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When any one of us makes this claim—that we are proud to be an American—what does it mean? Do we still believe that it’s true? What did it mean to make such a statement 20 years ago? Ten years ago? Two years ago?
I do remember what it meant to me 20 years ago: I was proud that I lived in a country that lived by its Constitution; that our Founding Fathers miraculously created a document that has withstood the test of time; that we developed the strongest military in the world; that most other countries looked to us for guidance, for encouragement, for protection, even for our ingenuity. As a Jew, I felt protected not only by our government, but the people who made up our society, because we were founded on the principle of freedom of religion.
I could count on our government respecting the rule of law; that even though politicians and politics were looked at with skepticism, we trusted for the most part that our legislators would act responsibly. I knew that there was probably nowhere else in the world where I could get such advanced and ethical healthcare. The military was a place where young people could begin their adult life, if for no other reason than that they would learn discipline and take military service as a means to figure out their best destination in life—and that might, in fact, be the military. I could count on getting a good education from K-12 and beyond. I could fly the American flag with pride and honor and know that my neighbors were happy to support my allegiance to it.