When a person invites Christ to come into his or her life, everything changes. From that point forward, the convert has a new identity. In a similar way, the same is true with our identity as Americans. Without having an accurate understanding of who we are, we are like a ship with a faulty rudder—tossed about by slogans, which make it easy for us to be mislead.
That’s why our founding documents are so important. When you read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, you develop a sense of purpose that is similar to what the Founding Fathers must have felt. They understood they were paving the way for the generations that followed.
If you read the Gettysburg Address, you will feel Lincoln’s passion surging through your veins as he maintained his steadfast commitment to preserve our union. The same is true about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” which he gave shortly before his assassination. If you experience Dr. King’s Christian faith, your heart will stir as you picture his vision of a color free society where every man and woman are free and equal.
America has been blessed with many far-sighted, noble leaders, men and women who have been willing to commit their lives, their wealth, and their sacred honor to ensure that the freedoms we take for granted would remain intact.
As for me, each time I read the inspiring documents of our American heritage, I understand our traditions a little better—a little more fully. We have a powerful birthright—an inheritance of freedom unequaled in world history. Truly, no nation has been blessed more than the United States of America. To preserve our freedoms, millions have fought for America—black, white, Asian, and Latino, many sacrificing their lives to ensure that we would remain free.
In the twenty-first century, our republic faces many challenges from without as well as from within. The question is this: will we maintain our commitment to preserve our heritage, or will we be the generation that allows the American dream to become unrecognizable and slip away?
As I see it, the stakes are high—with the outcome in doubt. Millions have little knowledge of our heritage, of what our traditions really are, or of what constitutes true American values. They simply float through life with little awareness of what has been required from others to make their lives carefree and easy. Voting for whoever will “guarantee” them prosperity, far too many Americans lack the background to make discerning choices—choices that are informed and wise. Adopting the attitude of “What’s in it for me,” they forget President Kennedy’s admonition to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
This is why I have written We Believe: 30 Days to Understanding Our Heritage with my good friend David Dunham. It’s our hope that millions will read about our hallowed traditions and embrace our great ancestor’s belief system as their own.
It’s also why we have focused on the original documents, allowing people to read them with little narrative. We are convinced the words of our forefathers speak for themselves, and these great documents have maintained their inspiring power over the centuries. Those who read them will be strengthened with resolve—just like those who read them when they were originally penned.
Thomas Jefferson understood the importance of having a firm foundation when he wrote:
Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government…. Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to right.
Jefferson believed that if people understood the issues, they would take the right course of action more often than not. This is our belief as well, and it’s why understanding our birthright is so important.
This is a time of great consequence in American history. We stand at the crossroads with millions willing to desert our American heritage to pursue an alternative direction. Not knowing our birthright or understanding it, they have willingly abandoned our heritage. For those of us who understand the consequences of such a departure, we feel the need to stand firmly for the American way of life—just as our fathers have done before us.
Will you stand with us—strong and unafraid? Can America count on you to do what is right, regardless of whether it benefits you or not? Will you put your nation first, before your own interests—just as millions have done for more than two centuries?
George Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher, essayist and poet, once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Will this be true of us? Will we wander so far from our heritage that America will no longer be the land of the free and the home of the brave? Will this be our destiny, or will we once again rouse ourselves from our lethargy, shake the sleep from our eyes, and vigilantly stand for the great tradition we have inherited? Will the generations that follow look to us as an example of strength and resolve, or will they point to us as a generation of weaklings that allowed it all to slip away?
Where you stand and what you do in the years to come will answer that question. Your actions—or your inactions—will determine the outcome. The choice is yours. What will you do?
As for me, I know what I will do. I choose to stand firmly, supporting the great tradition that has preceded us—no matter what.
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