By Dale Martin
Fernandina Beach City Manager
September 24, 2021
During lengthy drives like the recent one to southwestern Florida and another to Orlando, I often have the radio tuned for music, most commonly country music, but I have several other stations and styles pre-set since I enjoy a variety of music. I can trace my original interest in country music back to when I was stationed in Germany and during my drive time from the post to my home, American Forces Network, which at that time broadcast a different genre every hour, was showcasing country music.
If we’re not listening to music, it is frequently quiet in the car, with minimal conversation, enjoying the passing sights, or simply lost in thought. Sometimes, that silence is broken with the simple question, “What are you thinking about?”
One of my responses to that query during our drive to Sanibel Island was that I was formulating my “Four-Song Philosophy.” Perhaps due to the stereotypical story-telling associated with country music, I tried to determine, of the millions of songs recorded, what four, and only four, songs would I select to describe my current place in life. The caveat to my choices was that these are MY choices, so nothing is wrong (but I am open to better suggestions to reflect a similar philosophy) and I reserve the right to revise my selections as often as necessary to respond to changing life circumstances). So, with a glorious tip-of-the-hat to songwriters, singers, and musicians everywhere, here is my Four-Song Philosophy.
It’s a Great Day to Be Alive (Travis Tritt, 2000). This is simply an upbeat song that I could easily listen to every day when I wake. Every day is a great day to be alive. We all have our struggles, but the gift and enjoyment of life is unmatched and often unappreciated. During the recent commemoration of the September 11, 2001 attacks, former Solicit General Theodore Olsen, whose wife was killed when the plane on which she was travelling crashed into the Pentagon, offered this insight: Olson decided to dig down deep and seize life, rather than “curl up in a corner,” he said. “It’s survival. You can either retire and disappear. Or you can embrace the opportunities that you’re given by the gift of life in the first place.” I have the thrill of life, living and working in a beautiful place surrounded by wonderful people. I celebrate every day.
The Star-Spangled Banner (words by Francis Scott Key, 1814). One of the most incredible moments of my life was, as a raw cadet training at Ft. Knox, KY, hearing the National Anthem for the first time while wearing my military unform. Over the course of the next several years, that song, the flag, and my brothers- and sisters-in arms were the most critical driving force in my life. Although I trained for combat, I was fortunate enough to not have seen combat. Those veterans who have seen combat, however, have my most revered respect.
I am disheartened by the current political environment of anti-Americanism. I strongly believe that this country has provided, and continues to provide, unmatched freedom and opportunities for every individual. This country does have scars and flaws, but this nation is perhaps the most generous nation to its citizens and other countries throughout the world. In my mind, despite the uninspiring and divisive crop of national political leaders, the United States of America truly remains the “city on the hill.”
My Little Girl (Tim McGraw, 2006). I have been blessed with three daughters and two step-daughters. The are all wonderful young women: a high school Spanish teacher, a property management specialist, a CBD retail store manager, a nurse, and a budding counter-terrorism analyst. The happiest times in my life are when we get all five of them together with us. Spouses and grandchildren add to that family chaos. When all together, the sleep quotient goes down, the liquor budget goes up, and the memories are everlasting.
I’ve had good times and rough times with my girls, some naturally part of growing up, and some the sad reality of being a distant divorced dad. I shared incredible travels with my girls, returning to Europe with Emily to show her where she was born in Germany; visiting Italy with Abigail to see Rome, Florence, Venice, and to Sicily to appreciate the hospitality of a friend and his family (a favor I will never be able to repay due to his recent unexpected passing); and with Meaghan to Ireland and Scotland, touring castles and cliffs and gazing at beautiful scenery. All of those times together with my girls were special. All five daughters still live far away in Michigan, but they are never far away from my heart.
I really tried to make my fourth song something other than a country song (in some ways to simply illustrate that I do have interests beyond country music). Although yet another country song, Lisa teasingly suggested Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It,” but she recognized that I actually enjoy my job every day. In the end, yes, my fourth song of the philosophy is another country song: Brett Young’s In Case You Didn’t Know (2017). While obviously about the specific love of your life, I believe that letting the special people in your life know that they are special is so frequently neglected. Tell the people close to you that they are special- they may be gone before you can look them in the eye, hold their hand, or embrace them. If burdened, set aside grievances and petty squabbles. Enjoy the comfort of those whose love and friendship are meaningful to you. Make time for them. Now.
Go enjoy music and craft your own Four-Song Philosophy.