The United States isn’t a perfect country, but it’s a good country, a country I love. What I most revere about the United States are the reformers and radicals who have fought to get this country to live up to its highest values. These reformers and radicals helped give this country a new understanding of what it means to be a country of freedom and equality.
So on this 4th of July I thank Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Paine and our Founding Fathers for giving us the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
I thank Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eugene Debs, W.E.B. DuBois, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Thoreau, Emma Goldman, Booker T. Washington, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Day, Norman Thomas, Bayard Rustin, William Sloane Coffin, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, the Kennedy brothers, Harvey Milk, Dolores Huerta, Larry Kramer, Howard Zinn and other leaders of social movements that have helped women, minorities and the disenfranchised become more of a part of the American promise.
I thank the nameless abolitionists, women suffragists, union organizers, civil rights lawyers, populists, progressives, Wobblies, environmentalists, Catholic Workers, Freedom Riders, Chicano Rights activists, community organizers, feminists, Act Up activists, United Farmworkers, Asian American activists, and the marchers, protesters, petitioners, and boycotters who’ve participated in social movements that have changed this country for the better.
I thank my parents for immigrating to this country from the Philippines. And I thank all the immigrants from all over the world who’ve come to this country and made it this wonderful melting pot.
America is not a land of one race or one class of men. We are all Americans that have toiled and suffered and known oppression and defeat, from the first Indian that offered peace in Manhattan to the last Filipino peapickers. America is not bound by geographical latitudes. America is not merely a land or an institution. America is in the hearts of that died for freedom; it is also in the eyes of men that are building a new world. America is a prophecy of a new society of men: of a system that knows no sorrow or strife or suffering. America is a warning to those who would try to falsify the ideals of free men.
America is also the nameless foreigner, the homeless refugee, the hungry boy begging for a job and the black body dangling from a tree. America is the illiterate immigrant who is ashamed that the world of books and intellectual opportunities is closed to him. We are all that nameless foreigner, that homeless refugee, that hungry boy, that illiterate immigrant and that lynched black body. all of us, from the first Adams to the last Filipino, native born or alien, educated or illiterate- we are America!
Here are some youtube videos of America that I like. The first three are from Schoolhouse Rock, a series of animated shorts that used to run on the Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970s.
Suffering Until Suffrage