|What does it mean to be an American?|
The following speech was given to a joint meeting of the Wakulla Shrine Club, Ashmore Masonic Lodge in Sopchoppy and Crawford Masonic Lodge in Crawfordville on Friday, June 14. The speech honors Flag Day and the Fourth of July.
By Charlie Creel
Many times over the years we have heard someone ask the question: What does it mean to be an American? We probably don’t think about the answer as often as we should but I will attempt to answer the question for you tonight through my eyes.
Many Americans have given their lives for the privileges we enjoy as American citizens. Our nation has fought hard and paid a very high price over the years to maintain the benefits of being Americans that we enjoy today.
Many brave Americans died on the beaches as they fought bravely for their country. Many more men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice in other conflicts as well.
My father waited until I was a teenager until her told me a little about his Normandy experience. He would never go into details about what he saw on the beaches and what he was forced to witness.
It was a difficult time for those at war and those at home. But as Americans it was what we were asked to do and we did it willingly.
We love our nation because there is room in our hearts to love other places and countries and help them whenever needed. We live in this country because we believe in our hearts that America is good and exceptional. America is different from other countries across the world and we know that we have a special role in the world.
President John Kennedy reminded us that “civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But never fear to negotiate.”
President Abraham Lincoln governed at a time of great strife within our country but he understood where we needed to go.
No other country is as exceptional as the United States of America. Americans have hope and opportunity that others do not.
As Americans we should be proud of the enormous economic power we have and the military strength that allows the world to live in a certain degree of peace. We have core values that are in our Constitution, our body of laws, our democratic practices and our belief in free speech and equality that make us imperfect at times but still exceptional and proud.
As Americans we do not allow our government to exploit the people of our country, but make sure we help those who need assistance. We have a care for our neighbors, both near and far, which makes us exceptional. When you also consider that we have been able to keep our American vision alive for centuries is not only a testament to the wise men who crafted our government and our nation but also an amazing achievement of longevity. Other governments come and go but the United States has remained in much the same form that our forefathers perceived in the 1770s.
We are a melting pot of culture that has been mixed into a large bowl to create a mixture of talents and knowledge that keeps our country strong. As Americans we are entitled to certain rights and the belief of equality.
As a resident of Florida and a citizen of the United States, I was born here and understand the culture and values of American exceptionalism that is deeply ingrained in our psyches and hearts.
Republicans and Democrats may battle for their ideologies to be adopted in Washington, D.C. but the bottom line is that these political parties have the same goals for their America. Although their ideologies differ, they both embrace and represent America.
America’s beauty lies in its multitude of differences and complexity and our military has fought for centuries to uphold these differences as one nation.
Benjamin Franklin may be the epitome of an American. He pioneered the spirit of self-help and with little schooling he taught himself many things he needed in life.
He also served as Postmaster and tripled the frequency of the mail delivery. He was a scientist, inventor and a diplomat.
And that is what it means to me to be an American!