To Be An American

From last night’s daybook entry. . . .

I’ve just returned from one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen. Not only were the fireworks both continuous and dazzling, they lasted for a good 45 minutes. This is a rarity around here; usually, the county puts together a 15-minute display of sporadic bursts of color above the skyline, ending with a run of 20 or 30 sonic booms. This time is spent calming the kids down or commenting on how fireworks “just aren’t what they used to be.”

None of that happened last night. From the very first explosive delight, we were all swept away into an evening of patriotism and pride, something not many of us have been feeling lately. Maybe it was because I had so much time that I was able to think more about living in these United States and less about the best exit out of the overcrowded parking lot.

First, my mind traveled the world over: Afghanistan, Iraq, and now North Korea. I thought of what it might be like to be a citizen of any of those countries–a far cry from the event going on around me, where families sat on top of cars and mini-vans and lit fire rockets into the air as children danced the lot with sparklers of red, white, and of course, blue.

Then my mind settled down to my life, and the freedoms I have as an American (there are still many, despite all of the changes since 9/11).

I asked myself: What does it mean to be an American?

The answer came so easily, so naturally that it chilled me.

To be an American means to use the freedoms we are blessed with and make the most of our lives by contributing all that we can to this great society. The way in which each of us contributes is unique; for some, it might be a creative talent that captures the world in a new and important light. For others, it might be more of a business contribution that provides a framework and a foundation for our nation to thrive.

For all, though, it is to be independent, not dependent on services that may be available to us. It is first and foremost what you put into this country and not what this country puts into you.

give and then receive….

ask not what your country can do for you…

These principles that we’ve heard over and over are essential to the foundation of this country. To be an American means to be yourself fully and to throw yourself out there, to be a brick in that foundation, to give the best of what you can in all who you are.

Freedom is not about being taken care of or making demands of the government to take care of you; freedom is the opportunity to matter, to make a difference, to make a mark that means something greater here than anywhere else because you are respected as that individual. Freedom means to take care of your country; not the other way around.
To be an American: To be yourself, for yourself, and for everyone else who may be born into this great, great nation.

Happy summer days, all!

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