What it Means to Be an American
By Jamie Lober / July, 2011

As we approach the fourth of July, you may think it is easy to define patriotism.

According to Andrew Seidel, 26, President of MuseChooze in Delray Beach, "Patriotism is a key element of our society and our country." While history teachers and historians may be reminded of the American dream on a daily basis, other people legitimately take for granted the freedoms of living in the greatest nation on earth. Many members of our community are not even sure how to put into words what it means to be an American because they feel the privilege is simply indescribable.

"There are a million different ways I want to answer the question," said Elizabeth Cohen, in her forties, President of the Parkland Horseman's Association. "It is nice to be able to ride our bikes, have a place for our kids to play, enjoy the country setting and watch the horses go by. Everybody should put a flag in front of their house to show they are proud to be Americans. It would be nice if the city did a parade." The United States is considered the land of the free and home of the brave -- and we know it.

"I like being an American because we have freedom," said Jillian Deien, in her late 20s, of the YMCA in Parkland. "My thoughts go back to being in school and placing my right hand on my heart as I recite the pledge of allegiance because we were taught to love our country and to thank God for being blessed to live in it," said Mike Goldstein, 26, director at Camp Palmetto in Boca Raton. "If you are with a child and see an American flag, you should point it out and tell him that it shows commitment to our country. The thirteen stripes stand for the original thirteen British colonies that decided they wanted to govern themselves in 1776, instead of being ruled by a king."

When good things happen for our nation, we come together. "I am proud to be an American because we finally got Osama bin Laden," said Carol Chew, 55, an artist in Parkland. Americans give special appreciation and thanks to the Navy SEALS and commander-in-chief at this trying time. In addition to having a strong military that makes sacrifices for us every day, we have the freedom of religion. "Other people around the world are persecuted for their beliefs, but we live somewhere where that cannot happen," said Chew. It is important to be familiar with our history and cherish it.

"The wisdom of our founding fathers in writing our constitution is the single most important thing and every American should know, read and understand what the constitutions means," said Patricia McDougle, in her 70s, treasurer at the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge in Fort Lauderdale. "With freedom comes the responsibility of being a good citizen, such as voting and participating in the process of protecting our country and maintaining the principles that our founding fathers set forth for us."

Being a true patriot can begin by being there for a neighbor. Goldstein said, "When we see someone in need, we stop and help." Seidel said, "I make it one of my goals to show respect when ever possible to help do my part of creating the synergy with our social, economic and political system." Unity matters. "For a democracy to exist properly, respect between all parties and citizens needs to be prevalent," said Seidel. "Otherwise, democracy or the bureaucracies will not function. When we refer to patriotism, there is a sense not only of duty but to do the right thing, whether it is within business or every day life. If we all act diligently, respectfully and united, we shall always prevail."

Staying true to the bright hues of red, white and blue should not be limited to evenings when there are fireworks in the sky. The powerful sentiment of being an American should be demonstrated throughout the year. Oscar Schmidt, 91, a World War II veteran in Boca Raton, said, "We should reflect on American history with pride and never take our liberties for granted. The youth need to remember the lessons of the past and read history in order to be true patriots."

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