America the proud, American the great

Matthew White

Every once in awhile a great leader comes along and changes what it means to be an American.

Some of these leaders have led armies in the defense of freedom. Others have led young lovers together. Some have been president, but others haven’t. Some have been at the front of great movements, but not all of them. What these leaders have in common is that when America needed them, whether they knew it at the time or not, they rose to the challenge.

The first of these leaders was our first president, George Washington, who taught Americans how to be relentlessly bulldogged in the face of overwhelming odds. Washington led the revolutionary troops across the freezing, ice-strewn Delaware River the day after Christmas of 1776 in a surprise attack against British troops. He could have given up – it would have been the sensible thing to do – but America is better off for his tenacity.

Several years after Washington’s victory, a convention’s worth of great Americans came together and decided it was time for a new form of government.

When America needed to win the war against fascism, we had many great Americans step up. The great military leaders Gens. Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur led these Americans against the rising tide of Hitler’s terror campaign. An immigrant, and later an American citizen, Albert Einstein used his amazing intellect to put an end to that war, enabling our young men serving overseas to come home.

After the war, Americans needed to laugh and enjoy life. And Frank Sinatra employed his wonderful voice and acting abilities to bring young couples together.

I wish it were possible for this list to be exhaustive – it’s not – and many great leaders remain unnamed. But, there is some good news, and that is America’s problems today are not so different from what it has faced in the past.

Another bit of good news is America has many great young leaders at home and around the world who are just as capable and just as creative as our great leaders in the past. It’s just a matter of time until some of these men and women stand up and announce themselves and begin the process of teaching America something important about itself.

Some of these leaders are storming the streets of Baghdad with assault weapons in an attempt to repair a war-torn nation and prevent a civil war. Some of these leaders are serving in the Peace Corps, others in the Americorps. Some are in universities around the nation working on their degrees.

We’ve learned how to laugh; we’ve learned to never give up; we’ve learned about human freedom and liberty, but in some ways America is still woefully uneducated. But the genius of human creativity is that the young men and women of today will find these voids and step up to the challenge of filling them. America is strong because the people who make up this great nation have an unequaled capacity for greatness.

Matt White is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].