It is hot; obscenely hot. Suddenly, Bruce Springsteen’s voice blasts through the crackling heat, singing “Born in the USA.” It wakes the teenage boy. The first thing he sees when he opens his eyes is a picture of his little sister. For a moment, he is back in Nashville, waking up hungry for one of his mom’s famous Sunday breakfasts. Only something isn’t right. Where are those wonderful smells of coffee brewing and hash browns frying? And why is it still dark outside? As his eyes adjust, he remembers: he is not at home in his bed; he is in his barracks in Afghanistan. It is midnight, and his platoon is getting ready for a mission. When he opens his footlocker, a family photo reminds him to e-mail his sister: her interview for West Point is tomorrow. Tennessee seems light years away as the young private spends his days and nights defending our nation. Forty-eight hours later, two soldiers knock on the front door of a yellow house in Nashville. When the tall, blonde woman opens the door and sees the uniforms, she crumples to the ground, knowing, before a word is uttered, that her son is dead. This soldier was the boy next door, the boy who delivered your newspapers, the young man who cut your lawn. This fallen soldier proves that my generation is already playing a major role in America’s future. His unselfish sacrifice is a mirror of the best of my generation.
I want to remind everyone, that while I stand before you and deliver this speech, my generation is in Iraq and Afghanistan, boots on the ground, fighting a war that will determine America’s future. The news footage from Afghanistan is the Reality TV show that represents my generation; not Jersey Shore, not the Kardashians. Young Americans are fighting and dying on the battlefield, coming home to be fitted for artificial limbs, in order to defend democracy and our way of life. It is this generation of selfless young men and women that are playing a major role in America’s future. That is why my generation will not allow ourselves to be defined by the media as selfish, spoiled young adults.