(long essay) Creed by Hal Borland I am an American:
Lorie McGraw (llmcgraw@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)
Sun, 1 Jun 1997 03:30:23 +0000
With Flag day, followed by Independence day, I know that many of you are
preparing ceremonies and special speeches. When I read this I cried. It
is long, so I am posting it on the weekend. The location of it and others
Yours, Lorie McGraw
Den 4 Leader Pack 410 Columbia SC
by Hal Borland
I am an American: That's the way we put it, simply, without any swagger,
without any brag, in those four plain words.
We speak them softly, just to ourselves.
We roll them on the tongue, touching every syllable, getting the feel of
them, the enduring flavor.
We speak them humbly, thankfully, reverently: I am an American.
They are more than words, really. They are the sum of the lives of a vast
multitude of men and
women and wide-eyed children.
They are a manifesto to mankind; speak those four words anywhere in the
world -- yes, anywhere
-- and those who hear will recognize their meaning.
They are a pledge. A pledge that stems from a document which says: "When in
the course of human
events," and goes on from there.
A pledge to those who dreamed that dream before it was set to paper, to
those who have lived it
since, and died for it.
Those words are a covenant with a great host of plain Americans, Americans
who put their share of
meaning into them.
Listen, and you can hear the voices echoing through them, words that sprang
white-hot from bloody lips, scornful lips, lips a tremble with human pity:
"Don't give up the ship! Fight her till she dies... Damn the torpedoes! Go
ahead! . . . Do you want to
live forever? . . . Don't cheer, boys; the poor devils are dying."
Laughing words, June-warm words, words cold as January ice:
"Root, hog, or die. .. I've come from Alabama with my banjo. . . Pike's Peak
or bust! . . . Busted,
by God! . . . When you say that, smile.... Wait till you see the whites of
their eyes.... With malice
toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right.... I am not a
Virginian, but an American."
You can hear men in assembly summoned, there in Philadelphia, hear the
scratch of their quills as
they wrote words for the hour and produced a document for the ages.
You can hear them demanding guarantees for which they suffered through the
hell of war, hear a
Yankee voice intoning the text of ten brief amendments.
You can hear the slow cadences of a gaunt and weary man at Gettysburg,
dedicating not a
cemetery, but a nation.
You can hear those echoes as you walk along the streets, hear them in the
rumble of traffic; you can hear them as you stand at the lathe, in the
roaring factory; hear them in the clack of train wheels, in the drumming
throb of the air liner; hear them in the corn fields and in the big woods
and in the mine pits and the oil fields.
But they aren't words any longer; they're a way of life, a pattern of living.
They're the dawn that brings another day in which to get on the job.
They're the noon whistle, with a chance to get the kinks out of your back,
to get a bowl of soup, a
plate of beans, a cup of coffee into your belly.
They're evening, with another day's work done; supper with the wife and
kids; a movie, or the radio, or the newspaper or a magazine -- and no
Gestapo snooping at the door and threatening to kick your teeth in.
They are a pattern of life as lived by a free people, freedom that has its
roots in rights and
The right to go to a church with a cross or a star or a dome or a steeple,
or not to go to any church
at all; and the obligation to respect others in that same right.
The right to harangue on a street corner, to hire a hall and shout your
opinions till your tonsils are
worn to a frazzle; and the obligation to curb your tongue now and then.
The right to go to school, to learn a trade, to enter a profession, to earn
an honest living; and the
obligation to do an honest day's work.
The right to put your side of the argument in the hands of a jury; and the
obligation to abide by the
laws that you and your delegates have written in the statute books.
The right to choose who shall run our government for us, the right to a
secret vote that counts just as much as the next fellow's in the final
tally; and the obligation to use that right, and guard it and keep it clean.
The right to hope, to dream, to pray; the obligation to serve.
These are some of the meanings of those four words, meanings we don't often
stop to tally up or
Only in the stillness of a moonless night, or in the quiet of a Sunday
afternoon, or in the thin dawn of a new day, when our world is close about
us, do they rise up in our memories and stir in our sentient hearts.
Only then? That is not wholly so -- not today!
For today we are drilling holes and driving rivets, shaping barrels and
loading shells, fitting wings and welding hulls,
And we are remembering Wake Island, and Bataan, and Corregidor, and Hong
Singapore and Batavia;
We are remembering Warsaw and Rotterdam and Rouen and Coventry.
Remembering, and muttering with each rivet driven home: "There's another one
They're plain words, those four. Simple words.
You could write them on your thumbnail, if you chose, Or you could sweep
them all across the sky,
horizon to horizon.
You could grave them on stone, you could carve them on the mountain ranges.
You could sing them, to the tune of "Yankee Doodle."
But you needn't. You needn't do any of those things, For those words are
graven in the hearts of
130,000,00 people, they are familiar to 130,000,000 tongues, every sound and
But when we speak them we speak them softly, proudly, gratefully:
I am an American.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City