Note: This is the first of the three essays I wrote as a teenager that garnered recognition from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, PA. This one won the George Washington Honor Medal in the Junior ROTC category. As with the first essay I shared with you, if you’ll indulge the awkward grammar and phrasings of a teen boy, you will see the early stages in the development of a patriot.
By Cdt. Ron Miller
We have a rich heritage, one that we can be proud of. Since our beginning 200 years ago, we have shown the world what a nation of the people can do. Their hopes and dreams, their accomplishments and their ideals are what have made America great. But what are the main ingredients that make up the strong base upon which our heritage is built? The answer to that question is reflected in the minds of our founding fathers and in the hearts of the men who shed their blood for 13 little colonies 2 centuries ago.
The United States was a new and completely different idea. To form an institution constructed upon the rights which every individual is “endowed by his Creator” in a world of monarchy and tyranny took some foresight on the part of our founding fathers. The people of 1776 must have visualized the millions of people, the poor, the weary, those seeking freedom to do as they wished, and the people who sought to make a name for themselves, coming to America. Our country was, and to me, still is, the realization of mankind’s dream.
Along with the people seeking freedom, there came the wrongdoers, the ones seeking to gain fame and fortune at the expense of others. Crime has threatened to tarnish America’s legacy and corruption abides in the highest places. But to really appreciate the good, you must experience the bad. And only in a land like ours could the evil in our society be exposed and the proper processes of law carried out. This is the nature of our American culture; truth and justice will maintain and defend the privileges of those who are worthy of them.
I love my country; this I can honestly say. In America, I am considered equal to others; my race, culture, or religion is not held against me. I have the opportunity to live and work as I wish and the chance to study what I want. I can speak and write freely without punishment from my government. I can worship my God as fully and as wholeheartedly as He would like me to. My privacy is valuable to me and here it is respected; I am glad for that. I am not looked upon as just another person among many other persons; I am a unique individual, different from any other person on earth and I thank God that I was fortunate enough to have been born and raised in a land where my personal rights and liberties are protected and where I can truly be free.
Our society has not always been one of complete freedom for all of the people. While our forefathers were declaring that all men were created equal, people were being forcibly taken from their homelands and shipped in bondage to our “land of the free.” The first inhabitants of our country were being driven off of land upon which they and their ancestors had lived for centuries. These noble people were treated unjustly by men who supported the endeavor of “manifest destiny” and pushed them steadily westward. Even after some of these things were made right, prejudice and hatred remained. Groups of men persecuted others for their race, culture or religious background. Women did not have the right to vote for the person or persons that they wished to represent them in public office and they were not placed on equal status with men.
These wrongs have been righted by our own changing society. As America has progressed, our moral values have changed. And, largely due to expressions of opinion by minorities and women, great strides have been made in protecting the human rights of both groups. Today, members of minority groups have a strong voice in America and they have better opportunities for jobs for which they are qualified. The woman of today is now looked upon as a necessary part of our society and she is a great influence in America, not to mention the entire world.
They, too, can do things that they have never been able to do before, and their cry, “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman,’” is symbolic of how far women have come. As our nation evolves, even greater steps will be taken to see that all of humanity, male or female, white or non-white, will be able to live with the liberty, freedom and equal opportunity that our society represents.
200 years ago, our founding fathers began a great tradition. We have kept that tradition for these past two centuries. The road that we have traveled to our present level of liberty has been narrow and rocky and we have encountered many obstacles. But they have been overcome and we stand with our heads held high and our hearts beating with pride, for we represent humanity’s ageless dream of human rights for all. The light of God shines upon the American legacy, for it expresses everything that He wishes for his children. Maybe, one day, that light will intensify in brilliance and shine upon the entire world for all eternity.
Ronald Edward Miller