“The eyes of the world are upon you…I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.” — General Dwight D. Eisenhower
The eyes of the world were once again upon Normandy, France, recently, as leaders gathered to pay tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Also present were more than 60 veterans who fought in the Battle of Normandy throughout that harrowing summer of 1944. During that battle, more than 9,000 brave Americans selflessly laid down their lives in order to liberate Europe from the evil grip of the Nazis.
As I thought about those heroic men, who landed on those shores, under enemy attack, and went on to capture all those cities across France, I was reminded how much I love American history. I studied it throughout high school and college, and to this day I love reading about the people and ideas that make our country great.
So much of this is taken for granted. But as we reflect on the D-Day anniversary and the upcoming 4th of July, let us pause to remember the immense sacrifices so many have made to give us the way of life we enjoy today.
We recall those valiant patriots, led by General George Washington, who won our independence in the Revolutionary War. And the brilliance of our Founders, who crafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and all of the groundbreaking ideas embedded in the documents that created our country. If you haven’t seen the Broadway play Hamilton, go see it. It illustrates these sacrifices in song, dance and words.
We honor the leadership of our greatest presidents. Famed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has published an excellent book, called Leadership in Turbulent Times, which details the lessons we can learn from four of them: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. Each of these men faced unique challenges from their youth. But they all stepped up when their country needed them to guide us through some of the greatest challenges we have faced.
Lincoln’s steadfast persistence preserved our country through the darkest days of the Civil War. FDR’s fortitude led us out of the depths of the Great Depression to our ultimate triumph in World War II. Johnson shepherded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress following the assassination of President Kennedy.
We celebrate the Civil Rights leaders who fought to ensure that all Americans can fully enjoy the blessings of liberty. From Rosa Parks standing her ground by keeping her seat on a bus, to Martin Luther King Jr.’s soul-stirring “I Have a Dream” speech.
And of course we admire the innovative thinking of America’s great entrepreneurs and the strength of our free enterprise system — from Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, to the many hard-working individuals who continue to drive our society forward today and into the future.
These are but a few of the many people who have made this country great. I’ve always been inspired by their heroism and dedication to the cause.
To this day, I still get moved by hymns like “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.” I still tear up when I hear our national anthem. I am proud to be an American.
How have you been impacted by our rich and storied history? What makes America great to you? I’d love to hear your story.