On Being American

Rick and I just returned from a wonderful week in Washington, D.C. and Virginia with our daughter, Shannon, and our two eldest grandchildren.  Both are studying American history, and this seemed the perfect time to make the trip east.  We visited Memorials and Monuments.  We honored those who died for our freedom in World War II. We read the stirring words of Lincoln and Jefferson, found friends whose names are engraved on the Vietnam Wall.  We stood before the Star Spangled Banner on display in the American History Museum, and walked through displays of honor and bravery in the World War I and II galleries. 

George Washington’s precious Mount Vernon has been restored and refilled with family artifacts.  Where would our nation be today if Washington hadn’t declared eight years is enough for any president to hold office?  A world watched as power passed from one president to a second president. The Republic “of the people, by the people and for the people” survived and thrived.

We headed on to walk through American history in Jamestown where a placard once hung above the gate:  “Those who don’t work, don’t eat.”  We spent hours at Yorktown where the final battle of the Revolutionary War was won, and then on to Williamsburg with our rich colonial history.

All through the week, I thought of Grandma coming from Switzerland, of Grandpa, a German immigrant, and Rick’s grandparents, both from Sweden, each coming to American with faith, full of hope, intent on building through hard work a better life for themselves and their children.  They believed the American dream was possible and proved it.  They learned English.  They studied, passed the tests and earned their American citizenship, and for the rest of their lives they counted it a privilege as well as a responsibility to cast their vote in every election. Though they never lost the rich heritages of the countries from which they came, they took pride in being American

May I – born American and recipient of the benefits of their hard labor – be always thankful and follow their good example.