As the two-hundred-fortieth birthday of our country approaches, it’s appropriate to consider what it means to be an American. Personally, I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States, proud to be a part of what it stands for.
- Freedom. Our constitutional form of government empowers citizens to actively participate in self-determination. The Bill of Rights ensures our individual civil liberties. But where there is great freedom, there is also great responsibility. Apathy is not an option. Our freedom is vulnerable, and we must be ever vigilant to retain it. Spend your vote wisely, and support the men and women who serve to defend us.
- The American Dream. We believe that through hard work, every person can become successful and prosper. In this century, the media and politicians challenge that belief, but the fact remains that the United States enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. Seriously. If you earn $25,000 a year, you are in the wealthiest 10% of the world. Don’t believe me? Check this 2013 Gallup poll, this article from Investopedia, and the website Global Rich List.
- Compassion. As blessed as we are, it is only right to share with those less fortunate. After World War II, the U.S. did something unprecedented—through the Marshall Plan, we contributed $13 billion (that would be about $130 billion in 2016 dollars) to help rebuild Western Europe’s economy (including vanquished Germany, our sworn enemy). In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, which sends American volunteers overseas to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. In 2015, the US distributed an estimated $8 billion world-wide in international disaster relief and refugee assistance (see report, p.11). In addition, hundreds of thousands of American individuals contribute to religious and private charities that also respond to catastrophes, development, and other needs abroad.
- The Melting Pot. Drawn by hope for a better life, people pour into our country from around the world. I, myself, am a beneficiary of the American immigration policy. My parents entered the United States from Germany in March, 1952, after applying and being screened (to be sure they weren’t undesirables, like Nazis or war crimes perpetrators). My parents proudly became citizens five years later. Immigration has helped our country grow in human resources. However, there is an official process that should be followed (though it needs to be made less unwieldy). No one should be allowed to sneak into our country.
- America the Beautiful. Bookended by oceans, bounded by Canada and Mexico, with Alaska extending into the Arctic Circle and Hawaii smack dab in the middle of the Pacific, the United States covers three million, eight hundred six thousand square miles and spans nine time zones. Its landscape includes glaciers and tropical paradises, mountains, valleys, and prairies, rivers, lakes, and deserts. Its astounding diversity and natural wonders inspire delight, surprise, and humility. Who wouldn’t want to live here?
America, America, God shed His grace on Thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!
—Katharine Lee Bates
Do you love your country? Why? Please share in the comments below.