It’s corny, but I wish it were not controversial. I love America. I don’t know if I would have been a Tory or a Patriot before the Revolution. I don’t know how I would have felt about the Stamp Tax or the costumed characters who threw tea in Boston Harbor. I don’t know if I would have agreed with the Federalists or the Anti-Federalists in their day.

I do know that I love America. I love her beauty. I love the lush green trees and four seasons of the east coast. I love the Appalachians of my native North Carolina, especially in the fall. I love the Rockies and the canyons of Utah and the evergreens and majestic mountains of the northwest. I love collecting shells on the warm, white beaches of Florida and watching seals on the beaches of California. I love the Spanish Moss that hangs from centuries-old trees in Mississippi. America is mountains and valleys and deserts and rivers and caves and tundra, and I am amazed by it all. I look at the leaves and the flowers and the creatures great and and small and wonder at the handiwork of God. I suspect that nearly all Americans share a love for the beauty of the land we call home.

Of course, America is more than her breathtaking landscapes. I love America’s historic cities. I love Boston’s cobblestone streets and San Francisco’s hills and trolleys. I love the piers of Seattle, the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the view of the Statue of Liberty from New York’s Staten Island Ferry. I love the museums and historical treasures of Baltimore. I love Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and the National Mall in D.C.

I love America’s small towns, farms, and ordinary suburbs. I lived in a small New Jersey town for five years of my childhood. There was a general store, a fire station, a police station, and our houses and schools on a wooded mountain beside a lake. I went to 4-H. In the summer, I entered baked goods in the county fair. I had grandparents who lived on a farm in Georgia. I remember getting to ride the tractor in my youth and see row after row of crops. I now live in a middle-class suburb in a wooded area. I love my neighbors and their inviting homes. Each home has its own character. I love our sense of community. I love the woodland creatures we see in our yard, and I love waking up to the sound of hundreds of birds who share our neighborhood. There are thousands of suburbs like mine across our country, but none is exactly like mine.

I love America’s heritage, our rich traditions. Our history is full of mistakes, and it’s untidy and imperfect, of course. Some in America over our history have known discrimination, persecution, or even slavery. Sadly, human societies are prone to those ills. But I marvel at the contributions of the many peoples and groups of Americans whose cultures and ways of life are part of our larger culture. I love Williamsburg in Virginia, Old Salem in my hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Pennsylvania Dutch Fairs I remember from my childhood. Americans can visit Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Temple Square in Salt Lake City, or Spanish missions all over California. Americans live on Indian reservations and in Amish country and in ethnic enclaves in Americas cities. In America, we have been free, for the most part, to build and maintain our traditions and live our religions.

I admire those who came before us. Some of our states and towns bear names given to the land by its earliest known inhabitants, names such as Arkansas and Nebraska. The ancestors of most Americans left their homes all over the world to forge new lives here on our shores. They had few comforts and conveniences compared to modern Americans, but they possessed fortitude and faith, and they built America through hard work, allowing freedom and innovative ideas to thrive.

I revere our forefathers who gave us this grand experiment in freedom, so unique in human history. I marvel at their foresight. I am amazed by their wisdom. They understood the danger of power and the inherent danger of government. They understood much about the nature of men and of civilizations.

George Washington was one of those forefathers. He had the opportunity to become the king of the nation for which he fought in battle. He turned down a crown and reluctantly and humbly accepted the responsibility of leading a new nation by consent of the governed, sharing the power and responsibility of leadership. It was he who, upon his inarguration in 1789, led the first congress to St. Paul’s Chapel on what is now Ground Zero in New York and knelt with America’s leaders in prayer. He dedicated this nation to God.

People of faith still attend houses of worship throughout America, and many still pray to and feel accountable to the same God to whom this nation was dedicated over two hundred years ago. Some, without a defined religious faith, feel a spiritual need to seek what is good. There has been a goodness in Americans. Americans have traditionally wanted to help each other and to help those less fortunate, and we have been learning to find ways to accommodate people who are special or different. Americans believe in charity. I want to believe that we still believe in good.

People dream in America. It is here that the Wright Brothers flew and where millions of other ordinary people reached extraordinary heights. Just as importantly, millions upon millions have lived relatively ordinary lives, but lives that were rich and full. Here, Americans have raised their families and worshiped their God. They have built small businesses and giant corporations. They have created art and music. They have explored and studied. They have bettered themselves and have served their fellow men. They have left for their posterity a legacy. Free to pursue happiness, many Americans have found a measure of it.

I love America. I love the beautiful country blessed so incredibly and wonderfully with prosperity and freedom. I love the nation built by dreams and ingenuity and hard work and faith. I want those of the generations that are to come to know what is to dream and to have the freedom to pursue those dreams. I want them to be able to live and proclaim their faith. I want them to be able to prosper through hard work and ingenuity. I want them to have opportunity to make for themselves the lives they want, the opportunity to make their lives, and the lives of other people, better. I want them to be free to learn and to think and to express their ideas. I want them to live the lives of Americans.