|keynote aboard the USS Hornet carrier--Alameda, March 20, 2007|
... and I find myself still coming to terms with my own expression of citizenship and patriotism.
This will be the third time I've been asked to so, and it should be a breeze since this will be a different audience of new Americans, and my speech needn't vary since it was all thought through when it was written 3 years ago, so what's the big deal?
I suspect my growing unease rises from the endless bombardment from the current presidential campaign hoopla, and feelings of disquiet at increasing signs that we may be a nation coming apart at the seams -- with barricades going up at every level-- rightly or wrongly.
I know it seems unlikely, but I'm becoming more aware that there are few villains in this great national drama. Surely the good folks who gather in our little theater for my talks are coming because they're finding something of value there, something that has to do with our American experiences "in common."
Maybe it has to do with my sense that the America that most are living in is an America that's working for them, and why change it? The fact that that America is one that I've always considered only a work in progress; needing my participation in order to become the democracy of promises yet unrealized. Perhaps we've all been working and living at cross-purposes.
How much of the dissonance comes from the fact that those in power at every level of governance have come from the nation of privilege, one that has been realized with dreams fulfilled. Of course they want that idealized America replicated on every continent for every world citizen, but do they know that their America has yet to be attained by the majority of citizens of this country? I don't
believe they do, and there's the rub ... .
This year, again, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Park Service will co-sponsor this moving ceremony and I will participate as before, and without reservation, fully engaged. But as I look down from the dais at those hopeful upturned faces of every shape and color, nationality and religion; new Americans who have arrived on our shores bringing fervent hope and aspiration to share, in the background there will be the voices of ambitious politicians fighting for the right to lead the nation and the world regardless of the fact that some simply don't know that they don't know, and are resistant to truths that don't confirm previously-held biases.
How on earth do we build that "more perfect Union" if we can't see its imperfections?
How I wish I didn't feel so unsure -- this time ... .