As we begin the new year ahead of us, I can only hope that we will see our way clear in the upcoming year to make some fundamental changes as we move forward. We owe it to ourselves and to those who have given us so much through their dedication and sacrifices over the many years since the inception of this wonderful nation.
First of all, and probably most important in life, is how we treat each other. These last 12 years, we have seen an erosion in that area. Politics in this nation have become a blood sport on both sides of the aisle. We have to remember that we are Americans first and foremost. The political party you may belong to is less important than the nation we are all a part of. Now if you don’t find that to be true, I’m sorry, and maybe that is the root cause of some of our problems.
We elect those to serve the common good of all, to make decisions that will benefit our citizens and not selected special interest groups. We do so to ensure everyone is allowed to compete on a level playing field, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity and religion. No, I’m not so foolish as to believe that on occasion this may not be true. Adjustments to past decisions need to occur and old habits need to be changed, for we learn from our mistakes and our failure to learn from them would be tragic.
I used the word “sacrifice” in my first paragraph. I think about that word often today for I believe we have become a strong nation of values and integrity because of sacrifices made by those that have come before us. To be fair, I think the last generation to understand the raw meaning of sacrifice was probably my parents’ generation.
The term, “Greatest Generation,” fit them well. For it was through their sacrifices that we emerged from the dark days of the 30’s and 40’s to become a beacon of hope and opportunity for the rest of the world to look up to. Of course, it’s my hope that we haven’t squandered that gift they provided to all of us living today.
Sacrifice shouldn’t mean you didn’t get to buy the bigger car with fancy wheels or the newest I-Phone coming out next week. For me, it means you put aside your wants to meet the greater needs of others. My parents’ generation did that and I can’t recall a time when we have been asked as of late to do that. The latest issues concerning the COVID-19 outbreak may not have been our finest hour.
My comments are not meant to overlook the sacrifices made by our young men and women in the service to our nation and the sacrifices made by their families. Neither am I seeking to downplay the sacrifices by healthcare workers and first responders. I’m speaking instead to sacrifices as a society and the sense of self-reliance that seems to be continually under attack.
We have become a society of “entitlements,” believing we are entitled to so much more because of our wants, versus our needs. No one owes us a thing, but many have been brought up to think otherwise. We have placed a high burden on society and government to “provide” for so many that it is serving to cripple the responsibility of individuals to fend for themselves.
Some even fear that the notion of “reaping the rewards of one’s own work” should not be expected any longer. Instead, we seem to be tilting towards the idea that if we don’t do it for ourselves that someone else will. This will have a crippling effect on us as a people.
American Exceptionalism is not something that should die on our watch. Instead, we must, as a society, encourage and nurture it. We must inspire and embolden the future generations of this great nation to raise the bar on what they seek to accomplish – not lower it.
There is no trophy or award given for just showing up in real life. What then would serve to encourage the desire for wanting to be the best, while meeting higher standards that will continue to ensure our leadership role in the world today.
Furthermore, we must continue to strive to ensure that we don’t minimize the ideals of integrity and ethical behavior throughout our lives, and demand it from all segments within our society. We should accept no less from our leaders than we do from ourselves, and there must be a cost to those that break that sacred trust we have placed on loan to them.
These are the challenges we face in the future which will determine whether we maintain our role as an exceptional society and nation, living up to our Founders’ expectations. This can only be accomplished through self-reliance, hard work and sacrifice, and can never be taken for granted.