The College of the Ozarks continued the groundbreaking CitizenTrip, which began in 2019 as part of its Patriotic Education program.
The College of the Ozarks sent 140 students on an intensive two-day, one-night trip to Washington D.C. on Thursday and Friday, September 8-9, at no cost to students.
Colonel John Clark, Vietnam Veteran and POW, spent time with the students at the Vietnam Memorial. He traveled with the College as part of the Patriotic Education Travel Program and shared his experiences with students over time, according to a C of O press release.
“He challenged them on the journey to learn more and was an inspiration to all because of his ability to embrace life, adversity and obstacles with hope,” the statement read.
“I loved the personal aspect of seeing patriotism that was lived and produced fulfillment rather than regret or bitterness,” said senior Esther Beggs. “Col. John Clark faced a lot of hardship for his country, but he was proud of it. On this trip, I was amazed at how many people, like Col. John Clark, were willing to give years of their lives to defend our country. I was convinced of my own selfishness and inspired to be more sacrificial for the good of my country.
The C of O’s senior public relations officer, Anna Scott, reflected on the powerful story Colonel Clark presented.
“Sitting by the Vietnam Memorial and hearing Colonel John Clark reminisce about his time as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton was inspiring and also incredibly sobering,” Scott said. “For more than six years, Colonel Clark was tortured and separated from his family, and I know when he signed up to fight that he never expected this traumatic experience to happen. Colonel Clark was eventually able to return to the United States, but 58,000 people whose names are engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall made the ultimate sacrifice and could never touch our soil again. I hope to carry on their legacy and never forget the precious freedom for which they gave their lives and for which Colonel Clark fought so valiantly.
This year’s CitizenTrip included stops at Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, the Museum of the Bible, the White House, the United States Capitol, the National Archives Museum, the Thomas Memorial Jefferson, the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The students also toured the National Mall, which includes the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial.
“Other schools may post a mission statement on a plaque in a back office or have a motto on their website, but I’ve seen the College of the Ozarks live its core values,” Beggs said. “One of those values is patriotism. The college could do much less and still be seen as patriotic. But sending each student on a journey to personally experience American history, culture, and inspiration is like C of O; willing to go the extra mile to prove to its students that patriotism is not just something to talk about, but something to experience, participate in and integrate into everyday life.
Karsten Armstrong, senior C of O, double major in history and video production, found the Museum of the Bible to be one of the most powerful experiences of the trip.
“As a scholar of history, it’s always a challenge to try to get people to understand and care about abstract concepts (like history), and one of the best ways is to tie it to something concrete,” Karsten said. “This trip went very well with that in many ways, tying American history to the various DC locations. But it was especially visible at the Museum of the Bible. As I explored it and talked about it with others, it was very evident that it really helped us connect to the biblical story in a new way.
According to the release, C of O’s patriotic purpose is to foster an understanding of American heritage, civic responsibility, love of country and a willingness to defend it. The CitizenTrip is integral to achieving the patriotic goal. The CitizenTrip is a capstone opportunity for students who have demonstrated an understanding of patriotic purpose through patriotic education courses.
The trip was organized by the William S. Knight Center for Patriotic Education at the College of the Ozarks and the Center was dedicated on Constitution Day, September 17, 2021.
“The William S. Knight Center for Patriotic Education is a hub for the College’s many patriotic offerings, including the CitizenTrip,” said Vice President for Patriotic Activities Marci Linson. “Knight Center’s vision is to bring historic American values and virtue to life in young people, and for students to experience our nation’s capital in person, it’s a great way to work toward that vision.”
For more information on College of the Ozarks, visit their website at www.cofo.edu.