Memories hold key to many life lessons

What’s the most important word in the dictionary? Possibly remember.

Philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Thankfully, Boulder City is pretty darn good at remembering.

Recently, I attended the 32nd annual Civil War re-enactment staged by King Elementary’s fifth-graders. Each year, students earn their Great American award by memorizing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Gettysburg Address and Preamble to the Constitution, and all 50 states and U.S. presidents. They learn about the Civil War, the issues that split our nation, and how we continue to grapple with those same problems even today.

All of that culminates in the re-enactment, a grand pageant like no other of which I’m aware. Helped by founders Clare Tobler and Harold Coe, students don Civil War regalia, sing patriotic songs, march to battle, fire cannons, and role play important figures like Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. I can’t attend without getting emotional; I feel blessed that our kids are learning through hands-on experiences the importance of doing their civic duty and being true patriots.

Boulder City also treasures its tradition of remembering those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country. We’re proud of our veterans corridor, which includes the Nevada State Veterans Home, Veterans Memorial Drive, Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, and Veterans Memorial Park. Thousands flock to our community to help us remember and celebrate what these brave men and women have done so that we can enjoy unparalleled freedoms, security, peace and prosperity.

My family and some friends strolled the cemetery’s consecrated grounds this Memorial Day weekend, contemplating the beautiful views, appreciating the serenity of the gravesites dotted with miniature flags, and reminding ourselves what blessed lives we live because of these noble individuals.

Our local nonprofits help us remember, too. For instance, the Boulder City Hoover Dam Museum and the 31ers Educational Outreach continually remind us of our roots as the “city that built Hoover Dam.” Recently, they teamed with King Elementary’s fourth-graders to act out “Ragtown to a Richer Life,” a musical production commemorating some of Boulder City’s founding families and the legacy of hard work and optimism that they gave us when they came to build Hoover Dam in the 1930s. They remind us that we stand on the shoulders of amazing progenitors who cared more about building a comfortable life filled with opportunities for future generations than they did about themselves.

That rich legacy manifests itself in many ways today, but nowhere more fully than in Boulder City’s schools. Among the many reasons why people move to Boulder City, our schools are right there at the top of the list. And King isn’t the only school that’s thriving here. It only takes one visit to any Andrew J. Mitchell assembly to see that students there not only preach the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” but also put them into practice in remarkable ways.

Boulder City High School was recently singled out by U.S. News &World Report as Nevada’s top nonmagnet school, boasting almost double the Clark County average in college-readiness scores. Successes like these are a tribute to our amazing teachers, administrators, students and their families that support them.

Speaking of great teachers, John Milburn is being honored this month at the hospital’s Heart of the Community Gala with his wife, Christine. At BCHS, John was my physics and Advanced Placement chemistry teacher, my junior varsity basketball coach, and the assistant coach on our 1984 state champion basketball team.

John had an amazing ability to connect with players and students, always so down-to-earth with no ego involved. For him, it was always about us. John was inherently fair, made learning fun, and had an uncanny knack for helping us see real-life applications in everything we did. He taught me how to think outside the box, how to attack seemingly unsolvable problems, the importance of laughing along the way, and the elusive truth that technical solutions mean nothing if they don’t translate into practical outcomes.

Most of all, John taught me that life is only fulfilling if it’s punctuated with meaningful relationships and finding joy in the journey. So thank you, Mr. Milburn! I owe you a debt of gratitude for dedicating your life to young people like me. Almost without exception, I find myself falling back on the nuggets that you taught me whenever life throws me a curve ball.

Remember. It’s a great word. Especially when you do it. And then learn from it. I hope you will. And when you do, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that we have it pretty good here in Boulder City.

Rod Woodbury is mayor of Boulder City. He has been serving on the City Council since 2011 and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law.

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