Opinion: Can we inspire patriotism? Being an American is something we need to learn and understand

Ten years ago I got a crazy idea. It all began when I read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s amazing poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” You probably know the first lines: “Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” I’d never read much past that, but when I did I was stunned: the poem was incredibly beautiful and inspiring. How had I missed it all these years? It was also very long! But it was so fantastic that I couldn’t help wondering if my daughter and I might try to memorize it together. Generations of Americans had memorized it. That used to be one of the ways we passed on our cultural history and celebrated what we all had in common as Americans. So my daughter and I decided to give it a shot. And amazingly we succeeded! Because she was seven, my daughter got it memorized before I did. And because I was not seven I got choked up at many of the patriotic lines, which were deeply moving. One thing the poem did was make me realize how much I had failed to appreciate the magnificent nation in which I was privileged to be born and grow up. Its lines reminded me of the huge sacrifices so many made so that we could have the freedoms we have today — freedoms many of us probably take for granted. I realized that my entire generation had missed out on what previous generations had not: celebrating the greatness of our nation and its heroes. The more I thought about it the more I realized it was a tremendous mistake, one that we are now paying for in many ways as our culture and nation become increasingly divided. Being an American is something we need to learn and understand. We are not an ethnic or religious group. America is the only nation in the world based on an idea — freedom and self-government — so if we don’t understand that idea and what sacrifices were made to win that freedom and keep it for over two centuries, how can we possibly continue to keep it? How can we call ourselves Americans? So it’s a sad fact that since roughly the Sixties most of our schools have failed to teach us about who we are and why we should celebrate it. Often we have only focused on what we’ve done wrong as a nation. Of course we should face our sins and our mistakes. But if we get stuck there, and don’t focus on where we’ve come from and how we’ve overcome those sins and mistakes, we are truly to be pitied. Every country has things to be proud of and to celebrate. There’s a Greek proverb that says: “If you don’t boast about your home, it will fall down and crush you.” I came to the conclusion that it’s vital that we teach our kids about our past — and especially about the heroes of our past. So I actually wrote a whole book on this subject, titled “If You Can Keep It: the Forgotten Promise of American Liberty”. As you might expect, I devote nearly a whole chapter to talking about “Paul Revere’s Ride.” And everywhere I go I talk about what’s in the book, and about my hopes of inspiring a new generation to love this great country.

And how great is that?!?  To read the rest of this inspiring op/ed by Eric Metaxas, click on the text above.   Excellent!!   🙂

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