Friday, August 31, 2012

The Pete Morin Editorial Review #2012-15

I am an American

Just prior to my graduation ceremony from junior high school in 1961, all students in the class had to give a presentation, or speech, to the general public. I chose the poem, 'I am an American' by Elias Lieberman. I had no idea who Mr. Lieberman was, nor did I have a real understanding of what his words meant. I was merely a 13 year old young kid trying to get through an experience as best I could. My speaking and memory skills were rudimentary and unrefined, so any presentation I would make was bound to be apparent with stage fright.

As an adult I began to understand what it means to be an American, an individual free to pursue my life as I see fit in a peaceful manner. Deciding what kind of car to drive, where to live, what kind of house to buy, what I want to eat, expressing my thoughts in words and deeds were what it means to be free. In fact, millions of people came before me to define their lives through the same actions. Some went to war to defend these freedoms, to preserve them for their children and grandchildren. Many didn't return from distant battlefields. What do people living in the United States today owe those that came before. What do we owe those who understood the importance of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the natural rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? I doubt that many people think of this proposition; that our ancestors bequeathed a nation to their posterity that would be better because of their actions. That we understand the importance of the meaning of the word 'American.'

So here it is; that poem I read fifty years ago. The poem I didn't quite get, but today is the heart and soul of my writing. Enjoy.

by Elias Lieberman

I am an American.
My father was a son of the Revolution.
My mother was a colonial dame.
One of my ancestors pitched tea overboard in Boston Harbor.
Another stood his ground with Warren;
Another hungered with Washington at Valley Forge.
My forefathers were America in the making.

They spoke in her council halls!
They died on her battlefields.
They commanded her ships!
They cleared the forests.

Dawns reddened and paled. 
Staunch hearts of mine beat fast 
At each new star in the nation's flag.
Keen eyes of mine forsaw her greater glory:
The sweep of her seas,
The plenty of her plains,
The man-hives in her billion-wired cities.
Every drop of blood in me holds a heritage of patriotism!
I am an American!

I am an American!
My father was an atom of dust,
My mother, a straw in the wind
To his Serene Majesty.
One of my ancestors died in the mines of Siberia;
Another was crippled for life by twenty blows of the knout;
Another was killed, defending his home during the massacre.
The history of my ancestors is a trail of blood
To the palace-gate of the Great White Czar.

But, then the dream came---
The dream of America.
In the light of the Liberty torch, 
The atom of dust became a man
And the straw in the wind became a woman
For the first time.

See, said my father, pointing to the flag that fluttered near,
"That flag of stars and stripes is yours;
It is the emblem of the promised land.
It means, my son, the hope of humanity.
Live for it---die for it!"

Under the open sky of my new country, 
I swore to do so, 
And every drop of blood in me 
Will keep that vow.
I am proud of my future.
I am an American. 

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