It's time for the rise of the 'Greater Generation'
AS AN EXPATRIATE Texan, one of the greatest joys of my daily life in Oahu is driving to work by way of Nimitz Highway. Named after Admiral Chester Nimitz of Fredricksburg, who led the Pacific Fleet to victory and accepted the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri some four years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nimitz Highway is a reminder to all of us how patriotism and moral courage overcame great opposition and shaped the state that we are so honored to reside in.
While the generation of Americans such as Chester Nimitz has been labeled by some as "The Greatest Generation," I believe that our present day, 21st-century generation stands at a juncture in time far more critical to the future of both Hawaii and America than any other generation before us. Because of that, we are in a position to become a greater generation, and as such, we need to reinforce traditional patriotic values and teach our children not only why we choose to be free, but why all people everywhere deserve to be free.
America's national self-esteem is slipping into a malaise. Yes, our flags still fly, and our magnetic yellow ribbons that say "We Support Our Troops" are still attached to our cars, but our hearts are beginning to feel the strain of the global war on terror, and our minds are becoming frustrated by what seems to be a lack of progress.
WHAT THE PEOPLE must understand is that while battles are fought by armies, wars are won by nations. Victory begins in the hearts of the people. The late President Ronald Reagan alluded to that concept when he said, "We must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women."
We have to have victorious ideals in our hearts at home if we are to experience victory abroad. Our enemies believe with all of their being that if they push against us hard enough, we will lose. By contrast, our people in general seem to believe that if we try to stand any longer, we will fall apart.
That doctrine was not the attitude of our founders, who believed, in the words of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty or give me death." Those who built America before the greatness of westward expansion or the Industrial Revolution founded a fledgling republic on a rock-solid concept that free men can stay free so long as they earnestly believe in and pursue their freedom. They engineered mechanisms into our culture to refresh our faith in liberty, such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the traditional protocol of folding the American flag, and writing songs such as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "The Star Spangled Banner."
These traditions were never meant to be approached with legalistic indifference or benign repetition, but rather with a humble recognition that staying free demands faith in our institutions and commitment to our cause.
Today, people don't want to say the Pledge of Allegiance anymore because they find it offensive. Others don't even know how to fold the American flag or fly it with reverence. Our youth listen to songs that curse the police. Is it any wonder that victory is elusive to us abroad?
THE KEY to our victorious resurgence is a return to traditional patriotic values. Patriotic values aren't belligerence or arrogance, and they aren't just saying "I Support Our Troops" -- they're about taking pride in our Republic and its traditions, showing responsibility toward our community and, most of all, loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
When Chester Nimitz applied for an appointment at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., his entire Texas town offered its services to help him. Later, while at the academy, he developed an ear infection and permanently lost his hearing in one ear, yet still managed to graduate seventh in his class. He then went on to command a ship at age 22, but ran it aground. Then, in his thirties, he lost his ring finger in a submarine accident. Despite all these setbacks, he kept pushing forward, and he eventually became the man who not only saved Hawaii, but saved the Pacific. Why? Because he grew up in a patriotic community that transferred those same responsible, long-suffering, courageous values to him.
We, too, can be like Chester Nimitz: strong, determined, overcoming and heroic, but victory begins in our hearts. Let's stop worrying about petty things and start thinking about our country again.
Daniel de Gracia II is a pastor at the International Christian Church and Bible School. He lives in Waipahu.