To the Editor:
Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics mentioned several compelling reasons for spending a lot of city money for a 50 meter swimming pool at the Chinquapin Recreation Center adjacent to T.C. Williams’ High School, but missed the most compelling, even if slightly troubling one.
Public school physical education requirements originate in a federal mandate connected to military preparedness. Of the five main branches of our military, two (Navy and Coast Guard) expect recruits to be able to swim and dive for many or most positions in these services. These branches’ importance cannot be underestimated because, as Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan’s “The Influence of Seapower Upon History, 1660–1783,” considered the most important military strategy opus of the 19th century, the United States is a “great sea power.” This status is essential to protecting us from attack by sea, maintaining secure trade routes, and backing our “soft power” vis-à-vis other countries with a ubiquitous naval presence. The U.S. has gotten into trouble when it has eschewed a naval-oriented military policy for “boots on the ground” in immoral wars where we have not fared especially well (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq), while we pick our battles all too cautiously and fail in our responsibility over the high seas versus, for example, pirates off the coast of East Africa. Other jobs, such as in our Merchant Marine, are also closely tied to our status as a trade-oriented maritime economy. Our underallocation of resources to maritime enterprises is one of many reasons why our “free-trade” policy has lately left us losers in the trade arena.
Investments in swimming facilities is a civic obligation to our legitimate military preparedness needs so that children and youth with swimming aptitude have appropriate venues in which to develop those skills so that they are prepared to serve in our Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine.