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Fifty years ago, Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971, featuring the Magic Kingdom, two hotels, lakes, lagoons, golf courses, and a campground. Roy O. Disney delivered the dedication speech, which included the following words:

“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn—together.”

I visited the park with the Sanford Naval Academy Drill Team and Band. My father, the school Commandant, arranged for the midshipmen to perform in front of Cinderella’s Castle. It was exciting to watch, and also to walk through the underground tunnels usually reserved for cast members. I recently found a Polaroid picture from that day – no, Dopey was not my date. (However, given my outfit, I look as though I ought to be working in It’s a Small World.)

Impossible to believe that fifty years have passed, since it seems we all still need “a happy place.”

Award-winning author Renee Garrison has written two books on her life with midshipmen at the Sanford Naval Academy, The Anchor Clankers and Anchored Together.