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There’s only one USA

US Capitol Building

And we are so lucky to have it.  I have seen that revealed in many ways.  The freedom, the liberty, the knowing without consciously knowing as a child and as a teenager that this was a pretty special place.  But I took it all for granted.  Why not?  I didn’t have to earn it.  It was just given to me.  Thousands and thousands of other people before me built it one hard grudging step at a time.  Many of them died to build it, many lived with wounds that never healed, not just the physical ones but the ones you can’t see.  Many others struggled to build the standard of living I enjoyed, the medical miracles I’ve known.  There were the scientists and the teachers who took the knowledge carved out before them, grew it and passed it on to grow some more.  There were the parents who raised their kids to continue contributing to America’s greatness.  There were the entrepreneurs and the laborers whose work and capital gave her the brick and the mortar of the free enterprise system that holds her economy together and there were the immigrants from which we all come.  It goes on and on, this list of the people who came before me and when they left, handed me this beautiful place called America.  And it’s not just her physical beauty, oh yes she has that, but its underneath her looks, it’s inside her, it’s the people who move through her, never quitting, always trying always loving her, and being as friendly and open to others as the people of any nation have ever been.  It was when the army sent me to Germany during the last months of the Korean war that I finally got all that.  I saw what I had back home and what the still staggering Germans had in their home.  I’ve never forgotten that Epiphany.

Europe has long since recovered from those broken days.  But what makes America so exceptional still shines brightly.  I saw it revealed again in the eyes and words of a Belgium friend when he visited me not long ago on his first trip to America.  In California  my family and I took him to the beaches of Santa Barbara that he thought were Cannes plus.  We went to the desert of the Palm Springs area.  He’d never seen a desert.  It was at Lake Arrowhead while standing and looking at the grandeur of that mountain scene that he turned to me and said.  “Why do the Americans come to Europe?”  But he was only seeing the outside of America, wonderful as it is.  In New York, standing with him on the corner in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral he got a telling glimpse of the inside of this great country.  It was a little thing that spoke loudly to him.  A cab driver almost hit me turning the corner and I laughed and made some silly remark about it to him.  We waved happily to each other.  A woman standing next to me saw what happened and smiled at me with a few kind and light-hearted words.  My friend’s eyes popped and his jaw dropped as he said in disbelief, “That would never happen in Europe.  You Americans talk to strangers so easily.”  That’s because we aren’t strangers, we’re Americans.  My Belgian friend had seen both the outside beauty and the inside beauty that is really what makes America such a special place!  Let’s keep it going.  The world can’t afford to be without it.  Neither can we!

 

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