Do The Best You Can

Linda Burton posting from Boise, Idaho – “Look at me,” the Capitol Guide said. “I’m old. And your parents will get old. Someday this will be up to you.” He was speaking to a 4th-grade class from Twin Falls, seated in the Chambers of the House; each one perched at a representatives desk; school in session, big time. He waved his pointer stick around the room. “One of those desks could be yours someday. All these legislators were kids one day, just like you.” The children seemed attentive, perhaps a little doubtful though. The guide continued, “You need an education. Study everything you can. Read. But do you know the most important thing that you can do? Pay attention to what is going on.” Well gee, I thought, that’s what I’ve always said to kids. Pay attention. Study everything you can. I liked this Guide, a Capitol Volunteer. He wasn’t giving kids the “history talk,” he was giving them the “future walk.” I heard him say as I headed toward the Governor’s Office, “If you’re not able to go to college, don’t let that stop you. You do the best you can.” 

Governor Butch Otter’s office is open to the public. Claudia welcomed me, admired my hair. “Go in and look around,” she said, and pointed to the Governor’s Ceremonial Office. I stopped to sign the Guest Book first. Just then the class arrived, filing in with cameras on, snapping pictures right and left and up and down. A different Guide was speaking now, “If you were Governor, this is where you’d sign new laws, or welcome dignitaries.” The room was long and spacious; dignified, but warm. A heavy wooden desk at one end; at the other, an otter sat atop a chest of drawers, holding tiny flags. The kids seemed most impressed with that.

I’d come to ask Claudia about the yellow ribbons. Four columns at the building’s front had yellow ribbons tied around, who put them there, and why? “The Governor and his wife put them there,” she answered, “and they are there because of Bowe Bergdahl. He’s a prisoner of war in Afghanistan, and he’s from Idaho.” She went on to explain that the ribbons also honored all our troops. “We had ribbons there before, but they were the makeshift kind; these are weatherproof and durable.” After telling me more about Bowe, she told me about the memorial to Idaho’s fallen military; it was across the street on the old Ada County Courthouse lawn. I thanked her for her time and headed for the front door.

I got pictures of the yellow ribbons on the columns, then crossed the street. The memorial is squarely in front of the courthouse; the name of every Idaho soldier lost in the line of duty in the war on terror engraved; flags and flowers placed beneath. A separate marker held these words:

For every soldier that died in a foreign land to protect our freedom and liberty, united we shall stand. America and the state of Idaho thank you for all our freedoms.

An encampment to my left caught my attention; tents tightly tucked together near the sidewalk, no people were in sight. It was OccupyBoise, a continuation, or offshoot, of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I got pictures of the signs posted there; one held these words:

Continued Deficit Spending, Rampant Home Foreclosures, Failing Schools, Excessive CEO Pay, Don’t Represent A Secure Nation.

As I walked back to my car, the children came out front, subdued excitement evident. They were lively but very well-behaved. So many choices ahead of them, I think. “Pay attention,” I whisper under my breath, “and do the best you can.”

Governor Butch Otter

Yellow Ribbons for Bowe

Bowe Robert Bergdahl, born March 28, 1986, in Sun Valley, Idaho, is a United States Army soldier who was captured June 20, 2009, and remains in the captivity of the Taliban-supporting Afghanistan Haqqani network. He is America’s last living prisoner of war.

Articles in the New York Times detail recent developments with his father’s efforts on his behalf and comments by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.