The United States of America is the greatest country on Earth. I have visited over twenty countries across four continents and not one of them offers as much liberty, prosperity, and opportunity as America. I’m not saying it’s perfect. This country has made plenty of mistakes and will continue to do so. But I don’t believe that makes it any less great or that we should erase its history. This 4th of July, during tumultuous times when people are losing patriotism and faith in America, it is doubly important to remember the core of what America stands for, what it has always stood for, and why, despite our shortcomings, I am proud to be an American.
There are so many beautiful, noble things that make America great, but I hope, through these little stories, to share a glimpse with you of why I love my country.
And, if you make it to the end, I have a little surprise for you. 😉
My house’s flag
Airports are fascinating places. They are often the first place – and the immigration officers are often the first people – to welcome foreigners (and citizens) into a country. I have noticed striking contrasts between the immigration officers of each country I’ve been to, differences that highlight their respective cultures.
Vietnam. An officer with a stern face that couldn’t be flatter in 2 dimensions. I slide him my passport. He flips it open. Glances at me. Scans it. Stamps it. Slides the passport back. I thank him in Vietnamese and if I’m lucky, he gives a curt nod.
Russia. An officer with a stern, similarly flat face. I slide my passport. She flips it open. Glances at me. Scans it. Stamps it. Slides the the passport back. I thank her in Russian. The flat face blossoms into a surprised and pleased beam. She says your welcome and wishes me a nice day.
China. An officer with stern, flat face. I slide my passport. She flips it open. Glances at me. Scans it. Stamps it. Slides the passport back. I thank her in Chinese and she ignores me.
Germany. Panama. Croatia. Egypt. Greece. All the same.
America. An officer gives me a huge smile and says hello as I slide my passport. He flips it open, glances at me and jokes about how he can’t recognize me because I’m wearing glasses. He scans it, stamps it, and cheerfully comments, “Do you have any idea how many times I’ve done this?” Then he slides it back. I thank him, and he grins.
Every single time I come home, the officer is friendly, kind, and cheerful. We Americans are blessed with peace and prosperity and hope, and our optimistic attitudes reflect this. It always warms my heart.
Mount Rushmore, USA
When my family and I returned to the States after living overseas for a few months, one of the things which struck me was the vast amounts of choices at the grocery store. Everything from apples to milk to chip flavors to soaps had about two dozen different options. Before, I’d taken the choices for granted, but upon my return, it was overwhelming.
But abroad, there is often only one option. If you’re lucky, two or three. Of course, different countries specialize in different products (for example, there was an abundance of cosmetics and wine in France), but in general, I saw none of the widespread prosperity here in America.
It really is the land of milk and honey.
Niagra Falls, USA
I waited in an immensely long immigration line with my family, my eyelids heavy with fatigue and overall jet lag. I’d woken up at 4:30 am and flown for over twenty hours across the Pacific Ocean. Now, I was standing in the San Francisco airport. Barely standing. The line looped back and forth, several times, so long I knew we would miss our next flight. I dreaded the thought that we would have to sit in the airport for several more hours.
Inching forward slowly, we eventually neared the front of the crowded line. It broke off into three lines for separate immigration officers. I headed over to one line with my family, but a woman behind us hurried ahead and planted herself in front of us. We exchanged glances but didn’t say anything.
Then I heard protesting behind us. A Japanese man had ducked underneath the line divider rope while he still had a whole length of line to go. An American guy called him out, told him he was cutting and it wasn’t fair for everyone else who had waited their turn. They argued back and forth until eventually the Japanese man protested that the woman had done the same thing.
The American then said words that made me swell with pride for my country, words I will never forget. “Just because someone else does something wrong doesn’t mean you should do it too.”
This, more than any other reason, is what America stands for. Yes, we are the land of liberty. But contrary to common belief, freedom is not the chance to do whatever you want. Freedom gives you the opportunity to do what is right.
Nations have been rising and falling for all of history. What makes the birth of America anything special? Because it was founded on new principles: equality, inalienable rights, and self-government. We have a unique opportunity to really help humanity because we are blessed to live in a nation which guarantees us freedom – the chance to do what is right.
I do not say we are the greatest country on Earth out of an arrogant assumption that we are better than everyone else, that Americans have a higher concentration of character than any other people. In fact, I believe human nature is the same everywhere, that there are noble people and selfish people everywhere. But in the words of one of my favorite presidents, President Calvin Coolidge:
We can only make America first in the true sense which that means by cultivating a spirit of friendship and good will, by the exercise of the virtues of patience and forbearance, by being “plenteous in mercy”, and through progress at home and helpfulness abroad standing as an example of real service to humanity.“Toleration and Liberalism” 1925
Colorado Mountains, USA
And now for the surprise…
My brother Micah and I put together a little gift for you in celebration of America’s birthday. 🙂