If I were to see you on your mother's birthday, and you told me:
"I have the greatest mother in the world",
I wouldn't grumble, "My mother was pretty good there too, fella."
I would be happy for you.
If I met you on your country's holiday, and you said, "I have the greatest country in the world."
Being a student of world history,
I would point out a few things that I admired about your country and join in your happiness.
I never said America was the greatest country in the world ...
just that it could be (just like any nation could)
if the citizens and leaders put aside their differences and worked together.
On her birthday, I wanted to point out some good things about America ...
No other country has an equivalent to the Peace Corps which helps poor nations the world over.
There is the European Voluntary Service but it only helps European countries.
There is United Nations Volunteers, but it will not take just anyone who wishes to contribute to the world's needs.
I have been told I should focus on being a citizen of the world and not be devisive.
Yet, if you are American, you already are a citizen of the world ...
for America contains peoples from most of the world's nations.
That America still survives is a wonder.
The American effort to achieve independence from Britain was not expected to succeed, but it did,
with some timely help from friends abroad.
The new country’s grand experiment in representative self-government was not given much of a chance, either,
but it has survived.
The idea of a nation
— not an empire, but a nation —
melded from many nationalities, ethnic groups and religious faiths was inconceivable
to most of the world, but it has been realized over the 239 years since independence was boldly declared in Philadelphia.
The essential element in all of this was, as Abraham Lincoln said,
the ability of the people and their leaders to “think anew and act anew” when the times demanded it.
“The nature of injustice,” Justice Anthony Kennedy recently wrote, “is that we may not always see it in our own times.
The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment
did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions,
and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”
Let us celebrate the wonder and marvel of our constitution this weekend.