Thursday, July 3, 2014

Is America Proud of Me?

If you want to know if someone will stay at a company and be a high-value contributor, you only need look at a few indicators. First, are they connected? Have they developed personal friendships and is there a feeling of trust for the leaders? Second, do they feel productive? Can they tell you exactly how their contribution matters to successful results? Finally have they tapped into some passion around what they do? Does the work make them happy and proud?

As we edge up to the 4th of July, these questions make me think. The same things I need as an employee can also be applied to the way I feel as a citizen in my country. Though, I am not likely to go looking for another place to plant my flag…I’m not so sure I am always satisfied. I often find myself asking, “Am I really proud of America?

Why? Truth be told, I don’t feel connected. Most of the time, I don’t trust my leaders. My voice is easily lost in a tumultuous sea of politics and partisanship and though I have deep family ties and friendships, I find that we don’t often talk about our country. We don’t talk about what we can do to make it better. We don’t speak of the reasons we love it. If any conversation is broached, it quickly boils into "what I believe" versus what "you believe." Why this or that President is to blame or that group of people. Next is evitable, “Who did you vote for?” a passive, aggressive way to say “So, the blame is really on you.” Never mind that the person casting stones, may not have voted at all.

As you can imagine, these conversations never result in a positive outcome. Thus, talk of politics and in turn, talk of America has been deemed “off limits” in my tightest circles. Without this chance at soulful exploration, I am left to wonder. Does my citizenship even matter?

Tomorrow is the 4th of July and as I think about this land that I love, I find myself yearning to be more connected, more passionate, more of a contributor. No, I still don’t want to talk about politics. I don’t need more evidence of how we disagree. I DO want more conversation about what makes us great. I want to find a universal cause to fight for, a United bond that inspires action and ultimately results in allegiance to our country and each other.

As I remember the passion of men and women who stood up and fell down for the dream of freedom, I can’t help but wonder. What would they think of the battles we are fighting now? I have a feeling they might tell us to spend less time arguing about what our freedom can get us and more time realizing and acting like, we are a nation that is free.

Freedom is not a permit to do whatever I want at any expense. My freedom does not trump yours. It does not make me right and you wrong. I love these words by Harry Emerson Fosdick:

He is a poor patriot whose patriotism does not enable him to understand how all men everywhere feel about their altars and their hearthstones, their flag and their fatherland.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a privilege earned on the backs of great men who had a vision. These men believed that a people who were not constrained could create the greatest country on earth.

This 4th of July, I’m asking myself, “How will I be more connected? How will I contribute? How will I show my passion for my flag and fatherland?

Fighting for our freedom or the freedom of others is not all that is required of us now. Preservation of freedom is an important obligation and I am forever grateful for the men and women who fight and even die to keep me free. However, it is not enough to admire or even appreciate someone else’s sacrifice. We must be willing to contribute our own.

War and courage manifest themselves in many forms. I believe that more Americans (me and you) need to rise to the vision of our Founding Fathers; not with political agendas. But, with pride for who we are and what we stand for. More of us need to stop complaining or even worse, stop being complacent. We need to stand and be counted, in courageous deeds and thoughtful voice.

We are America.

The dream that came to reality so many years ago was not for a piece of land with a new name. The dream was for a people. It was for us. This dream rose from the humble belief that liberty and freedom would not make us uncivilized. Instead, it would make us remarkable.

Abraham Lincoln once said,

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.

So, tonight as I watch our star spangled banner dancing in the wind, I am inspired to turn the tables. Is America proud of me?

Happy 4th of July!