest American to go into space orbit, to Nick Ut and Kim Phuc Video: ‘Napalm Girl’ and photographer speak to CNN 50 years later — CNN Video, respectively the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and the subject of the iconic Vietnam War photo known as “Napalm Girl.” And I’ve been blessed to work with some incredible colleagues who, in their personal and professional lives, maintain a profound sense of mission, guided by my favorite biblical tenet: “to save one life is to save an entire world.”
That is the America I know we can once again achieve. Let’s all aspire to it.