As we prepare to celebrate America’s Independence Day, The San Diego Union-Tribune asked several local citizens to tell us what patriotism means to them. Among the people we asked were a retired educator, a couple of veterans, a former city attorney and a student. Below and inside are their answers.
Showing love, support of country
By David Bejarano
One of my first thoughts about patriotism is based on a quote from John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” It’s about one’s love and support of their country. The men and women who serve in the military are the best examples of citizens from our great nation demonstrating their loyalty, allegiance, and service. The makeup of today’s military represents the “fabric” of our country. I am proud to see that those who defend our country come from all walks of life, color, ethnicity, gender, religions, race, etc.
Patriotism reminds me of our country’s character and values, and unquestionable respect for humanity. Its foundation is based on diverse religious beliefs, “one nation under God.” This spiritual strength provides our warriors with the faith and courage to protect our democracy, and the path for us to serve our country through challenging times at home and abroad.
Patriotism also reminds me of communities uniting together during times of adversity and great loss (Sept. 11, 2001).
- Bejarano is former police chief of San Diego and Chula Vista.
Defending, protecting U.S.
By Christina Prejean
To me, patriotism means devoting your life to loving, defending and supporting your country. After the tragic day of 9/11, I knew that I wanted to take action to defend the country I love. This is the country I was born and raised in, and the country my immigrant ancestors from Italy and France came to, in desperate search of a better life. I’ll never forget feeling fear and anger while sitting in my history class at Vista High, watching the twin towers in flames. Soon after, I decided that if I didn’t fight to protect the country I love, I had no way to guarantee this wouldn’t happen again. So, after graduating from college, I commissioned into the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant, and by 2010, volunteered for a one-year deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan. I had the immense honor of defending my country and serving in the best military in the world for nearly six years.
Now, as a veteran and attorney, my patriotism continues as I serve my country in other capacities. I proudly advocate for veterans in the criminal system at the Veterans Treatment Court; and founded SheIsGreater, a social media platform which educates on issues women and girls face and is dedicated to reaching full economic, social, and political equality for women. When women reach full equality with men, every American wins. This is how I continue serving and defending the country I love.
- Prejean is a veteran and local attorney.
Creating fair, loving society
By Ernie McCray
Vigorously contributing to the well-being of one’s country is considered being patriotic and that’s something I’ve done for most of my life — going back to my childhood.
When we’d end the Pledge of Allegiance, at the beginning of each new school day, with “Liberty and justice for all,” I found patriotism naturally rising up in me as I pondered why there weren’t many examples of justice and equality for, back then, “colored” folks like me.
I wanted to walk around without cops hassling me like I saw white people doing; I wanted not to be restricted to where I could sit or eat or skate or swim just like them.
And as I accompanied my mother to political barbecues, and rallies, and forums I got the idea that this society wasn’t going to give these things to me without a struggle; the kind of struggle that never ends for a patriot with dark skin.
So, to me, patriotism means keeping on keeping on; keeping my eyes on the prize; remembering those who struggled before me (Martin and Malcolm and Rosa and Fannie Lou and Freedom Riders and so many of my friends and family) and pursuing the American Dream always with them in mind and with my children and their children on down the line in mind.
Patriotism, to so many black people like me, means a way of life, a means to making our country the kind of loving society we’d like it to be.
- McCray is a retired educator who served 37 years with the San Diego Unified School District.
Working for common good
By Jean Walcher
Patriotism has never been more important to me than it has in the last year. Certainly, I’m devoted to this country, but that doesn’t mean blind devotion. It doesn’t mean that I’m always going to be proud of what my country does.
We have a responsibility to fight to help our country live up to the highest possible values: compassion, fairness, justice, equality. Doing the most good for the largest number of people. Here at home, that means providing the best opportunities for our people, in a system where everyone contributes according to their means to make sure no one is left behind, to give everyone the best chance to thrive — through equal access to health care, education, and public safety.
The same is true for the world. It means doing to or for others what you wish to be done to or for you. It means being a good neighbor and operating in good faith — that makes me proud to be an American. We must get back to being a model member of the global community and set examples that other countries want to follow.
To me, patriotism also means speaking out and resisting when our leaders make bad decisions or act out of the interest of a few, rather than the common good.
The good news is we have been more driven than ever to effect change, which helps unite like-minded people. To rally together for what we believe is right and fair for our people. That is more patriotic than anything.
- Walcher, president of J. Walcher Communications, is a board member of Citizens Coordinate for Century 3.
Principles bind us together
By Jan Goldsmith
Patriotism is about love of our country and the principles for which we stand. It is not about love of any political party or politician. Nor is it about love of government.
Our country’s fundamental principles of individual rights and freedom were unique concepts in 1776 and remain so today. Although Americans will disagree on many public polices, these principles, embodied in our Bill of Rights and culture, are what bind us together as one nation.
Our rights protect us from government. After describing the new concept of God-given individual rights in the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson explained that these new rights were derived from a higher authority than government and that citizens must be vigilant against those in government who would undermine them.
American history is replete with examples of that vigilance. Many Americans have given their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to preserve and rightly extend individual freedom to allow each person the opportunity to achieve. Today, American principles remain unique in the world. Those who point to European nations as examples of what we could be forget that our Founders left Europe to try something new. And, over the years, America has shown that our way is exceptional.
As patriots, we should always stand together to defend these principles that bind us together. Imagine what our country would be like without the Bill of Rights! We should never forget that individual rights and freedom are what set us apart from others and make our country special.
-Goldsmith is former San Diego city attorney.
Actions louder than symbols
By Alexis Cormier
To me, patriotism is more than the red, white and blue that we salute to. It’s more than reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while placing our right hand over our hearts or singing the national anthem a couple of times a year at a football or baseball game. I believe that patriotism is much deeper than that and typically, we see it on a daily basis all around us.
Patriotism is bred in those who cultivate and foster our future generations. It can be seen in everyday individuals such as teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers, librarians and plenty more of those seemingly ordinary people. They devote their time toward educating and shaping our future citizens who, in turn, will shape the future of our country for the better. To do so isn’t just simply helping youth but rather expanding the minds of our future politicians, scientists, doctors and journalists. Patriotism is doing the hard work today, knowing it is going to benefit those of tomorrow.
When we stand united in believing in the potential in those who will come after us, we can know we are leaving America in the hands of some of the brightest, most innovative and compassionate individuals to take our place. It’s a patriotism we can all take part in, one small contribution at a time.
- Cormier, a 2016 graduate of Helix Charter High School, is a student at UC Irvine.
Striving for active inclusion
By Shawn VanDiver
I believe patriotism is caring enough about your nation and your fellow citizens to be active in your community. One must fight for the world they want and we are lucky to live in a country where our speech, religion, freedom to petition, and freedom to assemble are protected by the very document that lays out the baseline for all laws in our nation.
I also believe that we must love our nation enough to disagree with our friends when we think they are wrong and strive to understand all viewpoints. Patriotism means we should work to achieve active inclusion, so a full and diverse cross section of our society is represented in all decision making.
This year on the Fourth of July when everyone is thanking the troops at home and deployed to show support for our heroes, remember that the best thing you can do to really support them is to be a well-informed and actively engaged citizen. Find a community planning group, a political campaign, or some effort in your hometown and figure out how to help. Read objective and respected news sources and ensure you’re informed. When you’re at the beach or the barbecue today, be patriotic and talk about current affairs.
- VanDiver, a Navy veteran, is co-founder and San Diego chapter director for the Truman National Security Project.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines patriotism as love for or devotion to ones country. However, the word patriotism strikes lots of mixed emotions all over the United States. Some people describe themselves as involved patriots because they fly their American flag outside in their yards, when others see the word patriotism as disgusting, the seed of racism.
Patriotism to me, along with many others, means of course to have love for our homeland, our country, to support, serve and defend, to be inspired by, to change for the better and to care deeply for fellow Americans. After September 11th, a lot of people showed their love for this country by doing things like standing in line to donate blood, registering with the army, or even as little as wearing the American colors. Patriots support the countries authorities, laws, and interest. However this does not mean that true Americans should agree with whatever the President of the United States has to say and be blinded by what’s really going on in America. One of the biggest issues today is that people feel like the President has used patriotism with the American people to start a war with other countries. New posters in store windows along with billboards posted along the roads encourage the American people to become one and to show their love for their country. I believe that true patriotism doesn’t have to be encouraged but is something that we feel 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long. Patriotism is to be proud of where you are from, and to love everyone around you weither they are natives of that country or not. Patriotism is not to have hate for anyone that’s foreign, or to think your country is better or strong then others for no reason.
On the other hand, patriotism to some people is a superstition that is artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of this self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit. Instead of being just a love of ones country, these people believe that the patriotic individual is blinded by what the government is telling us. That patriots will go along with any ideas the government may have if put in a manner that concerns their country. People that don’t believe in patriotism also believe that to be patriotic requires allegiance to the flag, which means obedience and readiness to kill father, mother, brother and sister. The September 11th attack is a perfect example to help support this idea behind patriotism. After hearing that another country would do such a thing, people everywhere signed up to go into the Army for war. Without really knowing what they were getting themselves into, young men, old men, even women were willing to just go kill others that had nothing to do with attack in a sense. If this point is raised then the patriotic people can raise the point that the people that did sign up might have been for war with this country but they were standing up for their country and the people that died in the attack. After all, that is the real definition of patriotism.
I believe that there are different levels of patriotism. To have patriotism and to love the country that you where born and live, to love the people around you and to want to wave the American flag in your yard is to show your patriotism. To hate people of different races just because they aren’t from the land you love so much, or to go along with anything the government says without understand it just because they say it will do your country good, all of this is not patriotic.
Different people have different reasons why they are patriotic and how they choose to be so. There is a long line of people in my family that has fought for our country and freedom, even some deaths. This is one reason why my family is so patriotic. Just because my family has a huge American flag flying high in the front yard 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long with a spot light on it, doesn’t mean we have the obedience and readiness to kill father, mother, brother and sister. We do it because we love the American flag and what it stands for.
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