I must have cried my eyes out tonight about a dozen times during the Oklahoma Centennial Spectacular - and NO, not because we weren't asked to be a part of the show...I pouted over that, but didn't actually shed any water. I cried and cried when the Miss Americas (5 out of the 6 crowned in our state) introduced the men and women of our Oklahoma National Guard - and I continued to cry during Toby Keith's "American Soldier". I couldn't take it. I jumped up, grabbed my son's official Army portrait, and I squeezed it. I wrapped my arms around the frame, and I just bawled like a baby - - and then I called him during the song. I called him to thank him for being an American Soldier. I called him to thank him for protecting me. I called him to hear his beautiful hard-to-understand-at-times screaming/laugh and I called to tell him that I made the RIGHT choice to raise my son, and my daughters in the great state of Oklahoma.
Work takes us everywhere. We fly from one coast to the other, and we drive for miles in every direction possible to get to military stations, bases, hospitals, children's homes, and schools always to do the same thing - kiss, hug, and love on the folks right here in America who have been so wonderful and so courageous. Sometimes people stop me, they ask me what keeps me going. They ask me how I can get up and drive, get up and fly to another city, they ask me how I can say the same things, answer the same questions, and pray the same prayers. I tell them it's the Oklahoma Standard. We set that standard many many years ago, and it made its mark permanent at the time of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah (Federal) building in 1995 - - the Oklahoma Standard: You just DO it, and you DO it right, setting the example because everyone needs to believe that someone will do what they're suppose to do when they're suppose to do it.
My kids got so tired of me saying this, but I would say "You do it because I said you'll do it, and I said you'll do it - because it's the right thing to do!" My students heard me say that, and they'd come back with "Ms. Stringfellow, you're so mean to us, but I guess that only means you love us." That's right. Oklahomans are the hardest people to please, but the easiest people to work side by side with. We'll get in there, we'll work and work until it's done. We'll keep working when it's finished just to be sure it doesn't come undone! I like the words to the Jimmy Webb song that he and Vince Gill sang tonight at the near close of the show. "Oklahoma Rising" is the title - go ahead, look it up...it made me cry too, because we are the sons and daughters of the west, and we are (and have been) rising up to be the best. I'm proud to be an Okie, so if you're going to call me one, well, you better say it LOUD - Sooner born, Sooner bred, and well it was worth calling my son during the "American Soldier", because if I do anything at all before I die - I want my kids to know, no matter where I am in this world when I die - - I'm Sooner dead. Bury me here, in the crimson clay.
Theodore Roosevelt said it in 1905 when he came to this land hunting coyotes with "Catch-em Alive" Jack Abernathy; he said "The people of Oklahoma don't give a damn about what others do or say, as long as what they do and say is right." In 1898 during the Spanish American War more Oklahomans volunteered to help than from any other territory or state in the union, or the frontier. In 1995, you saw our resolve when we refused to let the terrorists tear us down, or squash our spirit - you saw our EAGLE fly that day, you saw it again when we were among the first to volunteer to help the great people of New York in 2001, and the victims of hurricanes along the Gulf.
I may leave our state for commerce, I may need to be away - but for the rest of eternity when someone looks over their shoulder to see me dance, I'll be in Boomer Sooner Crimson & Creme, and probably being a little louder than most because of it.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY OKLAHOMA!