I pledge allegiance to the flag of
the UNITED States of America,
And to the REPUBLIC for which it stands
My country tis of thee, sweet land of LIBERTY.
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims pride
from every mountainside,
LET FREEDOM RING
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you —
ask what you can do for your country.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
These are the verses I remember from my elementary school days. I am proud that I remembered almost all of them correctly. I am sad to think how many people would not recognize these, much less be able to recite them.
I wasn’t alive before the civil war, or during our country’s ugly time of segregation, or born into a family of wealth that shielded me from life’s realities. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. I remember Jimmy Carter, gas shortages, and trouble with Iran. Russia was our enemy.
I grew up in an area where everyone worked hard to make a living. Color didn’t matter; ethnic background didn’t matter. We weren’t thin skinned, because everyone was treated according to their character. Polaks, Jews, Krauts, Wops, Spics, Catholics, Methodist, Baptists, Blacks, Whites, Gingers, Half Breeds. None of those terms are pleasant, yet they don’t bother me. I lived diring the “sticks and stones” era. I also remember people to be proud of their family heritage- while actively patriotic in their American identity. My mixed up family taught me that integrity and character were how we are judged, and we should let God be the judge of others. My view of being an American is being a good neighbor, supporting your family, working hard and contributing to the country by raising good kids, serving at church, school, and the military.
I grew up in the aftermath of the horror and sadness for the deaths of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Vietnam was ending and emotions were raw. I’m glad I was a kid back then. In spite of the troubled times, it taught me a lot. I heard a lot of conflicting views. It wasn’t easy. There were bullies at school, no one worried overmuch about my self esteem. There were flaws in the system, both school and government. Yet, the overall attitude was still one of pride in our country, as the greatest nation on earth. After all, we were the first to land on the moon….
The national celebration during the July 4th, 1976 was huge. Parades, baseball, apple pie- things certainly weren’t perfect in the 70’s, but what decade hasn’t had it’s issues? It was instilled in me, even as my elders debated and argued about policy and details. Civility was practiced- not in words that were used (no one was overly “cultured” or “polite” in their language) but in action. I was taught why our nation was special, and I witnessed the character of and respect of the people who believed it. People valued community, hard work, and believed in the American Dream.
I grew up knowing I could do anything, if I worked hard and was a little bit lucky. My public school education prepared me for college or trade school. I was free to work and live as I chose, but I must be a good person and good citizen, or there are consequences. My upbringing taught me a few important things: Work hard, save for a rainy day. Respect authority. Pay your taxes. Don’t shame your family name. We will go to Hell for sin, so don’t.
I know I’m fortunate- and maybe my glasses are a bit rose colored. I’m curious how our youth today will reflect back on their upbringing. How many verses will they remember, about the things that matter? And, will they be grateful?