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In Still the Best Hope, Dennis Prager argues that American values — roughly, the small-l liberal values that underlie the Declaration of Independence and U. S. Constitution — demand to be exported. Elsewhere, Prager describes these values as the American Trinity: the beliefs in a transcendent God, in liberty, and in the emphasis of culture and values over ethnicity or race. These values, he says, can be adopted around the world and integrated into existing national identities. We can quibble with the definitions and the choice of words, but Prager’s onto something profound here.
While there’s much Americans — or those from Anglosphere countries with similar values — can and should do to help others, the ultimate burden falls on those elsewhere. Doing so often takes tremendous effort and even great courage. July Fourth seems as a good a time as any to honor those who’ve risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to further the ideals exemplified by the American Revolution.
For starters, I’ll nominate Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817). Kościuszko is one of those figures whose biography is too rich to summarize easily, so what follows is only a very rough sketch (cartoonist Kate Beaton gave the task an effort here; it’s great if you don’t mind a little language). Born a Polish-Lithuanian noble, he emigrated to the United States in 1776, where he served in the Continental Army as an engineering and a combat officer. He oversaw the fortification of West Point, fought in the South Carolina campaign under Nathanael Greene, and befriended both Washington and Jefferson. If you’ve ever been to Monticello, you’ve likely seen his famous portrait of Jefferson.