It is the particular quality of an American that whether he lives in the lush, beautiful state of Ohio, or in the sterile, roach-infested plot of cement that surrounds the University of Dallas or wherever he may be from sea to shining sea – he is fiercely proud of America. American patriotism is more than love for the spacious skies and purple mountains’ majesty. Our uniqueness goes beyond our distinctly American pastimes and our unexplainable fascination with all things chicken-fried. We’re proud of our local products, our traditions, our history, the beauty and expanse of our country, and the men and women who have died defending her. But what set American patriotism apart at our nation’s founding was an unsurpassed devotion to freedom and self-government.
Our founders wrote the Constitution to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” And that liberty, based in self-government, has given birth to our character as a people. The responsibility of self-government has fostered the self-sufficiency, the industriousness and the helping hand that defines an American. The true American does not wait for a far-off government to provide for him, his business or his neighbors in need. His life as a citizen is not a passive one. To protect the liberty and prosperity of America and her citizens is his responsibility.
Eleven years ago today, on Sept. 11, Americans were shaken out of their daily concerns and reminded of the preciousness and precariousness of their freedom. America was not invulnerable to attack at home, and found her way of life and her liberty were threatened.
In the wake of the attacks, amidst the fear and mourning, the American character shone forth. Policemen, firemen and private citizens responded immediately, risking their lives to rescue those trapped in the wreckage. Donations and aid came in from individuals across the country who did not know a soul in New York, but did know that it was their duty to bring relief to their countrymen. In a surge of patriotism and unity, Americans were determined to recover and rise again stronger in defense of the land of the free.
As we near the November election, we must remember what we understood after 9/11: We must cherish and guard the liberty on which our nation was founded and fully accept the responsibility to govern ourselves. The blessing of liberty that we in America enjoy is unique and fragile, and, “If we lose freedom here,” as Ronald Reagan said, “there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.”