“These are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

 -Thomas Paine

In January of 1776, Thomas Paine published his 50-page pamphlet, Common Sense, urging American independence.  This booklet sold over 120,000 copies in ninety days and changed the outlook of many Americans.  Sixth months later, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously adopted by the thirteen colonies.

This passage from Paine’s book applied during the bloody days of the Revolution, and it applies today.  It is simple to believe in the cause of liberty and freedom when times are easy.  When our rights are threatened and our nation is struggling, then our convictions are truly challenged.  What will you do?

God bless America.


How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on Earth enjoy!  -Thomas Jefferson

America is a blessed nation.  Like no other place on earth, we are fantastically wealthy.

90% of American teenagers own a computer and a cell phone.  Our public high schools offer free and equal education to all, giving every single girl or boy with the vision to take it a huge head start in life.  We have enough to eat…very few Americans are forced to skip meals.  Millions of African children are starving and malnourished…millions of Americans are overweight.  We can walk into any grocery store and see more food in seconds then many third world countries will see in a year.

Any time we are in trouble or danger, we can pick up a phone, dial 911, and receive free assistance from state emergency workers who are diligently trained to save lives and fight crime.  If your house is on fire, local firefighters will be there within seconds to protect the home that you hold dear.  If your life is being threatened, policemen and women will be there to help you.  If you are sick, state emergency workers will be there to take care of you, whether you are a multi-millionaire or a homeless person living on the streets.  And if you even just want to send a letter to your mom or dad, your brother or sister, your grandparent or your best friend, you can stick a $0.42 stamp on the upper right-hand corner of a paper envelope and drop it in a mail slot.  Without paying any kind of subscription fee, your loved one will be reading your words within days.  We are incredibly blessed.

Whenever we want, we can travel from New York to Los Angeles without paying a toll to pass through each state.  Every year, we have a say in who our officials will be.  We do not have to pay a cent in order to cast the votes that will help determine the future of our children and our children’s children.  How quickly we forget what a blessing this is.  How quickly we forget the thousands of men and women who have died in defense of this right.

Americans complain about President Bush and the War in Iraq.  Have we forgotten?  Every single deployed soldier is a volunteer.  We are fighting with 100% volunteer troops.  Praise God, President Bush has protected the nation from a general draft.  Citizens derail, mock, scorn, threaten, and hate the leader of our nation.  Have we forgotten that Tuesday morning in 2001 when millions of Americans were in terror for the future?  No more attacks have occurred on our soil in the years since September 11th.  President Bush has done a fine job of protecting the spoiled Americans who hate him, and so have the excellent men and women who are putting their lives on the line by putting on a soldier’s uniform and fighting to protect the ungrateful families “back home”.  Theirs is a thankless job, and it is often worse than thankless.  One of my best friends is now training in Marine boot camp.  He has been mocked and called a “baby killer” while in uniform.  He is risking his own life, his own bright future, for American families.  My friend is fighting to protect the right of Americans to mock him.  He is fighting to protect the rights, free speech included, of those who hate him.  I am thankful for our volunteer armies, and I praise God for them.

We are a spoiled, pampered people.  We are richly blessed and sickeningly ungrateful.  We have more than any other nation on this earth.  Americans need a wake-up call.  September 11th may have been that wake-up call, but we have forgotten it.  We need to get outside of ourselves and our selfish worlds and complaints.  Even with a struggling economy, we are still richer and fatter than any other people group alive.  Even with gas prices rising and falling like the 757’s that transport us from “sea to shining sea”, we are still spending time with our loved ones at every holiday.

Chose today to give yourself a reality check.  Open your eyes and look around you.  Stop being blinded by complaints and woes and worries.  Remember what Jesus said, “Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? …Tomorrow will take care of itself.”  Stop reading alarmist articles by ungrateful journalists and pundits.  And start being thankful.  Look around you at this beautiful country.  There is so much diversity here…deserts and beaches, mountains and plains, lush farm lands and advanced cities, golden prairies and rolling hills, canyons and vistas, snow-capped mountaintops and balmy oceansides.  In any city at any time, we can hear dozens of different languages being spoken.  That’s because millions of people all across the world have heard of the opportunities offered in America and have left everything they knew to come here.  They have literally risked their lives in just the hope of receiving the benefits and liberties we enjoy every day without even thinking about it.  This truly is the land of opportunity.  How many of your ancestors made the journey here in hope of better things for themselves and their children.  You are one of those children.  When was the last time you thanked God for the sacrifices they made to ensure your happiness?

Thank God for what you have.  Make a decision to stop being ungrateful, and to start thanking Him for everything you have.  Make a decision to change.  And then start working to change the things you don’t like.

After all, you can do that. 

Because this is America.

America has selected a new President.  Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States of America when his inauguration occurs in just a few short months.

Whether or not you voted for President-Elect Obama, remember that he deserves our respect.  He will be our new President, and whether or not we agree with his policies and beliefs, we must respect our elected leaders.

Political products and cartoons will probably never die.  I remember as a little girl wondering what my Grandfather’s watch meant…the one which showed Bill Clinton’s profile on its face, his nose growing longer and longer with every ticking of the minute hand!

It seemed funny then, because no one in my family voted for Mr. Clinton and we weren’t big fans.  But when George W. Bush became President, and the hatred because vitrolic, I saw a darker side to the popular disrespect of elected officials.  My hypocrisy was obvious…I didn’t like Bush’s criticsm because I liked him as a President.  But if disrespect to one President is wrong then it is always wrong.  Even in boxing, there are rules.  Politics can get messy, but we shouldn’t check our common courtesy at the door.  As our government official, we should agree to honor and obey our President.  Should we feign agreement over policies we believe are wrong?  Of course not.  Voice your disagreements loudly, clearly, and often.  Vote for the officials you agree with.  But, win or lose, we must remain honorable and respectful.  Not only because it is right to do so, but because when we become attacking or petty, we distract attention from what we believe in and focus it on our foul words or bad attitudes.  Give the opposing side no excuse for ignoring what you say.

I am as opinionated as the next person, but I intend to respect Mr. Obama for his accomplishments and position, even as I am opposed to much of what he believes.

When both Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, learn to be courteous and respectful of one another and their beliefs, then they will go a long way toward uniting the nation they love.



What does it mean to be great?

Many men and women have been given this title. Ever since I was a child, I’ve read about the great Americans in storybooks and history texts, seen films made about their lives or visited museums built in their honor. From the patriots who fought for their freedom during the Revolutionary War, to the soldiers, activists, and leaders of our time, the pages of American history are filled with the profiles of truly heroic individuals.

George Washington, first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen. Honest, courageous, a humble leader who turned down a proposal that he be king of the new colonies because he felt that democracy was the best chance for freedom. Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride. Abigail Adams, writing her letters of patriotism and reformation. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence; Benjamin Franklin, inventor, thinker, revolutionary. Davy Crockett, one of the many mountain men who helped to settle America, unusual in his successful political career and defense of Native American rights. Abraham Lincoln, who upheld the ideal of equality for all mankind and saved our nation from separation. Ulysses S. Grant, the stalwart general who refused to back down and finally helped the North win the Civil War. Theodore Roosevelt with his “maverick” politics, his nephew Franklin Roosevelt who helped guide America through the Great Depression. Alvin C. York, backwoods sharpshooter of World War I, General MacArthur, hero of the Second World War. John F. Kennedy, author of Profiles in Courage and President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, actor, President who ended the Cold War. Everyday men and women who fight for their country, uphold their values, work hard to make America an even better place for their children.

And yet, as I think of these men and women, I realize that they were not without flaws. Many of them had their own personal demons and struggles, such as General Grant, who was an alcoholic and an indisputable failure of a President. These individuals and many, many others are called “great” because they were brave, they had strong beliefs and were willing to fight for them. They were often unpopular. Abraham Lincoln was hated and ridiculed. In the end he was murdered by an assassin’s bullet. And yet today we remember him as one of the greatest leaders our country ever had.

We sometimes judge greatness by how popular a person is. But history has shown this to be an invalid method. The truly great are often those who are courageous enough to be despised because they know that what they are doing is right. Courage is, after all, not the absence of fear, but the understanding that there is something more important than fear.

I am not yet old enough to vote. On November 4th of this year I will only be 17. Yet I can’t help but wonder, are the men and women whose names will appear on ballots across the nation individuals of true greatness? Do they have the character to uphold the laws and freedoms upon which the country was founded? Will they chose to be honest and upright, even as those who lie and cheat prosper?

Some of the greatest leaders our nation ever had were not considered great during their time. It is when we look back through the perspective of history that we can see the contribution of their strength and determination.

Van Gogh’s paintings were not considered great during his lifetime. In fact, the artist sold only one piece during the whole of his career. In despair, he ended his own life. Had he persevered, we might today have more of the masterpieces he created, which are now sold for millions of dollars.

Difficult times are a challenge for all of us. But they are the refining fire of greatness.

Some of the greatest heroes I have ever known in my own life are people who stood firm through difficult times, even though few saw them or appreciated what they were doing. They may never be famous and their stories may never be told in history books, but they are still great.

Men, women, old and young, people of all backgrounds, nationalities and lifestyles can achieve greatness by standing firm through the difficult times of their lives. Rather then backing away from a challenge, greatness comes when we persevere. This is what I have learned from the examples of those I look up to and from the pages of history. But the decision is ultimately ours to make. As John F. Kennedy wrote, “In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience…each man must decide for himself the course he will follow.”

What will you choose?