Posts Tagged ‘Happy Birthday America’

Sound Advice from Four Men on the Mountain

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Happy Birthday America

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2016
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

America is a passionate idea or it is nothing. America is a human brotherhood or it is chaos. Max Lerner

Mount Rushmore

Six years ago this month, Kitch and I visited Mount Rushmore.Rushmore Affectionately known as the shrine of our democracy, it is an inspirational statement about America at its best.

Conceptualized and designed by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and finished under the supervision of his son, Lincoln Borglum, the project was 14 years in the making, 1927- 1941. It is a testimony to creativity, courage, dreams, enterprise, industry, hard work and perseverance.

The actual construction began in 1935. Those in the know tell us that 400 men worked on the project. Some unskilled workers earned 50 cents an hour while other workers earned 65 cents an hour. Skilled drillers earned $1.25 an hour. The total cost of the project was 1 million dollars.

Workers Rushmore

Without the support of President Calvin Coolidge, the project would have never been completed. After his vacation visit to Mt. Rushmore, President Coolidge used his influence to get public funding through congress to finance the project.

In 1936 when the project was half finished, President Franklin Roosevelt visited Mount Rushmore. Looking at the images of Washington and Jefferson, he said the work was an example of cooperating with nature not fighting with nature.

When the project was completed, 450,000 tons of granite rock had been dynamited and replaced with the images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Of the 400 men who worked on the project, only two men sustained minor injuries.

According to records of the National Park Service, 3 million people visit Mount Rushmore every year.

In October of this year, the monument will be 75 years old.

On this the 240th birthday of America, we thought it might be a good idea to share a few of the most encouraging thoughts authored by the four men who are enshrined on Mount Rushmore.

George Washington

The father of our country shared these insightful comments about how to live a productive life:Bust of George Washington in the U.S. Capitol.

We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.

It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.

It is better to be alone than in bad company.

Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.

Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

Thomas Jefferson

The author of our Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States offered these priceless words of advice:

Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.

Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.

Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.

Never spend your money before you have it.

Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.

When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.

Teddy Roosevelt

The first President to win a Nobel Peace Prize offered these pearls of wisdom:
TR 2

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.

Believe you can and you’re halfway there.

The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

Abraham Lincoln

Many historians believe that Abraham Lincoln was our greatest President. During his lifetime, he was one of the most vilified men to ever hold the highest office in the land. Nevertheless, he soldiered on because he was determined to save our union and emancipate the slaves. These are a few of his most insightful thoughts about criticism:A Lincoln_2

Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion.

I have endured a great deal of ridicule without much malice; and have received a great deal of kindness, not quite free from ridicule. I am used to it.

If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how — the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.

Happy Birthday America

(Archival pictures are part of the Library of Congress collection.)

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Happy Birthday America, 2015

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

Happy Birthday America, 2015

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2015, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project
All Rights Reserved

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness                  
And every gain divine!
Katharine Lee Bates

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.  Alexis de Tocqueville

America Defined

More than a century has passed since Katharine Lee Bates wrote the first version of the poem that eventually became the lyric forATB_91-100 America the Beautiful. According to those who have studied this icon of America music, the final expanded version was written in 1913.

Samuel A. Ward provided the melody for this American anthem.

This musical masterpiece defines our country in 290 words and 8 verses.

In anticipation of our national birthday, I decided to acquire a copy of the lyrics so I could read them, think about what they mean, and compare them with definitions written by men and women who cared deeply about the essence of America, hope and opportunity.

This is a summary of the messages contained in Bates’s masterpiece and interpretations of the powerful words she used to describe America at its best.


America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood  
From sea to shining sea!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summarized this part of the American credo with these words:


We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.

All my adult life I have deplored violence and war as instruments for achieving solutions to mankind’s problems. I am firmly committed to the creative power of nonviolence as the force which is capable of winning lasting and meaningful brotherhood and peace


America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,        
Thy liberty in law!

Eleanor Roosevelt gave us a priceless aphorism about self control:
To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

In her diary, Anais Nin gave a wonderful insight into the power of self-control:

The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.

Love of Country and More than Self

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

Two men from Illinois penned words that give meaning to this insight into heroism:


We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stre[t]ching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. Abraham Lincoln

When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea.  He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.  Adlai Stevenson

Success with Nobleness

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness                 
And every gain divine!

Benjamin Franklin used 13 words to define nobleness:

To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.

Harriet Beecher Stowe told us about the duty we owe our friends:

I am speaking now of the highest duty we owe our friends, the noblest, the most sacred – that of keeping their own nobleness, goodness, pure and incorrupt. If we let our friend become cold and selfish and exacting without a remonstrance, we are no true lover, no true friend.


O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

President John Quincy Adams best described the magic of perseverance:

IMG_0314_ACourage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.

President Calvin Coolidge helps us understand the uniqueness of perseverance:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Harriet Beecher Stowe gave us a very practical insight into perseverance:

When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.


America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air   
And music-hearted sea!

A brilliant American writer and author of Little House on the Prairie, a popular American President and two Justices of the Supreme Court provide us with personal and poignant definitions of fairness:

Persons appear to us according to the light we throwIMG_0177_A upon them from our own minds. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.  President Dwight Eisenhower

Fairness is what justice really is. Justice Potter Stewart

Today’s Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish. Justice Thurgood Marshall

Avoid Selfish Gain

The 26th President of the United States said just about everything that needs to be said about avoiding selfish gain

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance. Theodore Roosevelt

Celebration of life WC

The pictures in this article were taken at a Celebration of Life Ceremony hosted by our friends,Charles and Winnie Ukattah. Charles and Winnie and many of their family members immigrated from Nigeria in the 1990’s. They came to America in search of hope and opportunity. They have worked hard and long hours to achieve success in their adopted home for themselves and their children.

This celebration of life in honor of Winnie’s mother was held shortly after the horrifying events in Charleston at the Mother Emanuel AME Church.

For Kitch and me, the celebration of life in Charleston and Avoca personified everything that America is on its best day, and it gives truth to the messages in America the Beautiful.  With God’s help we can mend our every flaw, because hope is stronger than death, and hate is no match for the amazing grace of forgiveness.

Happy Birthday America.

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America at its Best: Happy Birthday America, 2014

Friday, July 4th, 2014

America at its Best: What America’s Ten Greatest Presidents Say About America at its Best

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs Tony Mussari
Archival Photographs Library of Congress
The Face of America Project Copyright 2014
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. Alexis de Tocqueville

As we pause to celebrate the 238th birthday of our country, America and its citizens are challenged onFlags_WP many fronts in many different ways by problems that are complicated and cry out for solutions.

Despite these life and death issues and all the distractions that come with the frenetic pace of life in the digital age, Kitch and I believe in the fundamental goodness and decency of the American people. During our Face of America journey, we experience it in quiet, but meaningful ways, in the hearts and souls of the people we meet, the values they cherish and the acts of kindness they practice.

During our journey we have interviewed hundreds of people in our attempt to identify the qualities of America at its best.

On this day of parades, picnics, musical celebrations and fireworks displays, we decided to step back and research what our ten greatest presidents had to say about the qualities that are the foundation of America at its best.

This is what we discovered.


The man celebrated as the father of our01869r_sm country, George Washington, used 26 words to describe what he believed to be the most important virtue:

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man. George Washington

Washington’s legacy is embedded in everything that is good, decent and wholesome about our country and its citizens.


The American president who saved our union Lincoln_smand issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, is known for many accomplishments. He authored poetic words like those recorded in the Gettysburg Address. Senator Charles Sumner called that speech a “Monumental Act…The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech."

Lincoln’s correspondence is filled with letters of compassion and caring. It is fair to say that Abraham Lincoln was a leader who personified the virtue of kindness:

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice… When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. Abraham Lincoln


Our 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, defined courage in realistic terms. He knew well what courageFDR_in_1933 was all about, and he inspired our citizens to be courageous in the face of economic depression and totalitarian aggression.

He recognized our natural tendency to be fearful in times of danger, and he showed us the way to overcome our fears:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt


Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, the Sage of Jefferson3Monticello, was best described by President Kennedy at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere in 1962:

“I want to tell you how welcome you are to the White House. I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

Someone once said that Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet…”

It should come as no surprise that the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence when he was 33 years old believed that Americans should learn something new every day:

Every day is lost in which we do not learn something useful. Man has no nobler or more valuable possession than time. Thomas Jefferson


Our 26th president embraced the principles of theTR Progressive Movement. Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest man to become President of the United States. He well may have been the most energetic occupant of the White House. He used his energy to push an agenda which he defined as a “Square Deal” for all Americans.

He summarized what America is at its best with these words:

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

Unbeatable Determination

When Harry Truman was a youngster he wanted to Harry_S__Trumanbecome a professional baseball player. One of his friends wanted to become president of the United States. Life had a much different destination for this self-described farm boy from Missouri and his friend.

Truman’s great gift was the art of plain speaking and an ability to connect with people.

I experienced that gift in 1948 when my dad took me to hear President Truman speak at a campaign stop in our home town. To this day, I remember the moment when “the little man” with eyeglasses just like mine inspired a youngster to believe in himself.

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand… The difference between a strong man and a weak one is that the former does not give up after a defeat. Harry S. Truman


Woodrow Wilson was the president of Princeton University and Governor of New Jersey before he became our 28thWilson2_sm president. He occupied the White House during World War I. Presidential scholars believe that most of the models for government as we know it today were established while Wilson was in office.

Wilson believed that America is about dreams:

We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true. Woodrow Wilson


Dwight David Eisenhower was one of our most popular Ikepresidents. Americans liked “Ike.”

To be honest, I liked Ike so much I disobeyed my mother, and I walked to Ike’s campaign headquarters on Public Square to secure campaign buttons and signs that I fashioned into my Halloween costume.

General Eisenhower was swept into office in 1952 on a tidal wave of admiration, gratitude and respect for his accomplishments during World War II.

A West Point graduate and a five star general, President Eisenhower recognized the importance of education and the vital role teachers play in guaranteeing the best possible future for our children and our country:

Teachers need our active support and encouragement. They are doing one of the most necessary and exacting jobs in the land. They are developing our most precious national resource: our children, our future citizens. Dwight David Eisenhower

Equal Opportunity

James K. Polk is often mentioned as our first -James_Polk“dark horse” president and the last strong president before the Civil War. During his presidency, America fought a successful war with Mexico over the annexation of Texas.

He served but one term as he promised. He accomplished all of his goals. He died shortly after he left office.

President Polk is best known for his doctrine of “Manifest Destiny,” that America was destined by God to spread democracy to the Pacific Ocean.

He presided over the largest expansion of the country since the Louisiana Purchase, more than one million square miles. It included territory from Texas to California including New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington and parts of Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. He also settled Oregon’s northern boundary dispute with England.

His words address a fundamental obligation of democratic government:

One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. James K. Polk


General Andrew Jackson gained national prominence Andrew Jacksonwhen he defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.

Historians tell us that Andrew Jackson was the first self-made man to become President of the United States. He was the first person born in a log cabin to be elected president.

To his friends and supporters Andrew Jackson was ‘Old Hickory.” Many historians call him ‘The People’s President.”

To his critics, he was “King Andrew I.” Not unlike what we are experiencing today, it was a very contentious time in Washington, and Andrew Jackson enjoyed the conflict.

When an assassin attempted to shoot him, the president pursued him and according to accounts, he almost pummeled him to death with his walking cane.

It should come as no surprise that the 7th president of the United States, Number 10 on the list of the ten greatest presidents, felt passionately about doing the right thing::

Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge, instantly and without reservation that he is in error…It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Andrew Jackson

As I come to the end of this assessment of America at its best as seen through the actions and Flags_1870experiences of our ten greatest presidents, I can hear the wind whipping the flags that fly over the garden in Windsor Park. I can hear the faint sounds of firecrackers exploding in a yard below. I can sense the excitement building for the family gatherings that will take place this evening in our neighborhood, and I can better appreciate the wise and poetic words of spoken by President Lincoln during his second Inaugural Address :

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 borne 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.

Happy Birthday America.

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Happy Birthday America 2012: Part 5, Our Stitch

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Happy Birthday America, Part 5

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project
All Rights Reserved

The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or college presidents, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in its common people.Sinclair Lewis

Taking Care of Our Stitch

Several weeks ago our friend, Paul Swenson, sent us information about Tide’s U.S Flag Tribute in honor of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

The executives of the familiar Procter and Gamble product urged people all over America to answer the question: “What Does The Red, White and Blue Mean to You?”

The answers would be reviewed and more than one thousand of these tributes, comments, names and photos would be selected and "quilted" into a massive 80 foot by 160 foot U.S. flag design and put on display July 2nd and 3rd at Bryant Park, one block away from Times Square in New York City.

Paul’s company, Colonial Flag, was contracted to handle all of the details of this massive undertaking. Paul earned a sterling reputation for the work he and his employees did to place Healing Field flag displays all over the country during the years following September 11, 2001.  

Paul Swenson is a big man with a kind and loving heart of gold. Because we admire Paul and his work, Kitch and I posted this tribute to Emily Perez, the inspiration for our Face of America Project:

When we think of the Red, White & Blue, we think of 2d LT. Emily Perez.

Emily was a member of West Point’s “9/11 Class." She was the highest ranking Black/Hispanic graduate in the school’s history, and the first female officer from West Point to die in Iraq.

2d Lt. Emily Perez is a member of the New Greatest Generation and a radiant Face of America on its best day.

2d Lt. Emily Perez is what the Red, White & Blue is all about; courage, compassion, equality, freedom, justice, opportunity, service to country and service to others.

God Bless Emily, and God Bless America.

Almost three months flew by, and the week before the Tide Flag was to be presented, I wrote a note of encouragement to Paul:

Hi Paul:

I have been thinking about you and your big event in New York next week.

Please know that Kitch and I wish you the very best.

I may try to visit on July 3.

We are hosting our 10-year-old granddaughter, Julia, for Windsor Park Camp this week, and that involves quite a bit of driving.  If the body is able, I will get to New York to celebrate your great accomplishment.  If it is not, my spirit will celebrate it in our Angel Garden in Windsor Park. Here we celebrate the heroic deeds of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 every day of the year, and the inspiration for our Face ofAmerica project, Emily Perez.

Attached is a picture of Julia building an enclave garden in the Angel Garden next to the tribute to Emily Perez.

The picture of the woman with the Tide shirt is almost providential. In this Windsor Park Camp, we are trying to teach Julia, by example, the power of kindness and gratitude.

This woman works with Kitch as a volunteer at our local library.  Her husband and I are library board members. He made an unannounced visit to our home the day Julia and I were building the enclave garden. He was so taken by what he experienced; he and his wife bought Julia a surprise gift.  This act of kindness reinforced what we are trying to teach her.  It enabled us to stress the importance of saying thank you. 
To do this, we cut the most beautiful flower in our garden, and we went to their home unannounced, and Julia gave her the flower and a handwritten thank you note.

When the door opened and I saw the Tide shirt, I thought of you and your healing project.

Good luck and God’s speed dear friend.

On July 3d, shortly after 1 p.m., I received this note with a picture:

Your stitch my friends


I get a lump in my throat every time I read those four words. It is something we hoped for, but never expected to happen especially on this day when most of the news we received was negative.

I immediately wrote a note to Emily’s parents.  It was the best part of the process:

Dear Vicki & Daniel:

I just received word that our tribute to Emily was included in the huge American flag that answers the Question: “What Does the Red, White and Blue mean to you?”

The flag is being put in place today. It will be celebrated in a special way tomorrow in the park at 42d Street.

Kitch and I are humbled by this honor for Emily, and we wanted you to be the first to know.

Attached you will find two pictures of Emily’s Stitch on the flag.  They document this wonderful tribute to your beautiful daughter and our inspiration for our Face of America project and journey.

With admiration, respect and friendship,

Tony & Kitch

Emily’s mother responded with these beautiful words:

Dear Kitch and Tony,

Just returning from a church mission trip to Sierra Leone.  Trips like this reinforce our love and pride in being an American.

Thank you once again for keeping Emily’s memory alive.  Prayerfully, she will continue to be an inspiration to the New Generation.

Warmest Regards,

Vicki & Daniel

In case you are wondering what this has to do with America’s birthday and our face of America project, Paul Swenson provided the answer when he sent this note to us today:

I calculate that there is roughly one stitch for every American in this size of flag.  All connected in a common purpose regardless of position or color. The question I ask myself is how well am I taking care of my stitch?

Makes this saying all the more pertinent, "Your task to build a better world,” God said, I answered, “ How? The world is such a large vast place, so complicated now, and I so small and helpless am, there’s nothing I can do.” But God, in all His wisdom said, "Just build a better you".

Today Americans celebrate our national birthday with parades, fireworks, family reunions, and backyard barbeques.

Kitch and celebrated this day by exercising our right of free speech.

I have been writing about people, places and events that, in my opinion, speak to Americans at their very best, the higher angels as it were of caring, compassion, connection, courage, equality, freedom, justice, opportunity, service to country and service to others.

Kitch has been working in the garden, reading and editing these five articles and baking bread for one of the stands at the Back Mountain Memorial Library Auction.

In simple terms, we are taking care of our stitch. We are learning, growing and experiencing the blessings of liberty that make us free.

We are saying living prayers for our family, our friends and our country.

We are doing what we love to do in a country with limitless opportunities.

We are saying Happy Birthday America, while privately we pray these three words, God Bless America.

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