Every American grows up with the prospect of being something different. The idea that we can be our own person and that this unique person will be accepted by those that love us and those that come to know us is a fairly simple idea. Yet too many are not given the same opportunities to grow up and be these unique people. Far too many are held down by weights that they themselves have not brought upon themselves. These Americans are held down by situations, circumstances, and in many cases simple demographics that are beyond their control yet they are punished for it. They are punished for it by being given a lesser education than those who had the good fortune to be born into privilege instead of poverty. Why should those who have the least be expected to carry the highest burden?
When we’re little we’re often encouraged to pretend to be things and encouraged to pretend to do things, we’re encouraged to dream because without dreams there is nothing to aspire to. This is what youth is for, youth is not to be wasted but to be used so that we may understand things a little differently when we’re older. We are told that when we strive to be different that we are being selfish yet at the same time when we seek to conform we are called communists or socialists, members of a commune or subscribers to a foreign doctrine that is somehow different than our own. When we strive to be one thing we are called another and we strive to be the other we are called something else. America cannot win in these circumstances. We cannot pull each other up if we are constantly beating each other down. When one is chastised for being different we are all being chastised indirectly. That person is being told what is or is not acceptable by someone else and we live in a society where we put up with this kind of behavior far too often. We should not seek to judge others, but rather we should seek to understand others. We should not seek to alienate a fellow citizen who could become a friend simply because he or she chooses to be different. Likewise we should not seek to push down those who are just trying to get by. We should not seek to tear each other down because when we tear one person down we tear a piece of ourselves down with them. We are better people than we pretend to be and we don’t need to pretend anymore.
Let there be no doubt that there will always be those who try to beat us down, but we are not a people that is measured by how often we are oppressed, but by how often we overcome oppression. We are not defined by the labels that are used for the purpose of beating us down, rather we are defined by those who lend us a helping hand and remind us to get back up. I’m reminded constantly that fundamentally people are good and that the world is full of promise and full of hope, but promise, hope and good intentions are not what define us as a people. We are defined not by achieving greatness, but by attempting greatness. We are a people whose cause is righteous and hopes are grand. We are a people who dream big dreams when we are little so that we will recognize them when we get older. The promise of America isn’t something that we’re born with, it’s not something that we’re given, it’s something that we attain. America is exceptional because it’s people are exceptional and it’s people are great because they strive to do great things. Let us be resolved to embrace one another whether we strive to be different or strive to be ordinary. Let us not just accept one another, but let us embrace one another. We can disagree on every issue that comes our way, but at the end of the day we all come from the same place. We all come from the same fabric, the same prairies, the same cities and the same people. We are all Americans and so long as we remember that there is nothing that can define us.
At the end of the day some of us will be right and some of us will be wrong, some of us will have won and others will have lost, but it is not being right that is important nor is it winning every battle, it is having fought the fight to begin with that makes the battle worth having. At the end of the day we will all try to do good things and we will win some and lose others, but it is not the wins and losses that count it is the knowledge that we fought for what was right and we stood by our principles.