This is not even close to an exhaustive list of great Americans, and it could never include all of the “rank and file” citizens of the United States who have shown greatness in their lives. Here are a few names:
What Made Them Great?
As I looked at the list and thought of a few more, I realized that I see several characteristics they have in common:
- A cause or goal that is dedicated to righting wrongs and benefiting the common good,
- A fierce dedication and motivation to see the cause through,
- The ability to inspire others, often an outgrowth of their dedication and commitment, and
- The willingness to sacrifice whatever is necessary.
Lessons from the Past
What have I learned from them?
- I need to be grateful for all of the benefits I receive from their sacrifices. I live in a country that affords its citizens incredible privileges and freedoms. I have the right to assemble and worship according to my conscience. I have the right to chose the course of my education and my career path. I can freely move about in my country and choose where I wish to live. I have a say in my government, and I have the right to speak out and speak my conscience. My problem is that I live with these privileges daily. I find that it’s easy to take my life for granted and want more, but that is truly disrespectful of those who have sacrificed comfort, social standing, wealth, and even life to give me liberty.
- I also have the job of being an outstanding citizen. Gratitude is great, but it isn’t enough. I, too, am leaving a legacy behind me. What will the next generations receive from me? Do I have a cause that is greater than myself? Am I willing to make sacrifices to make my corner of the United States a little better?
- I must choose wisely. All causes are not equal, and sometimes something that looks good on the surface is not good long term. I have the obligation to think about the cause and ideals to which I pledge allegiance, and make sure that good will truly come of them.
So, as we approach the celebration of the birth of the United States, I issue a challenge: Will you join me in finding ways that you can leave your corner of the world a little better than you found it and leave a legacy that will inspire others around you?