I live in a land that proffers privileges, prospects, and peace—all blessings that I have not warranted on my own merits. I was born in the United States of America just over two score years ago to loving, idealistic parents who were free to welcome me to a peaceful home, hometown, and homeland. Throughout my life, I have accepted, unwittingly, my autonomy and safety as I lived under the care and direction of my family, then emerged into my adulthood, making choices and progress, all the while unencumbered by threats or uncertainty of government coercion. Because of the arbitrary fortune of my hailing from this country, my spirit has never known anything besides freedom in its motherland. And I have never given one day of formal service to my country. But to bask in this inconceivable, inestimable blessing without showing the gratitude of patriotism is unthinkable to me.
In my little corner of the country, the most fitting and effective way that I can demonstrate grateful patriotism is to embrace and emulate the ideals that our Founding Fathers had in mind when they set out to engender a flourishing democracy in a “more perfect Union.” They hoped that Americans would love liberty and equality. They took for granted that we would have faith in the Almighty. And I believe that they trusted that we would strive for and promote good character, hard work, civility, and honesty, and especially that we would teach these to our children. As such, Katherine Lee Bates, a teacher in 1893, penned the words of “America the Beautiful,” in which she paired the astounding physical attributes of America’s beauty and strength—purple mountains, amber waves, fruited plains, alabaster cities, and shining seas—to compelling and worthy qualities of American character—brotherhood, self-control, liberating strife, love for country, and [determined] patriot dream. The character I emulate and teach to my children ought to recall and perpetuate the ideals upon which this nation—where I abide peacefully and freely—was founded.
As American citizens, we know that we ought to expect and fight for our rights and entitlements as designated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We are avidly interested and active in making sure that we receive that to which we are entitled by virtue of our residence in this country; and, while the delivery of our rights and privileges is not always seamless because of varied constitutional interpretation and timely evolving issues, realization of rights and freedom remain at the forefront of American government ideals. However, while we are demanding that we receive our due as citizens, many are not, conversely, giving what they ought to be giving as individuals who appreciate and deserve the great gifts of American citizenship. Indeed our rights, as endowed by our Creator, may be “unalienable,” but so must be our patriotic obligation. We must not allow the confusion and corruption of bipartisanship and increasingly hedonistic entitlement in our land to blur the obligation we have to be contributing, civil, truthful, and beholden American patriots.
The example that mature Americans set for the youth in this country will be a determinant of the ultimate upholding of the ideals of our Founding Fathers and of the foundational tenets of democracy—indeed of whether this democracy ultimately endures. Sadly, the energies that adults often expend on demanding “justice” for themselves and hating those of different persuasions are often the most prevalent illustrations of citizenship that their children witness. If children observe their parents, teachers, and role models contending noisily for rights and privileges, and if this is not complemented by the same people being tax-paying, law-upholding, leader-supporting, worthy cause-promoting, patriotic citizens, then this incongruity of taking-without-giving will perpetuate through subsequent generations and will prove the eventual demise of American democracy. Far better for American young people to see their mature counterparts promoting traditional ideals, serving in causes for worthy change and improvement, being honest and civil, respecting leadership and the law, and demonstrating patriotic appreciation and support in general—just as the inspired Founding Fathers intended.
The establishment and emergence of our young country has not been unflawed and without faltering and fumbling along the way. Abraham Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address, reminded citizens (in 1861and, I believe, now): “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.” The United States of America is founded on timeless, effective principles which allow its citizens peace, happiness, liberty, and prosperity. Americans must recognize the unmatched fortuity of our citizenship; we must not take this supreme blessing for granted, rather, we must demonstrate our gratitude and worthiness of this fortune by striving continually to be citizens who emulate virtue and character.