Why I am a Proud American

By Jerry Kotyuk

The article below appeared as a letter to the editor in the Marietta Daily Journal (Marietta, Georgia).





Jerry Kotyuk, of Marietta, is a former board member of Franklin Roundtable and serves on the Franklin Roundtable Advisory Board.

As I observe the angry nation we are today, I reflect on the America I was born in. Is it such a terrible place? America has never been perfect, nor has it totally lived up to its Declaration of Independence ideals. But any country is composed of people, and we are all flawed humans.

America has many early heroes: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin to name a few. They were flawed people, but flawed heroes are still heroes. It is unfair to judge the people of 250 years ago by the evolving standards of today. Although they accepted slavery for their time, they wanted it to end soon as minds and hearts were changed. They set the principles by which that change could come.

We fought a war to preserve the Union and end slavery. Lincoln emancipated some slaves in 1863. We ratified three Constitutional Amendments between 1865 and 1870 to abolish slavery, to ensure freed slaves could be citizens with equal protection under the laws and to secure the right to vote. The Civil Rights movement brought us the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was progress in the right direction but it took a long time for minds to be ready for those changes. Racism and hatred are not institutional in a race or a country, but in the hearts of individual people.

I’ve traveled to many countries on six continents. I have seen poverty and wealth, civilized cultures and dysfunctional governments.

I realized that America has provided the most opportunity to the most people, whether native born or immigrants. Many have grabbed hold of those opportunities and worked hard to achieve their American Dream. America defeated Nazis, Fascists, and the Japanese Empire, then ended Soviet Communism without firing a shot. Most of the major inventions that enrich our everyday lives were created by Americans. We were the first nation to land men on the moon. Yes, America is not perfect, but neither am I. None of us are. But I am a Proud American and I still believe it is the best country the world has ever known, one which has lifted billions out of poverty and tyranny and is still the beacon of hope to many more billions around the world.