See America First
by Pat Rooney
Remember the old admonition to “See America First?” Given to encourage us to see our country first before traipsing off to some other part of the globe. Lots of history here, they said. Scenic national parks, famous battlefields, beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers, sun and sand, the whole bit right here in the old United States of America.
And they were correct, of course. Our country is blessed with tremendous natural resources and scenic beauty. Our history is replete with historic landmarks, cities and towns that capture the story of what made our country what it is today. And the admonition is often a good one, as many of us fail to see these historic landmarks in our own backyard. I am reminded of David McCullough, who in a commencement address to Middlebury College, remarked about an editor of a major newspaper who lived in the D.C. area but had never traveled 60 miles west to Sharpsburg and its famous civil war battlefield of Antietam. Worse yet, she had never even heard of it. McCullough thought it incredulous that an educated editor had never seen or heard of the nearby site where the toll in human life exceeded that of any day in our history.
And then there is Katharine Lee Bates, who upon reaching Pike’s Peak in 1893, was so moved by the view she crafted the beginnings of the famous poem “America the Beautiful” right there on the spot. Bates said later “when I saw the view I felt great joy. All the wonders of America seemed displayed there.”
Which brings me to my point to see a part of America that is forever in our hearts, forever in our memory, a part of America earned through the tremendous sacrifice against terrible odds. A part of America deeded to us by a grateful nation, a part of America that will make you proud, a part of America that will remind you, in no uncertain terms, that freedom isn’t free.
Go to France, more specifically go to Normandy, more specific still, go to Pointe du Hoc and then to a plot of American soil overlooking Omaha beach. As we approach the seventy-fourth anniversary of this historic D-Day landing tomorrow, think of the 9,387 brave Americans buried there. Think of all these gone before us and what they did combatting tyranny. Think of the prophetic 3rd verse of Katharine Bates’ poem, “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife. Who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life!” Hear the music, feel the silence, walk the grounds and see America first.