For me ‘patriotism’ means supporting my fellow Americans with respect and loyalty. I offer to my government that which it earns. All too frequently in 2017, my government fails to deserve my support.
I felt that on this day in particular, I should remind the American people why we proudly wave flags and cheer the fireworks on this day; July 4th.
I want to do this by offering you some words from a few of our greatest presidents; men whose words and actions have a positive and lasting effect on all of our nation’s people.
George Washington was not America’s first president; he is the first President of the United States of America. The citizens of a new nation proudly followed him into battle against the British, although they were outnumbered and had fewer weapons.
Like all of our founding fathers, George Washington believed that the first amendment to the Constitution was the most important part of the ‘law of the land.’ Considering the attacks on the first amendment today, I thought that Washington’s quote was relevant and extremely important.
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
Thomas Jefferson was our third President. He is probably the most quoted of all of our presidents. His thought process is clearly defined by his words.
Although his preamble to the Declaration of Independence will forever define his character and principles, this quote, for me, is the very core of American belief; the foundation for greatness.
“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
Ask any elementary school child, and he or she will tell you that ‘Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.’ The Emancipation Proclamation is without a doubt one of our greatest documents, and most important achievements to protect the inalienable rights of all Americans. However, President Lincoln expressed his love for the American people more adamantly than for the government, when he said the following.
“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
President Lincoln went further in his support of the fact that it is the people who are the nation, and government must support their needs and wishes; they are not meant to ‘rule over us,’ they are intended to serve.
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.”
Timely and of enormous importance.
Theodore Roosevelt loved the people of America, but he also loved the land itself. He began the creation of national parks and monuments. “Teddy” also understood people and what strength and courage to do the right thing meant to not only the future of America, but also for the growth of the individual. I had difficulty choosing just one quote, but this short quote with few words defines the man and is an instruction for all men.
“Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was America’s greatest President. He was elected four times by the people he never failed. He was the ‘working man’s’ president. President Roosevelt is credited with the creation of social security, and multiple other programs which benefited all of America’s people. His economic programs helped America rebound from the ‘great depression.’
When the cowardly attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941, it was President Roosevelt who designed the strategy which quickly prepared our nation for war. He never saw its end; dying in 1945 before the final battles were fought.
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
I was a senior in high school when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected as the 35th President of the United States. He served the American people from January 20, 1961 until his assassination on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. He is remembered mostly for one quality and one enormous act of courage.
His intelligence was evident whenever he spoke. President Kennedy inspired us, but he had the ability to interject great humor into his oratory. One of my most treasured books is a short collection simply called “The Kennedy Wit.”
In October of 1962, while I was a junior, one of the most frightening times in my life began and lasted for 13 days. The ‘Cuban Missile Crises’ made the possibility of a nuclear confrontation a reality. The Soviet Union established launch sites for nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba; just 75 miles off of our southern coast. President Kennedy established a naval blockade around Cuba, and refused to back down until Premier Nikita Khrushchev capitulated and removed his weapons of mass destruction.
President Kennedy is also responsible for the eventual moon landing in July of 1969.
Every American remembers or heard President Kennedy’s inaugural address which Includes “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
However, one of my personal favorite quotes describes in a few words his personal belief in America, and how to govern effectively.
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
I could have included several more quotes by other presidents, but that would require many more pages than you would be willing to read.
I will leave you with one last quote by our 44th President who I believe will be remembered as one of the greatest in modern times; Barrack Obama.
“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.”
Please re-post. Thank you and have a wonderful, safe and sane 4th of July 2017.
Op-ed by James Turnage
Photo courtesy of Sigurdur Jonsson
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