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We are the United States of America, the most misunderstood country in the world.  Yes, we make mistakes, sometimes huge ones, and no, we're not perfect, though some of our politicians and business people and entertainment people would like to make the world think we are--they're the ones who create the image of the United States as aggressor, as colonialist, as imperialist.

But we who are the United States are its people, those who live in the neighborhoods and the towns who try to help our neighbors, who take pride in our country and its ideals, and who do our best every day to maintain the dreams and visions of our forefathers.

We contribute greatly to the world.  Technologically, we give a lot.  Spiritually, we give a lot.  We provide a model of democracy that has worked for almost two and a quarter centuries--a long-running experiment that has succeeded so far where others have failed.  Financially, we aid many countries in distress because of economic crises or natural disasters.  We send people and doctors and rescue workers to those natural disasters.  And people from all over the world send their children to American colleges, for they know that the higher educational system here, despite all the flaws that we all know about, is still the best in the world.

We live, we dream, we breathe, we hope, we love.  We grieve when violence gets out of hand, we laugh when we see something funny.  We are human beings, and we're doing our best in an unforgiving world.

The United States of America is not the political machine of the newspapers, not the ultra-violent society portrayed in newspapers or Hollywood productions, not the super-selfish businessmen who will do anything they can for profit.  Yes, we have those people among us, but who doesn't? We are America--you and I, the common people, and our power is in our love, in our sense of community, and in our hope for a better tomorrow.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Emma Lazarus, 1903

I aspire to stand for the best of American values.  That's not easy.  Living in freedom is hard work.  I know of no other people on earth who are more generous, who are more open, almost to the point of distraction.  I know of no other people who act with better motives, though that doesn't mean we always do the best.  So I aspire as a journalist and as a human being to be guided by the best of America, but also to recognize the bad.  And I accept the responsibility to do what I can to keep government honest and to see the injustice doesn't go unnoticed.  That's American to me.

Peter Jennings

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent,
a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that
all men are created equal. . . . That this nation, under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people,
and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

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We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts,
foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values.  For a
nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood
in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

John F. Kennedy


So we pray to Him now for the vision
to see our way clearly-- to see the way
that leads to a better life for ourselves
and for all our fellow people--to the
achievement of His will to peace on earth.

Franklin D. Roosevelt


America, I saw, truly is the first universal nation; it is facing challenges of
integration that no other nation has ever contemplated.  Its destiny
is to discover for humanity the deeper meaning of individual, community,
and their interdependence.  There is a freedom, I realized, encoded in the
inscription on its dollar bill, E Pluribus Unum, Out of the Many, One--a riddle
the country still has to unravel.  The old polarity of self and other
is beginning to be more and more difficult to sustain
in a world of increasing interdependence.

Roger Housden
Sacred America

Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person
under the protection of the habeus corpus, these are the principles
that guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.

Thomas Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. . . For
the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection
of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other,
our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

The Declaration of Independence


America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force.  No ambition, no
temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions.  The legions which she
sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross.  The higher
state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of
divine origin.  She cherishes no other purpose save to merit
the favor of Almighty God.

Calvin Coolidge

If you want to be respected for your actions, then your
behavior must be above reproach.  If our lives demonstrate
that we are peaceful, humble, and trusted, this is
recognized by others.

Rosa Parks

It must be a government which submits loyally and heartily to
the Constitution and the laws--the laws of the nation and the
laws of the States themselves--accepting and obeying faithfully
the whole Constitution as it is.  Resting upon this sure and
substantial foundation, the superstructure of beneficent local
governments can be built up, and not otherwise.

Rutherford B. Hayes

When Americans say that they love their country, they mean not only that
they love the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide
and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea.  They mean that they love
an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which
a person can draw the breath of self-respect.

Adlai Stevenson


O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good
with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Katharine Lee Bates


Plymouth Rock Inscription:

This spot marks the final resting-place of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower.  In
weariness and hunger and in cold, fighting the wilderness. . . they here laid the
foundations of a state in which all men for countless ages should have liberty to
worship God in their own way.  All ye who pass by and see this stone remember,
and dedicate yourselves anew to the resolution that you will not rest until
this lofty ideal shall have been realized throughout the earth.



I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious
harbors and in her ample rivers, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile
fields and boundless forests, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines
and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public
school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there.

I sought for the genius and greatness of America in her
democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits
flame with righteousness did I understand the
secret of her genius and power.

America is great because America is good, and if America
ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

Alexis de Tocqueville


Bill of Rights

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals
of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

Ronald Reagan


The Americans
A spoken song by Gordon Sinclair from the early 70's

The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French, and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany.  It has declined there by 41% since 1971, and this Canadian thinks it's time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people in all the world. 

As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtze.  Well, who rushed in with men and money to help?  The Americans did, that's who.  They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges, and the Niger.  Today, the rich bottom land of the Mississippi is underwater, and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help.  Germany, Japan, and to a lesser extent Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts.  None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.

When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris--and I was there, I saw that.  When distant cities are hit by earthquake, it's the United States that hurries in to help; Managua, Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples.  So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes--nobody has helped.  The Marshall Plan, the Truman Policy--all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries, and now newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent, war-mongering Americans.

Now, I'd like to see just one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.  Come on, now you--let's hear it!  Does any country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing jumbo jet, the Lockheed Tristar, or the Douglas Ten.  If so, why don't they fly them?  Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes?  Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or a woman on the moon?  You talk about Japanese technocracy, and you get radios.  You talk about German technocracy, and you get automobiles.  You talk about American technocracy, and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times, and safely home again.  You talk about scandals, and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everybody to look at.  Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded.  They're right here on our streets in Toronto.  Most of them, unless they're breaking Canadian laws, are getting American dollars from ma and pa at home to spend up here.

When the Americans get out of this bind, as they will, who could blame them if they said to hell with the rest of the world.  Let somebody else buy the bonds.  Let somebody else build or repair foreign dams, or design foreign buildings that won't shake apart in earthquakes.  When the railways of France and Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them.  When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose.  Both of them are still broke.

I can name to you five thousand times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.  Can you name to me even one time when someone raced to the help of the Americans in trouble?  I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.  Our neighbors have faced it alone.  And I'm one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around.  They'll come out of this thing with their flag high, and when they do, they're entitled to thumb their noses at the lands that are gloating over their present trouble.  I hope Canada is not one of these.  But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians.  And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke.  This year's disasters, with the year less than half over, have taken it all, and nobody, but nobody, has helped.

Our abundant plains and mountains would yield little if
it were not for the applied skill and energy of Americans
working together as fellow citizens bound up in common
destiny.  The achievement of brother- and sisterhood
is the crowning objective of our society.

Dwight D. Eisenhower


Democracy is not a mathematical deduction proved once and for all time.
Democracy is a just faith fervently held, a commitment to be tested
again and again in the fiery furnace of history.

Jack Kemp


The foundation of this nation we call America is the simple yet practical
complex notion of "liberty for all."  Freedom!

Never was a nation founded on ideals and principles as pure as those
the founding fathers laid down for this great nation.  They envisioned a land
where men and women could live together in harmony and peace.  They
imagined a prosperous land, one where the people would help and encourage
one another to lead good lives in service of the common good.  A land where
people would rather help you up than pull you down, a land where men and
women could pursue their dreams.  They had in mind a nation governed by
men and women from all walks of life, with different views, but dedicated to
their common purpose of affirming the highest values of the human spirit.
Has their vision been realized?  Has their dream been forgotten?

Mottoes and philosophies such as "If it feels good, do it" and "To each his own"
are destroying the founding fathers' vision and robbing us of our freedom.  Such
philosophies lead us to have one more beer or one more shot--because it feels
good.  These attitudes lead us to cheat on our wives, even if it is her best friend--
because it feels good.  Then, before you know it, children start walking into
classrooms and shooting their teachers and classmates--because it feels good.
After a while, our children are hungry and have holes in their shoes--because the
thrill of gambling feels good.  And it goes on, and on, and on, reaching into every
corner of our lives and our society.

Where did it all start?  Where did we get lost?  What went wrong?  How do we
make it right?  The foundation of great nations is freedom.  The foundation of
freedom is not strength, but character.  The foundation of character is discipline.

Matthew Kelly


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.


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