What does it mean to be an American? In honor of the July 4 holiday, the Bryan County News asked a few folks what being an American means to them.
Here, in no particular order, is what they said.
Dick Yarbrough, syndicated columnist: “To me, being an American means having pride in who we are. Instead of focusing on our differences, take a moment to remember what we have in common. We are the freest people on earth. We owe that fact to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Let it not have been in vain.”
Adrienne Jackson, Richmond Hill resident and member of the Bryan County NAACP: “It means acknowledging that being an American means different things to many people. It means learning about a painful past while remaining hopeful for a more just future. It means having more freedom than any other nation, yet still not having liberty and justice truly for all. All the while, it understands that we are indeed better together when we see the beauty of diversity in our nation and are not blind to it. It means being a proud veteran spouse and knowing we have the most extraordinary Armed Forces in the world. It’s being grateful for the sacrifices of those who have served our nation in ways we can never repay. It means loving our country despite its ills. Being an American is an oxymoron, juxtaposition, and anything but concrete. Being an American is embracing change, and that better days are coming. It’s accepting that our past is meant to be built upon. Being an American is keeping hope alive.”
Summer Patterson, who serves as a deputy and division chief for Bryan County Emergency Services said: “To me being an American means the gift of equal opportunity. It means freedom of choice such as what profession I decide to work in as well as what religion I want to practice. Being American means a beautifully diverse landscape of people across our great nation. Finally, being American means having the right to pursue happiness.”
Lesley Francis, founder of Lesley Francis Public Relations and a regular columnist for the Bryan County News, is British and is still a citizen of that country.
Francis moved to the U.S. in May 2009 with her husband, an American citizen, and got her citizenship in 2012.
Here’s what she said: “I chose to became a naturalized American citizen in 2012. It is not an easy process or a decision I took lightly, but it is important to me as I have a deep and abiding passion for this wonderful country and the philosophy behind it. This quote by America’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, in 1924 sums it up for me: ‘American citizenship is a high estate. It has been secured only by untold toil and effort. It will be maintained by no other method. It demands the best that men and women have to give. But it likewise awards its partakers the best there is on earth.’”
Eugene Harris, a Richmond Hill native, is retired from the U.S. Air Force. He said: “I’ve been to a lot of places in the world. America is the greatest country there is. I believe in America, I took an oath to the Constitution, and it’s still in me. This is my country, and I’m still willing to spill my blood and give my life for it. That’s my flag, too.”
Caitlyn Smoyer, the business manager for the Coastal Courier and Bryan County News, is a former Army NCO. She said: “Being an American is about more than just living in the United States and waving that red, white and blue flag that symbolizes our freedom. For me, it means openly serving and worshipping God without legal reprimand. It means having the ability to choose what I do for work and what I do for play. It’s the privilege of being part of a country that has vowed to stand united when turmoil strikes the world.”
Richmond Hill High School Assistant Principal/ Athletic Director Mickey Bayens said being an American means, “Waking up every morning and knowing we live in the greatest country in the world with opportunity and advancement in life for all!”
And, finally, Pembroke’s Alex Floyd, who lives in North Bryan just outside Pembroke. Floyd, a former Pembroke city administrator and now special project’s manager with Richmond Hill, said the following: “Being American is the greatest privilege afforded a member of the human race. The freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution are found no where else in the history of the world. The ability to read them, teach them to your children, exercise them freely, keep them in your heart, and defend them with your last breath is what Being American really means.”
Happy Independence Day, folks.