From the time I was just a young child I've loved this country. I remember being mesmerized when I opened one of those now ancient elementary history books, and looking at lovely lithographs of the first American settlements. And, from earliest memory those founding fathers seem to leap off the page for me. I could pick up the scent of Washington's saddle leather, imagine riding shotgun as Jefferson's coach made its way from Monticello to Philadelphia, imagine crickets chirping as Jefferson sat alone in his boarding house room and wrote the Declaration of Independence.
I would turn to a page in that old text, and sit and stare at a surveyor's map, showing colonial engineers laying out the first post roads...followed to a tee from the old Indian trails, even then centuries old.
And it has been more than sixty years since the teacher hauled in a Bell & Howell projector into the classroom and show us a filmed re-enactment of Francis Scott Key writing the Star Spangled Banner as he waited in hopeful prayer throughout that dark night outside Fort McHenry...hoping that our flag would still be flying when dawn came. I was most glad that the blinds were drawn back there in that classroom...because I had tears in my eyes and wanted no one to see them.
And, as I got older, and learned more about my country, I grew to love her even more. And, even now, some 60 years later, I am more than ever convinced that God indeed "Blessed America". When Washington's troops were all but defeated, facing annihilation on the fields of Manhattan, a miraculous fog descended over the island, allowing Washington's forces to retreat to that Jersey shore...and live to fight...and win..on a later day...against the most powerful nation on earth, with forces that outnumbered ours ten to one.
And, on the 24th of August, 202 years ago, during the War of 1812, British forces marched into Washington and set our nation's capitol afire. They set fire to our capitol and the White House and every government building they could torch. And somehow, miraculously, a once in a century tornado fell from the skies, and rain that was surely God's tears put out those fires. The storm was so mighty it upended British cannons, then moved eastward, destroy much of the British Navy's fleet that brought them here.
Then, half a century later, our creator brought us another Abraham, this one named Lincoln...a man who would serve as our father and spiritual leader...and our conscience at a time when we were fighting over the very essence of what freedom really means.
We don't get enough 'Lincolns'...we tend to get a great President every fifty years or so. The next one came with funny glasses and a walrus mustache, with the name of Theodore Roosevelt. He smashed the robber barons, created our national parks, won a Nobel Peace Prize, even as he uttered the mantra "Walk Tall But Carry A Big Stick".
Yes, we've had some great national leaders. But it has been the magnificence of our people most responsible for our greatness...the kind of people that De Tocqueville wrote about two hundred years ago..."these Americans who wear ambition on their sleeves but covet no man's wealth and success...a people as friendly as man can know...as reflective of the value of personal liberty as any man could hope for".
I'm worried about our beautiful country...so long blessed by God. I fear the miracles will disappear, fading over the horizon like a lost sun. But, if anything, I love her even more....just as a sick child garners the most most worry from a loving parent.
America had me at 7 years old, and she has me now...and she can still make me cry.