Oh, Say Can You See…Red, White, and Blue?

From a peaceful country-side neighborhood with white picket fences to the noisy and fast-paced bustle of a metro area, we live, work, and struggle in the United States – and we are privileged.Red White and Blue

What does it mean to be an American? What does it mean to live within the borders of the United States?

We all have different opinions and are allowed to express those opinions – the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is one of our great privileges. But, at times it can breed bitterness, hatred, and divisiveness with lack of respect throughout our communities.

It seems narcissistic attitudes have cultivated through all media platforms and technological interfaces. Empathy and compassion for others’ opinions have diminished, giving way to a negative and definitive way of thinking.

So what about the red, white, and blue? In the midst of the over-stated and too often glorified disrespect and selfishness in our country, sometimes we may need a friendly reminder about the promise, privilege, honor, and opportunity of living in America.

I do not believe that I am alone… we all notice the display of our great American flag, and in many cases, it is not displayed at all. The good news is that I have seen more businesses and homes flying the American flag, but I believe there is room for improvement.

I recently noticed flag poles at conspicuous locations on buildings and homes, that once proudly displayed our flag, are now gone. Sometimes, lanyards are missing and flags are old and faded, or even ripped.

I spoke to some local building owners and managers, and in some cases, they shared how they have more things to worry about in day-to-day operations, which take priority over flying the flag. They also expressed their lack of proper flag etiquette, which raises concern of anticipated complaints. Too often that weighs heavier than the importance of flying our red, white, and blue.

I also noticed empty flag poles throughout our residential communities. In some cases, people may not be able to raise or lower their flag or understand flag etiquette as described in the U.S. Flag Code.

GreenLightaVetWith Veterans’ Day fast approaching, I encourage everyone to fly the red, white, and blue, and join the #GreenLightaVet campaign.

A friendly reminder to all who live and work in the United States… this is an awesome place to live. We have responsibilities, opportunities, and goals. It is a reflection of our privilege to live in this great country.

I am proud and honored to be an American.

The Passion to Make a Difference

Keith Gailliard grew up in Harlem, and the neighborhood where he lived was tough. The environment was challenging and could easily make a negative impact on kids. That would not happen to Keith. His mother embedded a fundamental sense of worth in him and a strong faith in God. She instilled love, respect, and acceptance of others regardless of their differences – no black or white. He modeled his mother’s values and is now a mentor to kids, and he believes they all should have a sense of pride for themselves and the community. Keith teaches them about self-worth and potential, and he doesn’t want to see any one of them fail.

Keith Gailliard Helping Community
Keith Gailliard

From an early age, Keith’s mother inspired him to pursue his dreams and never give up. He always wanted to be involved with the community, and he went on to work with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and became a police officer – and it wasn’t easy. It was during a time of high racial tension and injustice. While working his shift one day, he was approached by a woman he did not know and she said something that remains etched in his mind, “You’re supposed to be with kids. That’s your calling.” Keith believes it was a calling from God.

After leaving the NYPD, Keith joined the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and after a short stay, he transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Danbury, Connecticut as a Federal Corrections Officer, an EEO Officer and then a Lieutenant.

When the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, it really hit home for him – he knew what it was like to be an officer and he had a cousin who died there. “Up until 9/11, people really didn’t know or pay attention to what public safety personnel did. But after that, people respected EMTs, firefighters, police officers, and other community workers,” Keith said.

Then, something overshadowed the darkest hour in United State’s history. People united and supported each other – regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion.

The attacks increased Keith’s desire to give more to his community. He became involved with a nonprofit, Friends of Local Heroes, which was established to provide lunch for emergency service workers. It started in 2002 and occurs annually around the anniversary of 9/11 in the Danbury area to recognize and show gratitude for public safety personnel.

Just as Keith’s mother was his inspiration as a young child, now he is the inspiration to children. He followed his calling as the woman told him years ago, and became very involved with kids by coaching youth sports for about 17 years. “I love to encourage kids and show them their worth,” he said. “I tell them they don’t have to settle when they fail – just get up and keep going.”

Keith was elected on the Board of Education in 2009 and is currently a Safety Advocate for Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, where he works very closely with students. He is a core influence for all of them. He understands that some kids may not have a parent or guardian who can provide direction and support, so it fuels his passion to help even more. “I want kids to have a legacy. I always tell them, don’t shoot for the moon – shoot for the stars.”

And he continues to do what he was meant to do: work with kids and be an encouraging influence in their lives. It will help them become productive citizens and leaders of tomorrow.

Keith is committed to making a difference in the community. He said, “People should know who their neighbors are. If you don’t have a sense of community, you won’t have a sense of worth.”  He wants to be patriotic to his home and to be proud about where he lives. “If we all become patriotic where we live, we can make things better in the community; with enough people, we can make a change,” Keith said. “If we don’t care, then why will our kids care?”

Keith exemplifies the meaning of community leader and continues to be a huge influence in the lives of all who get to meet him.