The subtitle of David McCollough’s most recent book, The American Spirit, is Who We Are and What We Stand For.
What’s your answer? Is there still one answer, one unifying narrative that most Americans would agree with? The Declaration of Independence made the case for what the Founding Fathers were seeking as the values, freedoms and rights that went on to be codified in the United States Constitution.
American values are unique, distinctive and very different from most of the other 194 countries in the world today. Back in 1984, The Washington International Center, in an effort to orient foreign visitors to American values, listed 13 American values and contrasted them to the values of other countries. A few examples are:
- Personal control over the environment vs. fate
- Change vs. tradition
- Materialism vs. spiritualism
- Self-help vs. birthright inheritance
Agree or disagree with these and the other nine, the fact remains that many American values are unique and personal. For me, individual freedom and our continued pursuit of equal rights are two key values that America stands for.
So, back to Memorial Day. In contrast to Veterans Day, which celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.
They died. The ultimate sacrifice. In the service of our country and our values.
Today, Memorial Day is a sacred day, one that honors, remembers and celebrates those Americans who died so the rest of us could enjoy, debate, improve, protest against and embody American values.
We don’t get many chances these days to sing or hear patriotic songs. I, for one, love them and feel proud when I hear them. On this Memorial Day, I’ll leave you with this line that’s worth remembering in honor of those who died for our country and our values.
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
God bless America.