It’s an appropriate question to consider today, the 235th birthday of the United States of America. We’ve spread our ideals and culture around the world. We’ve created prosperity for our citizens.
Is it wealth or the force of arms that makes our nation flourish? Is it the prestige and success of its sons and daughters?
I think what makes our nation flourish is our ability to come together. In the past, we rallied in the face of war and national disasters. We pooled our resources to build cities and to achieve far reaching goals, to preserve our national resources, to educate our children and give comfort to frail and weak. We flourished because we had high ideals and we never questioned our ability to achieve them.
What makes a nation great?
In a speech on the eve of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt defined the ideals of democratic nations and called them the Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Religion. Freedom from Want. Freedom from Fear. For the decades that followed, we worked toward granting these freedoms to all of our citizens and made great progress toward that goal. We haven’t always lived up to these high standards, but we’ve moved forward and strived to do better.
If the nation is to be great, each of us must participate. That means going to town council meetings. It means running for office, or supporting a candidate, or at the very least, making our opinions known at the ballot box. It means we’ll have to watch a few less football games or a few less episodes of Jersey Shore, or go on a few less picnics with our families. If we truly want to be the great nation the Founding Fathers and Mothers conceived for us, we must take the time and do the work.
Our American ideals of liberty and justice are the envy of the world. But for our nation to flourish, these ideals must be lived every day. We can’t just drop them by the wayside when they conflict with our desires of the moment. Our ideals aren’t just beautiful words we say on national holidays, they aren’t just the lyrics to songs we sing while we're setting off fireworks. Our ideals must be the way we conduct our lives. Only a nation that lives by its principles can truly be great.
There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. ~William J. Clinton
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves. ~ D H Lawrence
No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck. ~ Fredrick Douglass
Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong. ~ James Bryce
Our country, right or wrong. When right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right. ~ Carl Schurz
This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else. ~ Clarence Darrow
America is a passionate idea or it is nothing. America is a human brotherhood or it is chaos. ~ Max Lerner