For all of my professional career, I have labored in the world of American politics and history. For better or worse, that means that on a daily basis I am thinking about our republic and the promise of our democracy, its pledge of liberty, and the history that got us here. More so than most people, I am aware of the failings in our history as a nation; I teach them to my students. At the same time, I am aware of the promise in our past I teach that as well. I’ve always chosen to believe that the promise will prevail. So great is my faith that I named my son after one of our founders, a decision I have never regretted.
I’m not going to say that Donald Trump has shaken my faith in the promise of American liberty; that would be giving one mean-spirited man too much power in my world. But I find he and his supporters profoundly disappointing. They wave the flag in one fist, shake the other in fury, and spout invective and ignorance in equal measure. It’s not hard to disagree with a political opponent who lacks command or understanding of the basic facts. But it is hard to respect them. They aren’t my America.
My friends and I joke about moving to Canada in the event that November brings an unthinkable outcome. But we’re not cowards and this is our nation as well. It’s our responsibility to remind one another of the nobler purposes in our shared past. On the 4th of July, that reminder is timely.
My America is the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and a pledge to demand a fair share of independence and equality for women. It’s the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s “unfinished work.” My nation is the golden lamp held high for the “tired, huddled masses yearning to be free.” It’s Franklin Roosevelt’s four freedoms. My nation is the land of Martin Luther King’s dream, and the expectation that we will all work toward that progress. My America is the world’s refuge for freedom.
Fellow citizens, let's not forget that it is these promises that give meaning to the United States. They belong to us all and it is in them that the path to greatness is paved.