The Way I See It

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Why study American history, anyway? We would be lost, of course, if we did not; more important, the study brings pride and hope—pride in the great dream that shaped this country, and hope because the dream still lives and will finally be our salvation.

It is easy to doubt this. We are skeptics in an age that demands skepticism, an age in which the cynic has the idealist locked in a cage. It is a bad time to look back and a worse time to look ahead. And yet…

… and yet there is a grade school on the wrong side of the tracks in Los Angeles, its pupils children of the hopelessly disadvantaged—ghetto children, blacks and chicanos and Asians and the eternally out-of-luck, growing up with two strikes on them, their mere existence a source of concern to the well-born and the well-informed. And a little while ago a perceptive fifth-grade teacher in that school asked her charges to write brief statements saying what America meant to them. The things those youngsters wrote are like a blazing burst of trumpets splitting a dark sky. We elderly cynics may despair if we wish; these children— these , of all people—have a strong and eloquent faith in the country and its dream.

Here are random quotes from the mimeographed “newspaper” which the teacher made out of the statements written for her.

“America is a place of silent beauty and loud spirits. America is a place to worship God and thank Him for the promised land. America is a place where everyone joins hands.”

“This country means so much to me. I was born free, I am living free and I will die free. My country is my life.”

“I live in a land of freedom. Freedom whispers through the golden doors of America and shouts its song throughout the land.”

“America is beautiful. When I look at this land I see beauty and love.”

“My country means more than I can tell. My country may have poorness, pollution and some unhappiness but it is a free land. America is a country where all people are treated equal. When the world is no more, dreams of my life will stay in my heart.”

“Where else in all the world can we find a nation like ours? I can go to school and learn about my country. I care about my country. I am grateful for my country. It’s like a dream come true.”

“I am happy to wake up to the morning and know that I am free. My country is as old as yesterday and as young as tomorrow. I want my country to be clean and have no pollution. We must all care for America.”

“America is wonderful because black and white and Mexican can get along together. America is loveliness because we see mountains so high, valleys so deep, oceans so wide and skies so blue.”

“America belongs to me. America belongs to you. America belongs to all people. I must help America, my country. You must help America. Everyone must help.”

“We must share and reach out in friendship. We must know we are equal but be glad we are different. In brotherhood and love we will help each other.”

“America is a free heart and land forever and ever.”

“America takes all people. I can come to school and learn. I can become a good citizen. I can help my country. I love America.”

… the cynics are at the top, the true believers are at the bottom. Somehow I think the cynics are going to lose.