Recently, I spoke at a concert hosted by the Seark Concert Association entitled “America, My Home Sweet Home.” I was asked to speak on “what America means to me?” As I prepared for the short address, I took the opportunity to look at, what I believe to be, our nation’s mission statement - the Preamble to the Constitution.
As I reviewed the paragraph that prefaces our founding document (that I have memorized, thanks to Schoolhouse Rock), I remained focused on the first three words - We the People. Today, there is a great number of individuals and groups that preach under the banner of freedom and the freedoms our constitution provides us as Americans. But, I still pondered as to what was the true intent of our Founding Fathers.
To the concert patrons, I expressed to them of my belief that our most precious First Amendment rights (the freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of the press, freedom to exercise our own religion, and freedom to petition our government free of reprisal) - are freedoms to be engaged.
Our Founding Fathers, did not fight so that we could have the freedom to “sit on the couch” and do nothing, but so we could have the opportunity to be engaged in our community and engaged in our government. I believe our founders knew great people make great cities, and great cities make great states, and that great states make a great nation. They worked, fought, and many died building a nation so that we could have these opportunities.
Often you hear me speak to the virtues of community and civic participation, but I can think of no finer tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in 1776, landed on the shores of Okinawa, marched in Selma, rebuilt after Katrina, or liberated Fallujah than dedicating a day of service on September 11th for the actions of the heroes in 2001.
It was the those heroes - men and women wearing uniforms that said firefighter, EMT, or police - who met the terrified victims emerging from the dust filled air masking the remnants of a crumbling building- by charging into the chaos to save any and all they could in the face of certain disaster. In that moment, that instance, that act we saw all the epitomizes public service. They served their community in the face of immense danger.
Our history is rich with epic tales of service and sacrifice in the name of the greater good. To me, the actions of those on September 11th represent another instance, where for a moment in history, we galvanized as a nation to take a step closer to our destiny and the promise of our democracy.
I’m filled with a deep gratitude and unwavering sense of pride to lead our city in a day of remembrance and service this friday to commemorate the price paid by those in our past symbolized in the heroism that shone brighter than the dark clouds of catastrophe over New York on that fall day in 2001. Former president Bill Clinton once said that “people around the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power”. That was true in September 2001 let's make it true again in September of 2015!