by Anita DiGregory
The Importance of Patriotism
I have vivid childhood memories of proudly standing with my class each morning and reciting The Pledge of Allegiance. It was part of my elementary school’s morning ritual. Back then, there was no controversy surrounding it; no one questioned it. We all stood proudly and respectfully, placed our hand over our heart, and promised: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which is stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I may have been a child, but I believed in and whole-heartedly supported every word. I still do. I believe in our country, I believe in our “one nation under God,” and I believe in liberty and justice for all. This heartfelt belief is patriotism.
Fast forward many, many moons to today and my children stand each morning and recite the same pledge. I hope that these words are as important and meaningful to them.
Over the years, the words have not changed. The meaning has not changed. But somewhere along the line, for some, the interpretation has seemed to change.
In fact, even the term patriotism has earned a negative connotation. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patriotism as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” Patriotism is not racism, hatred, or blind love. Wordnik further defines patriotism as “Love of one’s country; the passion which moves a person to serve his country, either in defending it from invasion or in protecting its rights and maintaining its laws and institutions.”
This country from its very inception has brought together people of different nations, cultures, and beliefs. America is not perfect; it is as imperfect as those who make up this country. Seeing as we are all imperfect, it is only logical that no place this side of Heaven will be truly perfect. But throughout time, we have seen heroes who go above and beyond, inspire change, and make a difference.
William Bennett wrote, “When I was a boy, adults I knew went to the trouble of helping me find a few heroes. At first, the ones I admired most were not people I knew personally, but figures who nonetheless possessed qualities of human excellence worth striving for: baseball and football players who persevered on and off the field, famous explorers from the pages of history who dared to face the unknown, cowboys from Hollywood Westerns who rode hard and stood up for what deserved to be loved and protected. As I grew older, I learned that heroes could be found closer to home, too – neighbors, friends, and members of my own family. In all of them there was a certain nobility, a largeness of soul, a hitching up of one’s own purposes to higher purposes – to something that demanded endurance or sacrifice or courage or compassion.”
America has experienced much in its relatively young life: celebration, sadness, success, sorrow, victory, anguish, achievement, and rebirth. We need to unite to celebrate our country, independence and freedom, sacrifice and service, equality and diversity, family and friends: patriotism, and we need to share this with our children.
There are many ways we can help instill a love of heroes and of our country in our children. Children learn more from what they see and experience than what they are told. Modeling patriotism helps our children to take pride in their country. Not only voting, but educating our children about the absolute privilege of living in a country where we can vote is also important. In addition, we can lead by example by getting involved in our community. Hanging the flag outside our home, teaching our children about American symbols and how to honor them, visiting historic sites, and reading to them about our country, its history, and its heroes is also helpful.
Remembering our veterans is also vitally important. We can take the opportunity to talk to our children about those who have served and continue to serve our country. We can visit a veteran. This Veterans Day, we can even have our children write a thank you letter or make a card or gift and help them deliver it to a relative or neighbor who has served our country. We can visit a memorial or even take a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, as parents, we can visit our church and light a candle or say a prayer for our country and those who have sacrificed for freedom.
Our children are the future. Teaching our children about America, its history (the good and the bad), its leaders and heroes, and instilling in them a love for our country is of vital importance. It helps them to appreciate the sacrifices made, inspires them to uphold the ideals of faith, justice, equality, and freedom, helps them not to repeat the same mistakes of history, and motivates them to become contributing citizens.
Last month, I had the absolute honor of attending two local events: The 38th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service and The Annual Pilgrimage for the Sea Services. As I listened to the stories, observed the men, women, and children in attendance, and took part in these celebrations of faith, courage, honor, love, and hope, I had a flashback of that little girl reciting the pledge, and I wished that everyone had the opportunity to experience tributes such as these.