“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear” ... and her songs intoxicate me too, O Whitman, because she sings of her accomplishments, and she is sometimes intemperate with accomplishment.
And she sings of her accomplishments with a voice majestic and proud, yet not domineering or critical, a voice saturated with the wisdom and experience of her years and her people.
And the voice of her people breathes forth the warmth of their love, that “robust American love” which is warmed in their own homes, by their own firesides, among their own families.
And I see their love manifested in the ways they C.A.R.E. for those less fortunate in countries across the oceans, their brothers in those same countries from which they, or their parents, or their grandparents before that came.
And this is how they show their gratitude for the fine land in which they live, by sending its fruits back to their fatherlands, sending them with the same enthusiastic spirit in which we, with that little undertone of boast, tell the folks just how enraptured we were, when for the first time we actually saw “Miss Liberty” welcoming the homeless and tempest-tost who are yearning to breathe free, or see Mr. President at work, working for us that we may work for America.
And we work for America in our mills making steel to build into strong structures, and in our schools molding future citizens to build a strong nation even stronger.
And our nation is strong because we, her people, are strong, strong in our convictions of the dignity of man, because we are allowed to have convictions, decide for ourselves, reason as human beings are created by God to do; and then, having reached our decisions, put them into practice.
And the greatest practice of our convictions takes place in a small booth, a booth in which is waged the “swordless conflict” of the parties, a conflict which is not and cannot be a losing battle for either side because neither of the opponents is an aggressor, a conflict which results in victory for both contestants because, win or lose, they both continue to do their part to serve their country.
And they serve their country according to the principles which are the foundation of her Constitution, the unchanging principles of morality inherent in man which governed him from the beginning of his existence.
And because she acknowledges these principles, America is respected and honored and revered by her people and by all the people who know her, and knowing her, love her.
And these are indeed your songs, O America, the songs you yourself have composed. And I have said of them what I can, but I cannot fully express “America” because I also am too weak for God’s epic freedoms — the freedoms of America.
The above essay was written during my senior year at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and won second place in the Catholic War Veterans’ contest, “Why I Am Proud to Be an American.” It is reprinted from the Pius XI Journal, February 27, 1956.
© Copyright 2006 by Jim Stoffels