America by Jim Harris
We are each individuals, family members, Americans, and citizens of the world. The priority which we give those roles may differ, but they all interact and reflect upon each other.
When a bunch of angry, frightened politicians tacked their tiny declaration to The Pennsylvania Sate House, the likely outcome was that the rebellious troublemakers would be crushed and the world would continue on as usual. No one could have possibly known what was being born that day. The people, the places, the ideology, the art, the sheer magnitude of creative brilliance and lust for life that America has produced in just over 200 years has been a sight to behold. The whole direction of the world can indeed turn on a dime, and July 4, 1776 was one of those times.
As poet laureate Robert Frost said, we are a "nation of nations". Our ancestors came here from all over the world, most of them in poverty, some in chains. They worked as individuals and as Americans to give us each a head start in life and a better place in which to work and live. We owe allegiance to them and to their dreams. By honoring them, we honor our country too. They also bequeathed us a constitution that continues to be realized through time. We wear it like a hand-me-down coat, and each generation finds a way to display a new aspect of its inherent beauty. The good that people do lives on. The words of idealists and dreamers like Jefferson, Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and so many others are still alive today. Words of hate, pessimism and cynicism are not. It is important to have dreams, to express them, and to work to make them real, every day.
If people hate us because we have hurt them or their families, we must try to do better. Complete justice and equity are very elusive and difficult ideals to achieve, and the pressure to do so always falls on the most powerful. We have to present a sane and compassionate example to those who watch our every move. If people resent us because we are "rich" or "comfortable" as a nation, then they resent the very idea of working hard to improve one's lot in life. Most of us here believe in that ethic, and eagerly accept the challenges. Even within America, there are those who hate us, but toleration is what we're all about. A true patriot is not a mindless tool of a propaganda machine, but rather a dedicated, compassionate, courageous individual. A good American is a good person, family member, and citizen of the world.
The general direction of civilization has always been out of the mud, and on to more freedom, prosperity and cooperation. There is no reason to believe that it won't continue, but it is not without sacrifices, sometimes great and deeply painful. Thousands of our citizens and our guests who entered the new millennium full of hope and promise will not get the chance to complete their dreams. They helped to get us here and they are forever a part of our amazing history. Remember them.
Some may think that the world turned again on September 11, 2001, and that we're headed back to the mud. That may be a likely assumption, but I and many others have great faith that it is not the case. We have miles to go and promises to keep.
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