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Abe Observes

abe villarrealAbe Villarreal is the Assistant Dean of Student Support and Civic Engagement at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.

By Abe Villarreal

I posted a video on my Facebook account last week of pre-school aged kids telling me when they believed Baby Jesus was born.

One kid said “Ummm…. Friday?” Another thought Jesus was born on the Fourth of July. I was captivated by their innocence.

We were in Sunday School class where the toughest theology lesson is learning how many of each animal made it into Noah’s Ark. We read a short Bible story, go outside and play, and sometimes get creative with glue and construction paper.

By Abe Villarreal

At the end of a month-long training period for students at my local university, a simple closing ceremony activity opened my eyes to how much I am grateful for in life.

A dozen college students had gathered daily for several hours to train on leadership as they prepared to introduce new students to university life. Most of the trainees only knew each other as acquaintances and were nervous on day one.

They eyed each other up and down and tried to figure out if they would like each other or at least tolerate one another during the summer month. Meeting new people is scary and being rejected can be devastating.

By Abe Villarreal

Mr. Rogers, the late plainspoken TV personality, has experienced a surge in popularity lately. Why?

The U.S. Postal Service released a forever stamp featuring his familiar smile, recognizable red sweater, and crown-wearing King Friday. The stamp was issued 15 years after his death.

By Abe Villarreal

At the end of the movie classic “The Wizard of Oz,” little Dorothy Gale has an a-ha moment. She realizes that what she longs for the most was not found in a far away, Emerald City, but right in her own backyard.

Her journey took her through a winding yellow brick road and a frightening forest filled with flying monkeys. She met some interesting characters that felt a lot like the people back on the farm.

She couldn’t see what she was looking for because her eyes were focused on a magical world where life was filled with artificial happiness and perfection.

By Abe Villarreal

I buy a copy of the newspaper every day, and one of the sections that I never miss to read is the obituary page.

I’ve read some of the most beautiful testaments and tributes of character in these death notices. Most of them are routine. A picture of a smiling older man or woman followed by the birth and death dates, names of those that preceded in death, and a few tidbits of personality.

Sometimes the picture is one of those beautiful, vintage black and white portraits. A young lady on her wedding day with those typically 1940’s curls and a smile straight out of Look Magazine. Another favorite is the happy soldier headshot. A young, brave G.I. ready to go out and give his contribution to the war effort.

By Abe Villarreal

When President Abraham Lincoln opened his remarkably short Gettysburg Address with the phrase “four score and seven years ago” he was making a point of reference to time, an essential element that set the stage for the words he carefully crafted for a nation on the verge of breaking.

It was 87 years, Mr. Lincoln said, since the inception of the nation through the signing of the Declaration of Independence. You see, reminding a worried people about the historic moments that created our democratic experiment was necessary then, and it is necessary now.

By Abe Villarreal

During the summer of 1865, slaves across the State of Texas remained unaware of President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The 16th President had put his pen to the historic document on January 1, 1863, two and a half years prior.

Southern slave owners throughout the Confederacy ignored the Chief Executive’s declaration, which stated that slaves in “rebellious states” should be free and proclaimed “liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Northern abolitionists rejoiced, handing out leaflets stating the newfound freedom that would come to millions.

And yet, the proclamation served as only the first step in liberating the many that would not experience their emancipation for some time to come.

In towns like Galveston, Texas, a coastal community in a remote corner of the conquered Confederacy, slaves were busy toiling away. The days were long and the weather humid. Because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the smuggling of slaves was made easy. The future of freedom was a far away thought and the New Year’s Day announcement of 1863 was an unknown happening.

Freed slave and activist Frederick Douglas wrote about the dehumanizing effect of slavery in his biographical narrative. He vividly described the tone of the songs that were sung by slaves.

“The hearing of these wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness,” Douglass explained. “If anyone wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul.”

Slave owners manifested their control of human property by giving slaves only the bare minimum to survive. A monthly allowance of corn, pickled pork and herrings was given to the slaves, just enough to keep the workers alive. It was the White man’s weapon of control.

But a new day was on the horizon. The message of hope and independence was arriving in the form of two thousand Union soldiers. Slaves were finally notified of President Lincoln’s fateful action on June 19, 1865, when the Union took control of Galveston. Many suspect that southern slave owners were aware of the Emancipation Proclamation well before the summer of 1865.

The message shared was titled General Orders, Number 3, and in part, read as follows:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”

The freed residents of Galveston, Texas soon began an annual celebration to commemorate June 19, known as Juneteenth. It was the slave man’s Independence Day with all the familiar celebrations including church picnics and barbecues.

Today, Juneteenth is observed in communities across the United States. While it is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery, its awareness has paralleled the Emancipation Proclamation’s long journey to freedom.

It wasn’t until 1980 that Texas, becoming the first state to do so, declared Juneteenth as a state holiday. In 1996, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to recognize Juneteenth Independence Day. In 2018, Apple added to its operating systems Juneteenth as an official US holiday.

The work continues in spreading the message of freedom and liberty to all corners of the world. On this June 19, take a moment to recognize that for many in this country the wait for freedom has been longer, much longer than it should have ever been.

By Abe Villarreal

Since time immemorial, societies and cultures have relied on individuals of influence, people of power, to provide what we know as leadership.

It’s a term that means something different to everyone who speaks and hears it. My leader is different than yours, not just from the ideas he represents but also from his actions and in the manner of his conduct.

And today, at a time of great debate on all things small and large, we are redefining leadership from a classic sense understood by our parents and grandparents to one that meets the expectations and desires of a 21st-century people.

Live from Silver City

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