There are those who say the government is too powerful and those who say the government is too weak. There are those who see America as an ethnic battleground. There are those who look at our history and see only the negatives and others who see only the positives. You can go on and on. Pick any topic and you will find seemingly unbridgeable gaps between one side and the other. There is some truth in all of the above. At times, it does seem that America is headed in the wrong direction. But, is America finished?
On this the 238th anniversary of our independence I say NO! Oh, if we deny the roots of our freedoms as handed down to us, we very well could be near the end of the road.
On the other hand, if we get back to the core values that made this nation the greatest and freest nation in world history, we can survive.
What do I mean by core values? I mean the human values we share; the values that the Founders put in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution from the start. The values that are bigger than America, yet give America its strength.
You can make your own list of what makes America strong, but I will start with five values that made America great. They may be worth discussing on our country’s birthday.
1. A belief in the Spirit of America. The American spirit is within each of us. It tells us there is more to life than today. There is an American spirit that is passed from one generation to another. The spirit that reveals the source of our values is something bigger than self. There is something bigger than each of us that binds us together. Some may find that spirit in God, others in the shared conscience of us all, others in recognizing our responsibility to each other, others in the belief that in America the best is yet to come. That American Spirit will keep us strong. Our Judeo-Christian heritage is a pillar of our national strength. However, we should never judge God by the people who worship Him.
2. Hard work. From the very beginning people came here to work. They came to build a better life for themselves and their families. They left nations where they suffered economic or religious oppression to come here, some with only the clothes on their backs. They came here to be free to work as individuals, to realize their potential, to have a chance to build a better life.
3. A commitment to self respect, self-discipline and respect for others. Americans respect and admire those of strong character who are survivors — those who “make things happen.” We respect fearlessness, honesty, kindness, fighting to protect our God-given rights and to protect the rights of others. Here, you are not judged by social standing or wealth. Our goal should continue to be to respect others on the “content of their character and not the color of their skin,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. said.
4. Fair play. Americans are competitors, some whether they know it or not. They will not tolerate a cheat whether it is in a pick-up baseball game or the halls of Congress or in corporate boardrooms. Americans love a winner and hate to lose.
5. Americans strive to have “… malice toward none and charity for all.” Americans are the most generous people on earth. When disaster strikes our neighbors, Americans give. They give time, they give money, and they give of themselves. This wasn’t so obvious to me when I lived in the big city, but now, living in Moab I see it every week in our newspapers, neighbor helping neighbor. And you know something? If it weren’t in the paper we would never hear about it. And if it weren’t in the paper, those who help others would help anyway. It’s the American way.
You may have another list. But I believe if Americans rededicate themselves to the Spirit of America — hard work, self respect and the respect of others, fair play and having malice toward none and charity for all — we will continue to celebrate American independence for years to come.
Happy birthday, America.
James Hofmann is a retired educator and corporate trainer. He and his wife relocated to Moab in 2004.