Since the hard-fought birth of this great nation, Americans have held that all men are created equal. Indeed, to pretend otherwise is patently ridiculous, when we have seen greatness arise from among the poverty-stricken as well as the privileged, when we have heard the clarion call of progress from the masses as often as from the masters.
As time has marched, we have seen new dawns. We have righted wrongs done unto many of our number, for who would have believed a mere century ago that American women would step forward to the places they now hold? What man of that time would have believed the historic achievements women have made in business, in the arts and in the sciences? Who could have foretold that Sally Ride, for example, would so literally reach for the stars?
Likewise, we have worked to correct sorrowful injustices done to African-Americans. The abolition of slavery, that sad institution, paved the way for men and women of all races to make great strides forward. From Harriet Tubman to Rosa Parks to Dr. Martin Luther King, we have seen the slow but inexorable march of progress in the name of what is right and just.
Today, a woman and a black man are contending for the highest office in the land, a scenario unimaginable just a few years ago.
America is, just as its Founding Fathers intended it to be, a shining beacon of hope, a dream close enough to be made real, a bastion of enlightenment standing fast against injustice and oppression. America is more than a nation, more than a people; it is a concept held in the minds and hearts of people the world over.
America was founded to show the rest of the world how it’s done. To live free, to realize opportunity, to bear the standard for a greater good in a world fraught with strife. And true to its word, this comparatively young nation has for two centuries led the way, becoming not only an example but a teacher to other democracies, a benefactor to those in need, and when necessary a knight in shining armor defending people in desperate straits.
Today we stand at a crossroads, grappling with an internal dilemma which threatens to subsume the very principles which America embodies. Recent years have borne with them the specters of needless and bloody war, of catastrophic environmental damage, of the senseless oppression of many of our own in the questionable name of national security. Those who once had cause to believe in America are increasingly finding their dreams tattered and torn, destroyed from within by the self-interest and bigotry of a tiny minority.
We still reach for new frontiers. We send missions to Mars, we develop new fuels. Our achievements in the arts and in the sporting arena are the envy of countless nations. And yet, so many among our number battle with poverty and homelessness. The woman is still at times shut out or shouted down by men, the black man by whites. Today we also come to the same conflict with regard to gay rights. What logic or reason can deny a man or woman their humanity based on who they love? By what right is a gay couple deemed less worthy than a heterosexual couple of the rights and privileges enjoyed by the majority?
If we are to be truly American, then let us once again embrace all that which is America. We are all created equal, we are all entitled to the opportunities available to modern Americans.
Let us see the shining torch of freedom rekindled, and let it be today. In the aftermath of our botched wars and egomaniacal avarice, the world has turned its face from us. If we are to merit our place among the civilized nations, let us once again be America.
Let every person whose heart yearns for freedom and justice, wheresoever they may be, proclaim with pride, “I AM AMERICA.”
I, for one, am not American. But I am America.