A July 4th Moment

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Walking into the Light at Gettysburg
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

In the quiet of the early morning hours of America’sSunrise_250 birthday, I asked myself this question, “What is America?”

At first glance, it seems like a no brainer. It’s short and to the point.  The answer, however, is complicated, at times contradictory, elusive and almost without an answer, if you consider the reality that every generation must answer the question during times of conflict and disagreement about its resolution.

America is a dream for many, an idea for others, an illusion for some and a spirit that demands diligence, determination and dedication to maintain.  It’s about guaranteeing the blessings of liberty and equality for all who live here.

Yes, that’s it, you say. 

Not so.

America is not about license to do whatever one wants without regard for the rights of others, and that’s where the complications begin. Guaranteeing and protecting the rights of minorities, the dispossessed, the people who lack power and a voice to make things happen is a never-ending challenge. It took five brutal, blood-stained years of civil war to address that issue, and every year that followed Gettysburg and Appomattox to adjust the attitudes and refine the laws that will make it happen.


During one of his debates with Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln summarized the issue for his time with these words:

Our republican robe is soiled, and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of “moral right,” back upon its existing legal rights, and its arguments of “necessity.” Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it; and there let it rest in peace. Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. Let north and south—let all Americans  —let all lovers of liberty everywhere—join in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union; but we shall have so saved it, as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it, that the succeeding millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise up, and call us blessed, to the latest generations.

Today we are those people President Lincoln called blessed, and we are beset with problems different in name but equally important to our future:

A large and growing class of people and children living in poverty;
Ind day DC_250

An increasing and very alarming inability to find the common ground of consensus;

A decreasing number of high school graduates;

A greatly diminished trust in government at all levels;

A deterioration of interpersonal communication which leads to a lack of humanism in all walks of life;

An all-time record high in narcissism and lack of civility.

There are others, but I think you get the picture.

Our founders set the tone of our country with these words in the Dec_Ind_250second paragraph of The 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.—

Our national contract begins with these words:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blesings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United states of America.

In both instances the pronoun is we.

The American spirit is deeply rooted in the “We” not the “I”. it is nourished with selfless service. We will only prosper if our national painting includes everyone, notUSC_250 just a few. We will only grow and develop in proportion to every one’s growth and development.

On this our national birthday, Kitch and I took a few moments to reflect on the words of a few of our leaders. Their priceless insights helped us better understand, what America is on its best day.

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”   Theodore Roosevelt

“The mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation.” William McKinley

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Anyone in any walk of life who is content with mediocrity is untrue to himself and to American tradition.”  George S. Patton, Jr.

“A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.” Woodrow Wilson

An American is one who loves justice and believes in the dignity of man. An American is one who will fight for his freedom and that of his neighbor. An American is one who will sacrifice property, ease and security in order that he and his children may retain the rights of free men. An American is one in whose heart is engraved the immortal second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.”  Harold Ickes

Happy Birthday America

(Historical images from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)

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