Recently I have been challenged with controversies and contentions about my country. Because we call this place, the United States of America, the greatest country in the world. Yet this phrase wrenches my heart and creates discord and strife in my soul of the highest order; left and right I see a dangerous dissension, a catastrophic clash between left and right, and different races and the interests of the fabulously wealthy and the big money of multinational corporations and everyone else. Where we have become disinterested in holding the men who answer to we, the people, accountable and disillusioned with the process by which we stand here today. Where those at the very top have more than any one man or even any more than any hundred men or any thousand or thousands of men could ever need and yet they ask for more. And where we sweep this nation’s ugly past, a past that includes violation of human rights, of genocide and of slavery, of de facto and de jure segregation under the rug. And worse yet that while it persists we have instituted a gag rule that we must not talk about “solved” issues of race in modern America.
But while all this persists I persist as well, I persist that despite our woes this is indeed the greatest nation on Earth. Sadly this is not just a matter of how much I love these United States. I cannot simply affirm my affection and then walk away, it is because of my devotion, my zeal, my passion for these great states that I relish the task of pointing out its imperfections. This nation was not built on idiotic ignorance, nor did it ever encourage entitlement and never was it satisfied with the status quo.
This nation was founded on a challenge, the challenge to create a nation where all men could live free and equal. A land that people sought as refuge from religious persecution. And from the very beginning we encountered an embittered conflict, whether or not black men would be free. As if they were not already born free! Whether or not we would accept the native tribes of the land as our own. As if they were not already bound to this land as we have become! And when black men were freed whether or not they should be allowed to vote. As if they had not already proved that they were more worthy of these freedoms than we were! Whether or not women were equal to men. As if they had not been here along with every man proving their worth! Whether or not Latino immigrants had our same rights as men freely born here to live, provide for their families and hope for a better future for their children as we always have. As if they did not share our same dreams! Whether or not the Asian immigrants who came here were to be treated as our peers and equals or as suspicious strangers, and if we would call them Americans or Orientals. As if they were below us! Whether or not those of middle eastern and Arabic heritage could be trusted as true red white and blue Americans. As if they did not mourn when we mourned and celebrated when we celebrated! We’ve always faced these challenges and it’s likely that we will forevermore. What we must ask ourselves is if we are up to a 200 year old challenge. The challenge that is in itself our very roots, and defines who we are as a people.
The challenge to create a nation, a community, a fellowship of humanity, free and equal.
We can turn away from our ignorance, our laziness, our prejudices and remold the mettle of America with the values that our fathers loved. We can find a common ground, a meeting point on the values that my immigrant parents instilled in me as American values; the values of dedication, passion, truth, freedom, justice and equality. These are the values of the Song family, of your family, of your father’s family and his father’s family, of the family of every American. We can look beyond how we look, how we talk, how we think and find what makes us more than a bunch of separate peoples, into one people, into the American people. And the endless potential for this is what makes this the greatest nation on Earth. That we are still here facing this fight, the world over said that it could not be done and we are still here as the true testament that it can be done, it is being done.
What new frontiers will our time hold for us? A cure for cancer? The end of poverty, homelessness and starvation? The end of prejudice and by extension wars? To go boldly go beyond the moon, beyond our solar system, beyond the known reaches of the universe? What will we do in our time and how will we leave this earth for, as the founders called them, our posterity. We can do it in our time and brick by brick restore the grand old house that we call our United States, when we are united as one nation, one people, the people of the United States of America, that we can do it all for this nation that we love.