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Lynn Hummel column: Respecting our ancestors

When my grandpa Gottlieb gathered his five children and pregnant wife in 1903 to leave Klostitz, Bessarabia to come to America to farm and homestead in North Dakota, he brought nothing more than his family, his values and $700. I learned something about his values but I never knew what events or circumstances prompted the move or how long it took to save the $700. I never knew because I was 15 years old when he died and I never really asked him any questions. My father lived another 28 years, and I never asked him any questions either. Now I can think of hundreds and hundreds of questions I could have and should have asked both of them, and I'm ashamed that I never did.

If I had lived in China and Confusionism was my religion, or if I had lived in Japan and Shintoism was my religion, or if I lived in Saudia Arabia and Islam was my religion I would probably know more about my grandpa (although his name surely would not have been Gottlieb). Those religions teach family loyalty and worship of ancestors. There is much the Japanese, Chinese and Saudis could learn from us, and just maybe there is something we could learn from them. While I wouldn't elevate ancestor respect to the level of worship, more interest and esteem of our forebearers would not be foreign or backward, it would enrich our culture.

I don't remember who said this, but it's true: "We have all been warmed by fires we did not build and have drunk from wells we did not dig." What that means is that as we stand where we are, we are standing on the shoulders of our forefathers -- the pioneers, the builders.

In the presidential campaign we are experiencing today, all the Republican candidates would like to be known as the sons and nephews of Ronald Reagan and the Democrats wish to be the heirs of John F. Kennedy. But respect for these forefathers will be higher during the campaign season than after the voting is over and the governing begins.

In our blood families, almost all of us are standing on the shoulders of our forefathers. I stand on the shoulders of my grandpa Gottlieb for coming to this country and providing a solid foundation for his family. I don't know as much about my grandparents who came from Scot-land and Sweden, except that they were hard workers too, and raised solid families. These are the generations who built the schools and churches we attended and are still standing today. We owe immense gratitude to the building generations. And I stand on the shoulders of my parents, who showed their children love, support, a work ethic, encouragement (push) and financial help in getting an education. No-body who grew up in a functional family has achieved any success that he or she can claim to be "on my own."

If we show no respect for the pioneering efforts of our grandparents and great grandparents, we will probably receive none from our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

But all of our ancestors aren't blood relatives. I certainly owe respect to Teddy Roosevelt, who discouraged the waste of natural resources by adding 125 million acres to our national forests. He also started 25 irrigation and reclamation projects. Whenever I visit one of our great national monuments or a national park like the Glacier National Park, established in 1910, I need to remember the foresight of the pioneers who brought them into being.

We also have local ancestors who have earned our respect. Whenever we enjoy a picnic in the park, a game at a ballfield, a concert in a comfortable auditorium, a swim in a pool or at a public beach, and if we didn't build it ourselves, we have our city fathers and leaders of the past to thank for their vision, foresight and push to build these fires that warm us and for digging these wells from which we drink. We stand on their shoulders.

The voices of our ancestors are still now, but their deeds live on and so should our memories of them.