This article was originally published in the Wall Street Journal; to read the article on their website, click here.
My earnest hope is that most Americans will learn again to love their country, and will understand that not to do so is like refusing to love oneself or one’s children—peevish and wrong. To love something is not merely to approve of it, but to call it upward to its best self, to call it to a purpose that goes far beyond itself. Most who have truly loved America have done so with a conviction that we are, to use Lincoln’s phrase, God’s “almost chosen people.” We have been abundantly blessed not for ourselves, but so that we could be a beacon of hope and freedom to the world, not least for people like my parents, who sailed to these shores from war-torn Europe in the 1950s and who, when they passed the Statue of Liberty, were enraptured and emotional, knowing that the liberty it represented was not just a word but could be a way of life, one they hoped to embrace and pass on to their children, and now have, by God’s grace.
Lincoln also called America “the last best hope of earth.” As he was not known to be a prideful, chest-thumping buffoon, we must wonder what he meant by that sobering expression of American exceptionalism. May we, in the next few months and years, learn again to see what he—and all of the Founders, and Tocqueville—saw so clearly: that the greatness of America lies in our goodness, and that we can never be great without being good.
My hope is that we would remember that our freedoms are extraordinarily rare and fragile. If we don’t understand what inestimable sacrifices were made so that we could have them, we will certainly lose them. My hope is that we would remember our heroes and celebrate them. For starters we could exhort our children to memorize Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” and the Gettysburg Address, because they are beautiful and ennobling and true. My hope is that we would restore to our national vocabulary the words “honor” and “sacrifice” and “dignity” and “sanctity”—and that “this nation conceived in liberty” would become a glorious and irrevocable blessing to the whole world beyond our shores forever and ever.
Mr. Metaxas is the author of “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty” (Viking, 2016) and the host of the nationally syndicated “Eric Metaxas Show.”