Our Best Days Are Ahead

English: An American flag located at the Natio...
English: An American flag located at the National World War II Memorial entrance with the Washington Monument in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My fellow Americans, today our nation celebrates her 237th birthday. As in years past, some are of the opinion that it may be her last. Certainly this is a possibility, for we, simple mortals upon this earth, know not what tomorrow brings, let alone the year ahead. And times may be dark. But we’ve faced even darker moments in the past.

America was born out of the fire. The first seven years of her existence were not. We were still then but a renegade group of colonists battling against the greatest military might the world had ever known. And what’s more, lest we forget, we were far from united. It was but a relatively small group of men who were willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for a cause that, absent the backward gaze of history, one would call foolhardy at best. Perhaps an equal number were as fiercely committed to the Crown, with the remainder, the largest percentage of the population, but leaves of grass, blowing in the wind, thinking their influence unimportant, much like the uninterested and uninvolved of today.

And even after victory had been won, our new nation wasn’t fully united. Not for nearly five years more would we ratify a constitution and become these United States of America.

And even then, one of the great unsettled blights upon the new nation would remain for another 76 years, washed clean only with the blood of more than 200,000 men.

And we’ve faced other, perhaps lesser threats to our existence, but threats of seemingly insurmountable odds nonetheless.

In 1814, death was not only at our doorstep but fully inside our home as the British set fire to Washington, burning the White House nearly to the ground.

In World War II, a surprise attack killed 2000 and crippled our naval forces. Before all was decided, nearly 300,000 American souls had perished, more than in any other conflict before or since. Victory over the Nazi menace and the Empire of Japan was anything but sure.

And just a decade ago, our home soil was attacked, our buildings razed, and nearly 3000 men, women and children, the vast majority civilians, were murdered, becoming the first official victims of the War on Terror.

And, of course, there have been economic crises far worse than what we face today; seemingly unending natural disasters like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s; scores of riots; and another war so unpopular with some that it lead to defeat even though our forces in that theater of war were generally victorious in battle.

As long as this great nation has been, many of her own citizens have been actively calling for her demise with glee while many more have predicted it with sorrow.

But I say no! Never surrender! Never give up! Our best days can be ahead of us but only if we carry that desire in our hearts. It is only when we admit defeat prematurely that we bring about its manifestation. It is only when we give up the fight that we concede victory to our foes.

So today, as America celebrates her 237th birthday, be grateful for the freedom and prosperity that we have! Be grateful for the trials and tribulations that we have faced, for it is those that have given us the character and strength to carry on with resolve, confident of victory even in what is our darkest hour.

America is still the greatest nation on earth and there’s no where most of us would rather be.

And to those who think differently, the world is your oyster. We show you no disdain. No rancor exists in our spirit. But we certainly wish not to keep you few who desire differently. We certainly wish not to hold you imprisoned; for that is not what America is. Our doors are open; most of all for those from far off shores who yearn for the freedoms that only America can provide, but also for those amongst us who yearn for a different path. It is not for us to decide the individual merits of their desires as those desires affect them personally, especially when so much opportunity for those desires exists in other nations. The great marketplace of ideas will decide.

And for those of us who do remain, may we continue to work steadfastly to make this nation greater, freer, more prosperous; all the while being ever vigilant of those who are working to make it less.

America will never fade away. It will never die. America will shine on, even though her light may grow dimmer at times, because America is not a place; America is not a people or even a flag. America is an ideal. And as long as even a few resolute souls carry America in their hearts as those few resolute souls did 237 years ago today, that ideal, that shining city on a hill, will remain.

May God continue to watch over us even when our numbers seem small, our days short, and our future dim. May God keep that fire of freedom burning inside us, sustaining us, even when the cold wind of tyranny blows fierce upon our face. And may God bless America!

Pretty Ain’t Easy

Written by my grandfather, Jack Griswold, for the Bicentennial.

Two centuries back, in ’75,
The widow Ross had a business that really thrived.
A seamstress running her late husband’s shop;
Penn’s Navy flags a specialty, their orders didn’t stop.
One day in June in ‘76
Our founding fathers were in a fix.
We needed a symbol for our emerging nation;
Something suitable to our lives’ station.
General George went to Betsy with a committee.
They requested a flag. “It must be pretty.
“We want stripes and six pointed stars,” he said.
“General, said Betsy, “you’re out of your head.
“Those stars are not right.
“Five points are best for leading a fight.”
Betsy’s opinion prevailed, the committee departed.
Design was complete, the bad habit started.
For two hundred years men and kids have tried
To draw our stars that weren’t cockeyed.
We may agree that five points are aesthetic,
But it’s also true they ain’t geometric.
I don’t know the Jews’ symbol deviser,
But I know this, he was very much wiser.