Senior Emily Tompkins recently became Heritage Hall's fifth consecutive recipient of the Col. John Starke Sr. chapter's DAR Good Citizen's award recognizing dependability, service leadership, and patriotism. During the organization's February meeting, Tompkins was presented with her award and provided an opportunity to read her award-winning essay (below) on this year's topic, "What new challenges will America face as we move forward in the future?"
Our American Heritage and Our Responsibility for Preserving It
Since 1776, the world has undoubtedly transformed. Americans today certainly enjoy privileges and resources that our Founding Fathers could never have imagined, yet despite all of the innovation and progress achieved since 1776, the American spirit that was so proudly displayed by our Founding Fathers is still intact. Americans today are still incredibly determined, industrious, patriotic, and passionate to their cores, and while those characteristics have been tested at times throughout American history, they seem to continuously emerge stronger than ever. As Americans continue to move into the future of an ever-changing world, the most pertinent challenges to our nation will be protecting the American dream and understanding American pride in the age of globalization.
Beginning with the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, the American colonies rapidly and entirely became symbols of opportunity until their inhabitants achieved independence and established the first modern republic by 1776. This spirit continued throughout our nation’s history as immigrants sought industrialized work in our pioneering cities and abundant rural areas. Needless to say, the American dream is a centuries-old, invaluable symbol of hope and self-help. Today, as the world’s governments and economies continue to become increasingly globalized and intertwined, we risk losing sight of our responsibility to protect the persevering spirit of that American dream.
In today’s political climate, it is sometimes tempting for Americans accidentally to fall under the impression that if our nation is not dominating every area of foreign policy or social ideology, then we must be losing. In reality, it is quite the opposite, especially when we look towards the values of the American dream. From America’s establishment, its citizens have prided themselves on their heritages of diverse ethnicities, trades, and experiences. As we move into the future, we must keep this multicultural, all-encompassing nature of the American dream alive. The American dream does not mean that we should fear that foreign citizens and unfamiliar ideas will threaten traditional American values; the American dream challenges all of us to welcome the many people, backgrounds, and opportunities that come to our nation and to relentlessly look for ways to make our communities better. One of American citizens’ greatest challenges moving into the future will be to remind one another that a true American fights to protect the ideological diversity, innovation, and healthy debate that exists in the world today—factors that sometimes seem to threaten the American dream, but in all reality, can strengthen it.
Similarly, an immense challenge for Americans as we enter the future will be understanding and utilizing our pride and patriotism in today’s world. As a relatively young country when compared to the likes of England or France, America sometimes forgets that it still has unfamiliar storms to weather that its citizens have never before seen. Americans will have to remember that there is no shame in a healthy mix of support for and disagreement with their government. Politicians and leaders will never be perfect, so we must not allow one economic triumph to instill in us an enormous hubris or enable one political setback to lower our heads in shame. Rather, Americans will be challenged to study and learn from our past mistakes, keep ourselves accountable and determined in the present, and foster a healthy vision for the future.