Tag: patriotism

America is My Favorite

5bad11d0-2199-11e5-8352-a54ee272a10cThe other day my niece asked me ‘what is your favorite country?’ Without missing a beat I said “America is my favorite”.  She seemed surprised as if most people said Japan, England or some other country.  To me the answer was obvious.  Other countries are great and have wonderful aspects to them but America will always be my favorite.

There are a lot of reasons I love my country but most importantly is it is a country of dreamers, doers and individual rights.

We are guaranteed rights to speak our minds, worship freely, protect ourselves, and gather together for whatever purpose we see fit.  We cannot be searched unlawfully or treated without due process.  We are not subject to kings, rulers or one groups whims or philosophies.   I understand reality can be less than perfect in enforcing these rights but most countries, even highly developed nations, don’t even have the rights spelled out to begin with.

The fact is in America if you have a desire to achieve something you can go out and do it.  Will you be successful?  Maybe or maybe not but as long as it is a lawful enterprise you are free to give it a go. In a communist nation you may not have such an opportunity to pursue your dream. Many other countries try to shelter people from failure and therefore limit their eventual success (we are becoming more that way every day which worries me).

We also have a system where we attempt to educate every single person free of charge (aside from taxes). We fall way short on giving an adequate education but at least we try.  Still many students from around the world come to America to get their education.  It is unparalleled in its colleges and universities which by law no matter race, background or sexual orientation anyone that qualifies academically can enter.

America has a system of checks and balances that help to keep despots and tyrants at bay.  We have federalism that gives local and central voices power.  We can each vote for all our leaders and for the most part we can all run for office without any prerequisites of education or profession.  All of these things are not available in every nation.

Plus, America stretches across an entire continent something only China, Russia, Canada, and Australia can claim.  We have everything from the Rocky Mountains to the beaches of Hawaii.  We are the head of computer based innovation, have a legacy in manufacturing that needs to be reborn and we lead the way in movie-making, art, music and other creative expressions.

I’ve lived on the East, West coasts and in Midwest and traveled throughout America.  Wherever I go I have been blown away by the good people we have all around our country.  Sure we have problems but there still is much to be positive and optimistic about. Whenever I travel I can’t wait to get back home, get back to America!

At the very least we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have fought and sometimes paid the ultimate price so we could have all of these freedoms.  America should be our favorite for that sacrifice alone IMO.

Happy 4th of July friends!  God bless America!

To read my talk on patriotism I gave years ago check out this post

Stadium of Fire 2014

stadium of fire

Have I mentioned it recently how much I love living in Utah? One of the greatest parts is all the wonderful entertainment that is accessible, affordable and family friendly.  I have long thought of doing a blog called Utah52 and talk about a different cultural event every weekend of the year in Utah.  Unfortunately I would need a group to help me with such a project as I have things going on some weekends.

Nevertheless, you could easily go to a great quality event every weekend.  In December you could go to something every day.

People that are long-timers in Utah don’t understand how unique it is.  My parents live in Sacramento and thy have a professional musical theater called Music Circus and a youth theater and that is basically it.  I wanted to see Christmas Carol there and nothing.  In Utah you can see Christmas Carol like 100 different places.

Dance is heavily supported.  Ballet West is one of the best companies in the country.  Same with Utah Symphony.  There’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and every town has their own little playhouse.  Where I live in Draper has the amphitheater and Draper Historic Theater.

It’s just a great place to live!

The universities here make everything special also.  The choirs, dance troops, productions are second to none.

In this vein, every year BYU and the City of Provo puts on a huge production called Stadium of Fire.  They usually get a popular recording act- often country and then surround them with the longest fireworks display in the country and much more.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend for a long time because of family stuff but this year I was so I snatched up tickets.  Carrie Underwood was the singer and I particularly wanted to see her because in 2005 I was supposed to see her but the traffic into USANA Ampitheater made us an hour late and we missed both opening acts to Kenny Chesney 😦  (That is why I hate USANA)

So I got tickets and pretty good one’s too.  I went with my new friend Adam and we had a great time.  Carrie was awesome and did all my favorite songs.  One especially cool moment was when she went from Jesus Take the Wheel to How Great Thou Art.  It was great.

(I wasn’t as close as this guy but I still enjoyed it)

There was also a field worth of dancers, a super hero trampoline troop that was amazing.  If these 2 routines don’t make you smile than I worry for you… 😉

The fireworks were then pretty awesome.  I made this video of the night using a new app called majisto.  It turned out pretty well.

War veteran and land mine survivor JR Martinez was the emcee of the night and hearing his story and the Utah Army Band play made me ponder about the freedoms I enjoy.  Too often these days we are talking more about rights than freedoms. Rights are important but we also need to step back and be grateful for the many freedoms we do have that others do not.  The push for more rights can make us forget what tremendous blessings we have.

Let’s just say there is a reason so many including children are desperate to come here and we forget that or at least I do. Sometimes it is helpful to have all the pomp and circumstance of a stadium of fire to remember how great it really is.

I loved it and am grateful for all the volunteer work which goes into such a production.  Thanks to all!

God bless America!

stadium of fire2

 

 

Visiting DC

The next part of my trip started on Monday, Labor Day where I met up with my aunt and uncle Bob and Cindy (and cousins Marshall and Ellen).  They were nice enough to let me stay at their home the rest of the week and I enjoyed getting to see them again.  Get ready for a lot of photos.  See photo descriptions for details on trip.  This is a lot of photos so bear with me but I think it is the best way to share my trip with all of you!

the first thing we did was go to the capitol building for a tour . Our tour guide was a bit over-eager but it was still fun.
Each state has a statue at the capitol. Here I am by good old brother Brigham
Lady Liberty at the capitol
By the famous painting of the signing of the Constitution by John Trumbull.
the library of Congress had amazing mosaics
One thing that reminds me of Maryland is blue crabs. Bob and Cindy surprised me and got a bag of live crabs. It was a ton of fun both to cook and eat! The crabs were covered with old bay (of course, nothing else would be permitted in Maryland) and took forever to eat but that's part of the fun of it!
Me with the crabs
I love Ellen's face looking at the crabs!
Cindy with the crab

Tuesday I spent the day with my friend Adrienne and her children (especially my new friend Norah.  We bonded.).  For most of the day we went to Mt Vernon in Virginia.  This is the home of George Washington and it was beautifully preserved.  It appeared to have been recently restored.  Everything looked new and fresh with good signs and lots of volunteers.  They even had an explorer area for the kids.  The only downer was the rain, which would be a trend for my whole trip.  While I missed hurricane Irene, I made it just in time for tropical storm Lee.   Still,  I was not on the trip for sights.  I was there to see my friends.  Rain or shine!

Norah aka Martha Washington
Adrienne, Norah and Ezra at Mt Vernon
Me at Mt Vernon

On Wednesday  I had the busiest day in the city.   It all started with a ride into the city on the metro.  I went the first part of the way with Adrienne and unfortunately there was a jerk on the train.  He said that she should handle her son and that the entire train would appreciate it.  What a jerk!  Made me miss my Utah.

Anyway, I got about half way and they made an announcement saying the train was out of service and we had to get off.   With Joni meeting me I was nervous about waiting for a repair, so I decided to get a cab.  It was my first experience hailing a cab.  Its harder then they make it look in the movies!

Eventually I got a cab and made it to the Lincoln Memorial.  Just as I arrived it started to rain and pour.  I mean this was sheets and sheets of rain.  Thankfully Bob and Cindy let me borrow their large umbrella (thanks!).  Needless to say, our plans to visit all of the memorials went out the door.  At least I got to see the Lincoln and the Jefferson which are my favorite.

Lincoln Memorial
Me and good old Abe. I love Abraham Lincoln. One of my heroes
Me and Jefferson
Jefferson Memorial

So I met up with my friend Joni Miller.  We knew each other years ago in college.  She was originally the friend of my cousin but we connected quickly.  I was also close with her sister Casi.  They are great people and I’m so grateful for facebook and how it allows me to keep in touch with such old friends.  We had a wonderful time visiting with each other.

This entire trip what amazed me is how quickly I gelled with my old friends.  It was like no time had elapsed at all. There is something comforting about that.

We went to a delicous pizza place called We the Pizza. IT is run by Spike Mendelson of Top Chef fame (and he was there. I saw him!). I guess Sasha and Malia eat there and the President next door...and it was very reasonably priced. The sausage and sweet pepper pizza was my favorite.
You can't really see but it is Julia Child's kitchen taken from her home in Cambridge. I love her
The museum was full of interactive exhibits like this train that felt like it was moving. It was funny because Joni's son Owen didn't understand what was interactive and what was traditional museum. He actually made the alarm go off on the 2nd floor! They didn't do anything but we walked away quick!
They had a neat exhibit on 9/11 with artifacts from each of the sites. It was a sobering powerful reminder
They had a spot where you could write your thoughts on how 9/11 has impacted your life. It was amazing to read the thoughts of other posters, some of whom had eye-witness experience. Also, our accounts will be archived in the Smithsonian. Now I will have something archived in the Smithsonian. So cool!

My comment on the Smithsonian card- How did September 11th, 2001 alter my life?

The other day I was watching a movie from the 80’s and it showed the old skyline with the towers and my heart broke. My heart broke for the loss of that day. And then I remember that on 9/11 the greatest thing that man could erect was taken down in one instant. Likewise, the great things and more importantly people in my life can be gone in one instance. 9/11 reminds me to express my love for them more often and to savor the ordinary times we have together. It also reminds me that there is the potential for heroics in the face of every stranger I meet.

It rained so much but Owen had a ball with the puddles. Smart Joni brought extra clothes for him to change into.
We went to Pitango Gelato. Expensive ($7 for regular size!) but it was tasty. Especially the fruit flavors.

Finally the end of the day was a visit with my friend Miriam Harmer.  We have been friends since college.  Actually I was her TA in Poli Sci 201.  Then we took an LSAT prep class and just hit it off.  Its crazy but I have known Miriam for 10 years.  One of my longest friends.  We went to a very nice restaurant in Arlington called the Carlyle. It was probably the nicest restaurant I have ever been to.  I decided to splurge and got chicken pailard with angel hair pasta (basically chicken and pasta with a butter sauce), cesar salad and warm chocolate bread pudding! It was a long lovely leisurely meal which for my money is the best way to spend an evening.  Miriam and I have a ton in common and I always learn a lot whenever we talk.  It was great hearing about her new job working for Senator Lee and her life in DC.  She’s great! (Plus, I have to admit after spending a week with a variety of wonderful children it was nice to hang out with a single friend for a night!)

Miriam and I at the Carlyle. We talked for around 3 hours. I used to wonder how my parents could just talk for hours. Now there is nothing I like more.

So that’s the trip!  What a wonderful time full of reminiscing and fantastic friends.  I have said it before but I am soooooo blessed with wonderful friends.    The trip also reminded me of how grateful I am to be an American.  I am overwhelmed by the  sacrifice that has been paid by many so that I can live the life I enjoy.  It was an honor to walk in their memorials, view their museums and see the buildings they sacrificed for.  I am proud to be an American!

Thank you to everyone who made time for me on the trip and made my stay so wonderful.  We weren’t going to let a little rain stop our fun.  Great memories, great vacation.

Happy President’s Day!

I just had to post a video in honor of the weekend.  This girl is so cute!

I am a huge patriot and am grateful for all the presidents that have served.  I certainly wouldn’t want their job!  In recent times politician has become a dirty word but, you have to remember that many good people sacrifice high paying jobs in law and business to serve their country.  I think such an ambition can be noble and worthy of commendation.

I also acknowledge that power is a slippery slope of ego and moral compromise for many, if not most, who are given its taste. Like the scripture says:

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Hence many are called, but few are chosen.”

That said- I am grateful for those that heed the call to serve in our democratic republic at the federal, state and local level.  I am also deeply in debt for the sacrifices made by members of our armed forces and our missionaries.  I want you to know that I pray for you daily.  God bless you and God bless the USA!

I used to have all of these memorized but now I know I'd struggle. Especially with the turn of the century presidents...Oh well!

Refounders

Readers to my blog will know I enjoy Glenn Beck.  I know he can be a bit crazy but I agree with a lot of what he says.  I don’t have time to write much today but I love this new “refounding” message he is talking about.  The idea is our country can have a rebirth by reaching back to the principles and values of the founding.  Beck is offering anonymous truth-telling with the hope of finding 56 people (the number of the original founders) that are willing to weed out excess and corruption. He talks about atonement and that we can get off the disastorous track we are on both financialy and morally.   I will write more later but I was moved by Beck’s message.  I love my country, and I want it to be back to the values we started with.  My worry is that Beck won’t be able to find the 56 people in Congress willing to stand up.   More and more it seems politicians are finding ways to stretch half-truths or outright lies to the American public.  We’ve even reached a point where Governor’s can run off to Argentina without telling anyone and not get punished, where  news shows have to air fact-checking, “keeping them honest” sessions after the President’s speeches, and where the Christian principles this country was founded on are treated with disdain and contempt.  Before we know it the family is going to be watered down to nothing, our freedoms will be curtailed and there won’t be anybody to trust leading our nation.  It’s sad that we turn tea partiers into extremists, town-hall visitors into non-patriots and brave soldiers into potential terrorists.   I hope beyond hope that Beck is right.  I pray for it every night. I will be curious for your thoughts.   Will write more later.

Glenn Beck- 9/12 Project

Before reading this post- if you get annoyed at political discussion stop reading now.  This is just my opinion.  I simply found something that motivated me to be a better person, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  Take it or leave it!

Everyone knows I love politics.  I enjoy hearing different opinions and arguments on all sides.  I have always liked the passion behind a good debate.  I am not sure why- just have.  If the opportunity presents itself I would love to someday be a public servant in some small way.  This would not be for my personal glory but to serve my country and support the values I believe in.   Why does the idea of public service seem to be lost on our society?  The early founders were practically forced into service and now the career path of a politician often feels like the journey of a Hollywood celebrity.

I think both parties are equally guilty of this game, which is why neither seems to care what public opinion currently thinks.  For instance, nobody cares that the public has resoundingly opposed the stimulus package- from November on this has consistently been the case.  A recent poll said the support for the package was below 37%.  Another sign of discontent is that President Obama’s poll numbers have fallen dramatically in the first 100 days and they are now below President Bush’s at the same time in his presidency.  Despite such disapproval nobody in Washington is listening.  In fact, many of the politicians seem to think the  American public is not educated enough to understand such tough economic conditions.  If that is the case than your job as politicians is to educate us!

The problem is  many in Washington not only think we are too stupid to understand what they are doing to our economy, but they think we do not care. In my last entry on the stimulus package I posted a video with Senator Charles Shumer.  In it he calls the American people “the chattering masses” and says “the American people don’t care”.   I found this statement shocking in its candor and disgusting in its implications.  And remember this is not some no-name senator.  It is the 3rd ranking democrat in the senate.  My fear is that he was stupid enough to say what all the Senators and Congressional Representatives feel. They think we don’t care.

What if they are right?  There are certainly a lot of people who don’t care enough to vote.  The ones that do, rarely take the time to be informed on issues- even though such efforts only take a minute or two.  It has always boggled my mind!  Do they not understand issues like the stimulus bill effect our lives?  They effect ALL of our jobs, investments, property, families and certainly our education.

I am not saying that everyone has to agree with me but CARE! If anything was gained by the election of President Obama it proved that American’s could get excited about a candidate and politics.  For several months people watched debates instead of sitcoms and commented on interesting issues.  Although I did not vote for President Obama, I felt the excitement of a candidate of change.  Now I wonder- what has he changed?  Not much.  What promises has he kept? Not many. To name one failed promise, he swore time and again on the trail to stop earmarks in bills. Now the spending bill he signed has over 9,000 of them! 9,000! With the President’s current popularity I do not buy his excuse of needing to sign an “imperfect bill”.  He had the political capital to at least reduce the earmarks and he failed to do so.  I will also add that 40% of these earmarks came from Republicans, so they are equally guilty in ignoring what America wants.  In fact, the Republicans are trying to make the Democrats seem like the bad guys while still sneaking in whatever spending of their own they can get in.

I am not writing this to bash President Obama or any other politician.  I have hope for them all.  Perhaps foolishly, I believe most of them are good men and woman with the right intentions; however, many have forgotten who they work for, and what we as Americans stand for.  They have gotten so caught up in money- that it has become a type of panacea for every wound.  Just throw more money at a problem and it will all be made better! Selfishness, greed and a loss of vision is leading us into debts both morally and financially.  In a sea of money and political correctness, these politicians seem to have forgotten the fundamental values  of honor, freedom, integrity, faith, justice and hard work that our government is there to support.

To be honest,  this spending bill was making me depressed.  I felt like no one was listening to me and millions of other Americans who find it crazy and irresponsible. Even the socialist nations of France and Germany are refusing to go along with the big spending!  Now China has expressed worry that the $1 trillion in US treasury bonds they own is a bad investment. The Chinese, the French, the Germans, the majority of Americans all seem to think this is a bad idea! Why doesn’t anyone care?

Well, I found someone who does.  I am not usually a talk radio/ tv news person.  I love NPR and feel I am an Independent on most issues.  However, I happened to catch the latest Glenn Beck Show on Fox News, and was very inspired with what I saw.  I have heard Beck speak and been impressed in the past but this was something special.  In the program he talks about his feelings after 9/11 (thus calling it the 9/12 project) and then contrasts with his current feelings.  He talks about how no one is listening and how nobody in either party can be trusted.  He asks every American who still believes in this country to send in their photos- he gets millions.  He interviews Iraq veterans, 9/11 victim families and gives 9 principles and 12 values that exemplify the American spirit.  I agree with every one of his 9 principles and 12 values.  If I worked for a year to summarize my own values and principles in regards to this country they would end up the same as Beck’s.  I love that he isn’t afraid to declare his belief in God, family, and America!

He actually gets emotional at several points, and I found the whole thing very moving.  He tells us to remember how we felt on 9/12, and how we just knew what to do, and how we could help.  Those feelings came out of our core beliefs and values.  It is these values that will save America- not spending more on lavish programs or shopping to boost consumer confidence.  Real confidence comes from an understanding of why we matter- why each of us matters to this country and to God. I can’t recommend the program highly enough.  During the broadcast there were crowds all over the country watching and cheering. I wanted to cheer too! Put it on your DVR this weekend or watch it online if you can.   It’s not just a political rant.  It’s a reminder of what is good about America, and I felt validated by it.

Beck is a member of my church, so perhaps he presents his program  in a way I understand.  However, this basic message of integrity, service, friendship and courage is one any American can relate too. I promise it is not a partisan attack. Check it out!

The Nine Principles

1. America is good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

12 Values

  • Honesty
  • Reverence
  • Hope
  • Thrift
  • Humility
  • Charity
  • Sincerity
  • Moderation
  • Hard Work
  • Courage
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Gratitude

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

Patriotism and honor

The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.

Joseph Heller- Catch 22

Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.

John Adams

I concluded an interesting experience this evening.  It is always intriguing when I am presented with two contrasting views and then forced to reconcile my own feelings.  This has happened to me regarding the subjects of patriotism, honor and courage.  To begin with, I just finished reading the “classic” novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  At the same time I have been watching the new miniseries on John Adams based on the popular biography by  David McCullough.

On first glance the two may seem completely different and to a certain extent they are ( Catch 22 being a dark comedy and John Adams a dramatic real life biography).  Still, I could not ignore the contrast in philosophies the two stories bring up.  In Catch 22 the main character Yossarian’s objective in life is to not fly missions, to not serve.  His rational for this decision makes sense- the less he goes into battle, the greater his chances for survival.  The now famous “catch 22” by which the title gets its name (and the phrase was invented) refers to the idea that if a man wanted to fly more missions he’d be crazy; however, if he didn’t than he was sane and would have to fly the missions.  It’s a circular argument that is interesting and certainly one I hope to never face.

Here is my problem with Heller’s book and the argument- how come honor, patriotism, the good of mankind, never even comes into play?  There is not a single character in the novel with honor or courage.  They are all simply trying to live.  Surely in a battalion of men there would be a few soldiers who believed in the nobility of their task, who believed that freedom is worth paying the ultimate sacrifice for if needs be? In addition, what about those people that are not required to literally die but are asked to sacrifice their life in the form of their time, talents, energies and passions? What if all of these people took a Yossarian philosophy and did only the bare minimum- just enough to get by but not enough to make a real difference? Would this not have a terrible effect on our country?

In contrast I looked at the amazing life of John and Abigail Adams (as well as so many others featured in the film). They spent their entire life serving their fellow citizens.  These missions put them in great physical harm and required personal hardships including separation from their children for years.  Adams, Jefferson, Washington all were reluctant servants and yet they did it because they knew it was right.  As much as I admire many politicians (and anyone who has talked to me knows I love politics!) I don’t think I know of one that could be called a reluctant servant.

Maybe I am too idealistic in my views but I feel this country was founded on the idea that individual citizens, individual voters would not only make wise decisions but would hold democracy and freedom above all else. I hope we are not as the characters in Catch 22- merely watching our own backs, making sure we come out ahead of everyone else.  Look at the legacy of the early heroes, look what principles they taught generations through their sacrifice.  It is difficult to deny that their courageous choices were nothing but of the highest importance.  For example, if Washington had been selfish he could have become a King and been called “Your Highness” (Adams even put such a measure before congress).  He refused, and we are all the better for it.

I am sure that if I was ever called into battle such choices would not be made lightly (as they are in Catch-22) but I hope I would have the courage needed to protect liberty.  The only thing in my life that has been even a tiny bit similar  to battle was my mission where everyday we were required to sacrifice time, family and home for a higher principle- for something I believe in strongly.  During my mission I received great inspiration from the stories of the Mormon pioneers who sacrificed everything for religious freedom.  I have always wondered if I could do what they did.  I sincerely hope so.  Just as I have a religious passion I also have a deep patriotic vein within me, and I hope like the many soldiers who have died to protect my country and freedoms I would be brave and do all that is required of me.  Either way, I would like to think that the honorable route would be the most common- not the exception to the rule as in Catch 22.

I highly recommend watching the miniseries John Adams.  It is remarkable on every level.  The acting is superb- even in the small parts.  The make up and costumes is some of the best I have ever seen.  Before seeing the film I knew a bit about Washington, Hamilton, and particularly Jefferson; however, not much about Adams.  I found it moving, personable, and non-vitriolic.  In fact, all of the founding fathers except maybe Hamilton and Franklin, are portrayed in the film as simple men who served their country as best they could.  This is what I expect out of myself and those around me each day.  It is my greatest goal in life to live in a way that matters- that makes a difference for good. I am not perfect, and I certainly lead a small life; however, on occasion I have moments of decision,  of integrity and faith.  It is at these moments I pray that I think of future generations, of my loved ones, and of my country and hope I make the correct, if difficult choice.

One slight caution on the film- there is some adult content and I would recommend adults see it before children.  I would actually feel comfortable showing most of it to older children and teenagers but it depends on the child.  A few of the scenes including a surgery in the last film are tough to watch.