A Land of Endless Opportunities

A Land of Endless Opportunities

America is still a land of endless opportunities for those who go and seek it out. If you want something bad enough, America will provide you with endless opportunities to succeed or fail. How many times have you read about a successful entrepreneur who made it big in what seemed to be instantaneously, only to find out that he (or she) went bankrupt several times and worked on the successful project for ten years?

I have a niece who will be starting at Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for the purists) as a junior after doing her first two years at Cottey College. Coming out of high school she was offered a $40,000 scholarship by Milwaukee School of Engineering. Unfortunately, that’s $10,000 a year at a $40,000 a year school and her divorced parents just could not afford it. Jen worked several deadend jobs, sometimes two at a time. Two years ago she told her grandmother that she wanted to go back to school three years after she graduated from high school. Fortunately, my mother-in-law (and my wife) belongs to PEO, a women’s sorority that helps deserving students get an education. The organization has their own two-year school, Cottey College. Jen was VPI Sealaccepted and this may received two associate degrees. After talking to us she applied for Virginia Tech which promptly offered her a $17,000 a year scholarship. When she told us (we’re her godparents, too) that she needed to take a summer course at Tech in Intro to Engineering and it was $6,000, I told her to ask them to pay. They promptly gave her an additional scholarship to cover the cost. The opportunity presented itself, she acted, they responded. In a couple of years America will have its newest Biomedical Engineer.

I met a young man at my local office products store who was trying to assemble a complicated point of sale display. I have been in the display industry for 40 years, so I know a bit about displays. I showed him how to assemble the units. I happened to ask him if he was a student. No, he worked here part-time and had a full-time position at the University of Virginia Medical Center doing document distribution. I asked if he wanted to do these two jobs for the rest of his career. Shaking his head, he said no that he couldn’t stand it. So I suggested that he go and talk to the HR department. Ask them if you can take some courses. First, I told him that he had to have a firm goal, tentative won’t work. If you know what you want and you go for it, the opportunity will present itself.

America is the land of endless opportunities. It’s been that way since the beginning of this country. Nathaniel Greene was a Rhode Island Quaker who started the Revolutionary War as a militia private. He learned military tactics from the many volumes that he purchased and read. In May 1775 he was promoted from private to Brigadier General of the Rhode Island Army of Observation formed in response to the siege of Boston. He was later promoted to Major General and commander of the Southern Theater of Nathaniel GreeneOperations. He emerged by the end of the war with a reputation as George Washington’s most gifted and dependable officer. After the war he died at the young age of 43 of sunstroke. The locations that are named for this most competent of American patriots are too numerous to enumerate here. There are 17 counties, nineteen cities and towns, numerous streets, avenues and roads. Nathaniel Greene has not been forgotten by a grateful nation.

My most favorite of Civil War soldiers (besides my second great grandfather, Michael Patrick Murphy) is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine. Before the Civil War Chamberlain was a professor of rhetoric and later Modern Languages at Bowdoin College. At the beginning of the Civil War he asked for a leave of absence to join the army. He was denied so he asked for a sabbatical to study in Europe. It was granted. He immediately took a train to the state capital Portland and volunteered for service. The governor offered him a regiment which he promptly turned down for the lieutenant-colonelcy of the same regiment. He pointed out that everything that he knew about soldiering he had gotten from books and he needed on-the-job training. His wish was granted and Chamberlain marched off to war with a regiment that would eventually become one of the most famous in American history, the 20th Maine. All Joshua Chamberlain wanted was the opportunity to serve his country and preserve the Union. Promoted to colonel in 1863, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain served his country well on the dark slopes of Little Round Top where the 20th Maine defended the Federal right from a number of Confederate assaults. With less than 250 men the 20th defeated a much larger force the Alabama Brigade of Hood’s Division by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlainprotecting the Federal army from attack in their rear. But that’s not the end of his story. Promoted to the command of a brigade he took a near-mortal wound at Cold Harbor at the front of his troops. He refused to lie down, telling his aide that he didn’t want his men to see him fall. He was promoted by General Grant to Brigadier General, the only general officer that Grant promoted directly. He recovered and was promoted to Major General by Abraham Lincoln. He was designated General Grant to accept the formal surrender of the Confederate infantry at Appomattox. In a dramatic gesture of healing, he ordered his troops to brace arms in a salute to the brave soldiers of the Confederate Army, saying later that it was a salute by Americans to Americans. He had the high honor of leading the victory parade in Washington, D.C. He returned to Bowdoin but the people of Maine asked him to run for Governor. He was elected in 18866 and re-elected three times, serving a total of 4-one year terms. He again returned to Bowdoin College and in 1871 was appointed president, holding that position until 1883 when he was forced to resign because of ill health. Joshua Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor 1893 for his actions on Little Round Top thirty years before. Wounded six times in the service of the Union he died in 1914. He only wanted the opportunity to serve his country. Could this have had a better servant?

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