Recently, my family and I visited Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital. It was the first time I had been back since I was a little girl, and I was in awe.
We saw museums and monuments; we learned many new things about our country and confirmed many things we had already known. Most humbling to me was Arlington Cemetery. It was covered in white crosses as far as the eyes could see. Each one perfectly aligned, horizontally and vertically.
Therein, also, was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, that is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. We had the privilege of watching the Changing of the Guard, which occurs every 30 minutes. The precision of their steps, the solemnity of the surroundings, the dedication to ceremony, it was all quite moving.
And all I kept thinking was how blessed and how fortunate I am to live in this time, in my own body and skin, and to witness this ceremony in honor of the sacrifices of those that have come before me for the sake of this great country.
Outside the cemetery, however, the “noise” of the city reminded me that we now live in an age where it seems that far too many learn only about the conflicts, wars, and errors of our nation’s past. The sins and flaws are highlighted, rather than our nobility, strength, and the sacrifices of great men and women in our history.
It saddens me that too many are susceptible to cynicism and hatred for our nation’s history and heritage. They seem to stand in moral judgment of men and women who sacrificed more and lived through greater challenge than most of us will ever experience.
Additionally, they fail to judge themselves or other nations by an equivalent, contextual standard. Every nation throughout history has a record for how it treats its people and how it changes/evolves. When I compare America’s founding and history to other countries, I recognize that the founding of this nation was nothing short of amazing.
The founding fathers understood the intricacies of human nature with our propensities towards self-interest and corruption, even as we try to be moral creatures.
They did not seek to establish an all-powerful government or political party that oppressed people. Quite the contrary. They sought to establish a nation that would optimize the freedom and rights of its citizens — submitting that it is “we the people,” and not a government, that should determine our destiny.
Therefore, the role of government would not be to provide for the needs of the people, but rather its role would be to protect the God-given, inalienable rights of its individual citizens, so that they would be free to pursue their dreams.
At the same time, the founding fathers recognized that they — like all human beings — were imperfect, and our nation would be as well. So, they established a means to self-correct and move forward towards a more perfect union.
From that time until now, our nation has seen injustices and corruption at all levels of our society. Yet, no nation has had its citizens willingly give more, serve and innovate more, nor has any nation sacrificed more to benefit its fellow citizens and other countries. This nation and these ideals were unique and radical at the time of its founding. And they are radical even today.
So, whether I am walking through our nation’s capital, or simply into a grocery store, I recognize that I am a daughter and beneficiary of the wisdom and sacrifices of those who founded, died for, stand, or have stood in service to this country.
No matter how difficult things get in my life, I look at my husband, my children, and recognize I am not a victim, nor am I a second-class citizen that is entitled to anything.
I am grateful to live in this great nation, and I am proud to be an American, for I know that in this country all things are possible for me and every citizen. My hope and prayer is that I would live my life in such a way that honors God and makes our American heroes proud of the sacrifices they have made.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville with her husband and their five children.]