A few days after 911, I had occasion to attend a ceremony honoring first responders. Dignitaries from law enforcement, fire departments and local governments gathered to remember the countless people who lost their lives just a few days earlier. The event was held in front of the City Hall building in Los Angeles. With streets blocked off, the area could accommodate the large number of people who were expected to attend. Being there well before the ceremony began, I watched the organizers prepare the stage and seating area. Speakers would use the platform at the top of the stairs to address the crowd. Folding chairs were placed in the street, and invited guests were shown where to sit. Officials were briefed on the program schedule and the local orchestra set up just below the stage.
I was standing to one side of the platform, when the orchestra started to warm up their instruments. Moments later they began a practice run of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. It was a beautiful day in Los Angeles and the rich orchestral sounds coming from the sidewalk seemed somewhat surreal. As the full sound of the horns continued, a flash of red caught my eye and I looked up. The sight reminded me of a similar scene earlier in the week, when a group of firefighters unfurled the flag from the roof of the Pentagon.
To the stirring music of Fanfare, I watched the huge flag unfold as it flowed down the side of the building like a breathtaking waterfall. For a few moments, I felt like I was in a movie and watching it in slow motion. The turbulent emotions of the week rushed back and my eyes welled up with tears. I was never so proud to be an American as that day when the symbol of our nation fell toward me like a flood. Our people had been dealt a tremendous blow, but it would not intimidate us. Those cowardly acts by a group of lunatics would only strengthen our resolve.
This piece of red, white, and blue cloth is not just a symbol of our country but of a people with a set of values not found anywhere else in the world. Our founding fathers articulated these in the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
These same values are inscribed on our coins: Liberty, In God we Trust, and E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). Liberty means that Americans are free to make their own life decisions and are responsible for the consequences of those decisions, be they good or bad. Unlike European societies who value equality over liberty, our founding fathers understood that government enforced equality comes at the price of liberty. The founders also understood that our rights come from God, not from man. If government can give us rights then government can take them away. Lastly, America was not designed to keep people segregated by class or status, but the intention was that all people be equally American regardless of where they immigrated from.
On the journey toward Home,