I’m still proud to be an American.
My fellow Americans…
I am proud to be one of you. I am proud to stand beside you and to walk with you. I am proud to work alongside you, to enjoy the outdoors with you, to laugh with you, and to cry with you. I am proud of the progress we have made, the country in which we now live, and the future we are forging together because united we stand and divided we fall. I am proud of all these things because we have done all of these things together. Whether we are male or female, black or white, rich or poor, there has always been a common thread binding us together, that enables us to live as a diverse but unified nation. This thread is one of freedom, of democracy, and of hope. It represents the best we have to offer. It represents a group of people who have always known and have always shared a mutual understanding of the simple truth that the differences that lie between us are fewer than the commonalities that bring us together.
We love our families. We love our friends. We love to watch sports and eat food with those whom we love on days set aside for us specifically for us to remember them. We love beauty, whether it be found in an art piece, a music composition, a balanced equation, or the launch of a rocket. We love that, more often than not, when given a choice to do the right thing or the wrong thing, we can trust our fellow Americans to make the choice to do the right thing. We hold the door open for people. We sacrifice our time and money in order to help others who have fallen on hard times. We volunteer in soup kitchens, food banks, homeless shelters — not because we are looking for the honor and the glory but because it’s the right thing to do.
America has been called a “shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” It has been “the melting pot” and has stood the test of whether a Constitution abiding, republican democracy would be able to last in a world of dictators. Not only has it stood, but it has thrived. It has grown into a country with not only the most powerful military, but also the most powerful economy. It has produced not only some of the world’s greatest scientists but also some of the greatest musical artists the world has ever seen. We sent a man to the moon. We invented jazz. We have won more medals in the Olympics than any other country. We have done all these things, not because of the things that divide us but because we share the common desire to work hard, to set high goals, and to go above and beyond them.
I am proud to be an American.
But, I am also sad to be an American.
For all these things we have done, for all the people and advances we have produced, for all the good we have done in this world… there remains more to be done, and I’m not sure we are currently a nation ready to lead the world in this 21st century.
Jimmy Carter once spoke on the crisis of confidence. Entering July 15, 1979, this country had been through 15 years of assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, and a rapidly declining economy. Carter himself was seen as a weak leader and had an approval rating even lower than Nixon during the midst of the Watergate scandal. And while he never proved to be the savior of the country, for one night, you could have considered him to be the prophet. He spoke of how solving the energy crisis in this country could also help to conquer the crisis of the spirit in this country. His words included, “For the first time in this nation’s history, we do not believe that the days of our children will be better than our own.”
Millions of people tuned in that night to hear from their leader. As maligned a President he may have been, it is a testament to the system that he was still being looked towards for direction and guidance. And it is my hope that the same hope they had then is the same hope we can find for ourselves today. Our system is corrupt and our politicians are making lucrative careers out of civil service, but at the same time, I do have hope in the person standing next to me on the subway. I believe in the person who stocks the shelves of my grocery store and I am grateful for the mechanic who takes care of my car. These people and I, we are America. We are the core of this country. While our leaders may be self-indulgent and self-seeking to the point where they forget about the people they represent, we can make a conscious choice to remain together and to stand with each other, to mourn with each other, to laugh with each other, and to believe in one another.
While the core of a nation remains together, we cannot fall.
That sounds cheesy and it sounds cliche. It sounds unbelievably optimistic and more idealistic than what one should dare to hope, but isn’t the same people who taught the world that the American Dream can really happen? That being a person means your identity is more than what you own or what race you happen to be, but it’s about who you are as a person? If anyone can begin to bridge the gaps formed by politicians dividing us, it’s the United States of America.
It won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But the step to change, to healing, and to restoration for the current gaps in our country begin with a simple one. It is the choice to look beyond yourself for a moment, a day, a week, whatever the next step is for you, and ask yourself, as Americans have asked many times before: “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In this case, your country being so much more than the federal, state, or even local government, but being the neighbor who you have noticed is having a hard time, the waitress working 7 nights a week so she can pay her way through college, or the business man who gets laid off and has no way of knowing how he will provide for his family. America is so much more than a few people sitting in offices in Washington D.C., and while we should be involved, as citizens, in the leading of our country; we also share a responsibility to our country members who live on our block and in our towns.
I have said a few times now during this latest campaign season that the true problem lies not with Hilary or with Trump, but that it lies with us. We have, in many ways, taken the crisis of confidence and allowed it to cultivate into a culture of fear and selfishness. We have allowed our fear of the future to come into our lives in a way that has resulted in a political landscape dominated by fear and a lack in remembering the threads that bound us together. We have chosen to preserve ourselves and to protect what is ours over the preservation of the bonds that united us and the courage that defined us.
Simply put, we have forgotten to treat people like people.
Tonight, we heard the lament of a President for his people. People whom he cares deeply about and has done all he could for his entire life to lead them in the best way he could. While no one will ever agree with every issue, decision, and platform of anyone, I have come to believe in him and trust him. I knew he would represent the US with class and with dignity. He would respect other people and love any kid in his presence, regardless of their background or the current situation. Tonight, we heard him plead with his people, his countrymen, his brothers and sisters, to come together once again and to stand with him in the days to come. He was calling out to us as a country once again and pleading with us to remember the foundation upon which we are all standing.
President Obama, I am listening and I want to help. I want to fight this culture of fear and self-preservation by reaching across the schisms in this society and treating people like people. I want to listen to their stories and I want to share my own. I want to put faces to problems and I want to hear others’ solutions to problems. I want to discuss things in a professional and respectful manner with people who share a common hope for reaching the optimal decision for all people. I want to forget the pain of being ripped apart as a nation for the past few months and I want to restore the bridges which were torn down. I want to perform my civic duty of not just voting but of being actively involved everyday in answering the call of duty of my country.
I said halfway through this that I was not sure whether we are the same nation we have been and whether we can the nation that will lead the world in this new century. And I’m still not sure. But I do have faith. Faith that tells me that the heart of this country is still there. That whether that heart is found in people farming corn in Iowa, researching in Cambridge, or playing music in the heart of New Orleans, it remains a good heart. A heart that beats steady and true with a rhythm and a pulse not dictated by any external matters but by the very belief in the core of this nation.
You once said that there are no red states or blue states, but only the United States of America. While this past election has done its best to stifle it, I do believe this statement remains true. At our core, and in our heart, we continue to have faith, even through the fear, in the American Dream: that there are certain unalienable rights and we all have claim to them — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So, in the midst of the turmoil and the strife, in the midst of this present crisis of confidence, in the midst of a corrupt democracy, in the midst of all this hate, and in the midst of the fear and self-preservation, I am choosing now to have faith. In the midst of the uncertainty and the anxieties regarding the future and in the midst of days where I wonder whether there really is any good left worth fighting for, I will continue to have faith.
I will have faith that, given the opportunity, the same heart that led us to found this nation built on freedom, fight civil rights movements built on equality, and create this shining city on a hill built on hope, will continue to beat at the core of every American, and we will find ourselves again. We will remember that before all of these things which now divide us, we were once one, and we will choose to be so again.