Sunday, June 26, 2016

We hear a good deal of talk today about taking America back and making this country great again.

We hear a good deal of talk today about taking America back and making this country great again. Let’s assume this rhetoric implies a rededication to the ideals for which America is best known and respected at home and around the world.  What then is the source of that greatness?  What then are those ideals? One of the most emblematic symbols of America and her greatness is the Statue of Liberty and the iconic words engraven within her pedestal: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" The American ideals of equality, liberty and inclusiveness are at the very heart of America’s true identity and greatness. They are why America became and continues to be a beacon of freedom and justice around the world. We are a country of immigrants.  Regardless of whether our families arrived in this country during colonial times or more recently, our ancestors were immigrants. The United States of America is the result of people from all around the world who risked everything in pursuit of a dream summed up quite well in America’s Declaration of Independence: “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.” From 1776 until today, American ideals of freedom and opportunity have been personified by our elected leaders, but America’s greatness today and throughout the ages is not the result of elected leaders, but our citizens, common men and women who cherish America’s time-honored principles and dedicate their efforts and their lives to the preservation and advancement of those ideals. Our challenge today is not a belligerent taking back of those ideals, but a rededication to the sharing, promotion and advancement of those ideals for all our citizens. Our challenge today is in many ways identical to that which confronted our country when President Lincoln closed his second inaugural address with the following words: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have born the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” America’s greatness is now and has always been the result of our citizens and the principles of Liberty, Equality and Justice as contained in America’s time-honored historical documents and the speeches of our most celebrated statesmen. In November of 1863, President Lincoln addressed those assembled for the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. According to the President, those whose souls had hallowed that ground had given their lives that the nation itself might life.  And he entreated the people to dedicate themselves to the great task before them, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. That’s a compelling idea: a democratic government, of, by and for a people, unified by their faith and their mutual pursuit of liberty and justice for all. That’s a proposition worth dying for. That’s why America is great.  SC

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