In 2017, I was in the seventh grade, but it wasn’t because of my own choice, but because of the choices of others around me.
The president of the school I was attending, my oldest sister, chose not to attend a graduation ceremony, and we were all told that the only way to avoid that ceremony was to skip it altogether.
My father had already been sworn in as president and was in his first year of office.
As a consequence, I wasn’t there to see the swearing in of the new president.
Instead, I attended my sister’s graduation, as part of a new tradition for our school, which was to have students wear the uniforms of the university they were graduating from.
I remember watching the ceremony on television with my sister, who was in her late 20s and had spent much of her life in the US military.
Her father had served in the Air Force, and he was a veteran.
But he was also a father of three young children, all of whom were now adults.
My sister was in uniform, and I didn’t think much of it.
As she explained it later to me, it felt like she had been given a second chance to make her own life, and she was doing her best to make it happen.
When she was in high school, I joined her in the school cafeteria.
She had a special relationship with her uniform.
She would take her uniform off whenever she could and sit next to me as we ate together.
She even wore her uniform during our annual graduation ceremony.
I think of this moment when she explained her decision to wear it, in the middle of a family reunion, and how proud she was of me for standing with her.
She wanted to give me a sense of pride for not only being an American citizen, but also for standing up for her, for supporting the country I loved so much.
As my sister walked down the aisle, I stood there with her, too.
My first memory of being an adult is of sitting in the stands in the Rose Bowl as the University of Phoenix honored her as the school’s new commencement speaker.
As we watched the ceremony unfold, we both knew that we were witnessing the beginning of the end for our country.
The military’s reputation as the greatest force for liberty was beginning to be tarnished.
And that meant that the United States of America was becoming more and more like other nations, where it was increasingly difficult for young people to have access to information and free speech.
For decades, we had been told that our military was the safest place to be.
Yet, over the past decade, that has changed.
As I watched students across America struggle to find jobs and secure housing, I began to realize that we all, as Americans, had a role to play in protecting our country from the forces of tyranny and corruption.
I became aware of a disturbing trend in America.
As the years passed, it became increasingly difficult to find a job or secure housing for the young people who were leaving our military.
I began taking a more active role in the communities I worked in, encouraging them to get out and get involved in their local government and local organizations.
My daughter told me that her family was still struggling to find affordable housing.
My wife, who had been a part of my family for many years, told me she was beginning her own search for a place to live.
And, my son, who I had met at a youth camp, told us he was beginning the process of starting a new life in Canada.
The country I was born in, which has a reputation as a bastion of liberty, was beginning its descent into tyranny and inequality.
My heart sank as I watched our country turn into a place where young people were being pushed into poverty and hopelessness.
As this transition took place, it was not uncommon for my colleagues and I to be targeted for harassment.
At one point, we were called names, told that we should get out of the country, that we needed to go to a refugee camp.
I was one of the few people to receive a threatening phone call.
The caller, a young woman who was from New York City, told the two of us to go somewhere where there were no police.
After we hung up on the man who was calling us, I became increasingly frustrated as the harassment and violence continued.
I started taking my daughters out for walks, and my son began to go out and buy himself a bicycle.
We were both surprised by the response.
I knew we would be targeted.
We decided to stop walking out the door.
It was difficult to watch my colleagues being harassed for their job and for their freedom.
And I began wondering, what if something were to happen to my daughter?
As I continued to think about what I was witnessing, my mind began to wander back to the times when I was a student at the University in the early 1990s, and when I began attending college.
The United States was in a transition. The