Most of us here, on the day of our birth, automatically became heirs to the greatest of earthly treasures. A treasure envied by those who read of it, dream of it, and pray for it. It is a treasure never diminished by the numbers who share it. The guarantee of the opportunity to pursue happiness and the guarantee of freedom came to us as easily as we drew our first breath of air over American soil. And, in those first moments of life, we were gifted with “The Promise”.
The Promise was conceived in the hearts of men burdened with unjust treatment and tyranny. The Promise was a dream they could not abandon. The Promise bore the weight of a solemn oath signed in blood. The promise was a pledge a man made to himself and whatever child or grandchild might share his bloodline. It was a promise that “liberty and justice for all” would not be denied them. A promise that no man, clan, or country would slip under the wire and steal from them this gift.
The Promise, in the course of human history is still young, but does not need age to be strong. It’s strength lies in the precision of its description and the goodness of its intent as its story is told in the documents of its creed—The Constitution of the United States. The greatest hope of those men was that The Promise would endure and be everlasting!
The possibility of that hope becoming a reality rests in the hands of all those who lay claim to it, be it through birthright or naturalization. Its strength and its fulfillment can be our reality only if we call to mind and instill in the minds of our young the boundless offerings of The Promise.
Only in a perfect world, where the spirit of man has no capacity for greed, for jealousy, or for hate, will it not be necessary to stand guard on a system of government based on a fair chance for every man and woman. The spirit of man is challenged by imperfections, so we will have to work on behalf of even the most righteous government yet devised by mortals to ensure its original potentiality is understood and does not fail to thrive.
In truth, this country is much like the child it is meant to protect. Perfect at its birth, sound in spirit and strong—with boundless possibilities. I like to imagine that, as each new child comes to us, Miss Liberty bends over, kisses that precious head and tells the babe,
“Welcome little American. We have prepared a wonderful place for you. Many have worked, fought, and died to make it so…all for the love of you and others like you. Those who died for it sit at heaven’s gate and smile down on you today…happy for you and proud to know their blood helped secure this gift we offer you.
“Before you lies a land of comfort. You will have access to information and education. You will have opportunities to achieve and realize dreams you have yet to dream. We want you to be safe and secure…healthy and happy. This flag I now wrap gently around your precious body is a symbol of honor…. And a symbol of faith. To you I give it as a symbol of ‘The Promise.’
“The Promise I make to you, that this country has been devised and works untiringly to give you a life where you are treated as fairly as any man or woman—where opportunities for all things lie before you and you are FREE to make your own choices. You have met this day the requirements for receiving these gifts.
“YOU ARE AN AMERICAN! I do not have a plan for you. I have, instead, made it possible for you to build and follow YOUR OWN PLAN!
“That is ‘The Promise’.”
Then I see Lady Liberty stand up straight, holding the babe swaddled in Old Glory lovingly in her hands—and—with arms stretched across the bay, she gently lays the infant on the shore. She smiles and, before she turns and again lifts her torch of freedom for all to see, she says softly:
“Be confident, I have made you this promise. Now, go forth and show the world what an American is made of!”
We here today are a long way from the day we were gifted with “The Promise.” We have lived long enough to know that it means and to understand its value. We here have seen that keeping “The Promise” alive takes constant vigilance, diligent work, and even commands that the system and people working in it are persistently monitored—to keep it from straying from its just and fair design. We realize the problems inherent in keeping such a tremendous promise. We know nearly all good works take time and become complicated when we had hoped it would be simple.
I’m asking you to share. Sing the praises of our great country. Remind others how lucky – truly how blessed they are to be Americans. It is okay to admit we have not perfected implementation of the course of action ensuring “The Promise” will live on. But, it is imperative that we protect and preserve the country to keep the promise alive. We must let no enemy deny “The Promise” to the people of America!
Remind others THAT is the TRUE BEAUTY of the American plan – THE PEOPLE watch—and THE PEOPLE choose—and THE PEOPLE will either secure or fail “The Promise”! We are not caught in a helpless situation.
Most people here in the United States have been so well protected – our grandparents did their jobs so well – most truly take their freedoms for granted…..or at least they did until September 11th.
“The Promise” has been threatened and suddenly we are painfully aware that this life we love may not be here in the morning just because we expected it would be….as surely as we expected water to come from the tap when we turn the handle and lights to come on when we flip a switch. Thirst and darkness can be dealt us from hateful acts of terror from a dark part of the world at any time. It has come to thousands of Americans already…in this first year of the new millennium.
The President stood atop a pile of rubble in New York and told the world we were on bended knee mourning the great loss of life and grieving with the families of the dead. I want the world to take notice…..as we rest a moment on bended knee and bow our heads in honor of those who died…..we clutch the Stars and Stripes to our hearts with our left hands, rededicated to “The Promise”, and we raise our right fist high and defiant to tell the world….
“WE WILL NOT LET THE PROMISE STOP WITH US!”
I leave you with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: We shall meanly lose or nobly save the last hope of earth.”
God Help us keep our Promise.
Sammy L. Davis, C.M.H.
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