I am honored to have been asked to speak today. It is always a pleasure to come to the reunion and see old friends whom I haven't seen in a long time. I always find it interesting as well to see the large and growing group of people at the reunion whom I don't know. The fact that common ancestry brings together each year a group of people from different parts of the state and different walks of life is a credit not only to the original common ancestors, but to those family members who—over the years—have worked hard to keep the reunion a viable event.

A question that intrigues me, however, is this: Why do we come to the reunion? What do we get out of it? What are we seeking that draws us like a magnet to Bedias in the Spring of each year?
I believe there are several things about the reunion which cause us to come, not the least of which is the fine lunch which is always served. I also believe that much of what we learn and feel by coming to the reunion has a direct application to our daily lives in a world of people who do not happen to be members of the Bracewell family.

One obvious and important purpose of the reunion is the opportunity for fellowship with relatives and good friends. The sharings of a few hours, a meal, a few prayers, and a few songs, makes us feel closer to people we love and reminds us that there are others in our lives with whom we should be sharing similar moments.

In remembering the generations which have gone before us—and in welcoming the newborn into the family—the reunion gives us a sense of continuity, an understanding that we are both products of the past and creators of the future. In our larger family of mankind itself, we occupy similar role positions, and our family experience provides us with a sense of personal perspective as we think about our place and mission in the world.

By gathering on Sunday and worshiping together, we affirm a common belief in God. While we rejoice in the fact that a strong Christian faith has been a source of strength for our family, let us not forget that all creators of the world are children of God—all mankind created in his image and endowed with his love. This knowledge should also be a source of strength and a cause for rejoicing.

In these years of the American Bicentennial, we are reminded of the national heritage which we share, and of the long history of the Bracewell family in the settlement of this country since its very inception. The reunion kindles in us our sense of patriotism, our desire to preserve and to improve our nation, its resources, its people, and its government—for our own and future generations.

Although our lives lead us in different directions, the reunion reminds us of family pride and family honor. What glorifies one of us—in some measure—glorifies us all. What saddens one of us, saddens us all. Our sharing of these feelings with one another presupposes mutual respect and a belief in the inherent dignity of other family members. To show respect for—and to see dignity in every human being—is what Christ demands of us when he says: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)

Finally, I believe we seek in the reunion a sense of our own immortality. An ancient Greek proverb declares that: "It is not possible to step twice into the same river." We are continually made aware of the transitory nature of our lives and the fact that, once past, time can never be relived. We seek, as man has done throughout the ages, for a sense that we share in a life that is greater than ourselves, that a part of us lives on. By focusing on thoughts and beliefs which are shared by each of us here, which were shared by members of our family who have passed away and which we hope will be shared by descendants yet unborn, the reunion gives us that reassurance. By sensing that we share certain values and beliefs which are eternal, we begin to understand that only those parts of us which we share with others will extend beyond our lifetime.