Dear Uncle Sam,
I was in a card shop the other day looking for a birthday card for you.
I saw cards for kids, 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, and 60-year-olds.
But none for a 238-year-old.
That’s too bad. I don’t think there’s a person who has an uncle who has done what you, or endured what you have. Even though your image didn’t permeate America until 1916, your message, which is your heart and soul, is 238 years today.
So Happy Birthday Uncle Sam.
I imagine with each birthday you look back on your nieces and nephews that make up this great country and you laugh, cry, worry, and beam with excitement at what lies ahead.
What a family you have.
A family that has loved, hated, fought and made up.
This has been a heck of year for you. Just last week you celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the civil rights act. Sure, there is still hatred among some people, but at least we recognize the rights of all people.
Last month you beamed with mixed emotions as the allies recognized the 70th anniversary of D-Day. You beamed with pride because the America-led coalition stormed Normandy in the name of freedom and peace. However, you wept as you recall the many nieces and nephews who perished on those distant shores.
You continue to be filled with anguish because we’re still sacrificing our troops – the purest form of American heroes – on distant shores – whether Korean, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. You wish the rest of the world would embody some of the fundamental freedoms and principles that you have tried to instill in your American family.
You’ve been busy for 238 years making sure the welcome mat to United States is clean and the doors open for those who come here seeking a better life. No doubt you grouse when newcomers expect us to speak their language, as they overlook the fact they came here to experience freedoms and opportunities they’ve never had before. But still, you do what you can to accommodate them.
And while you clean the welcome mat, you make sure the door is kept open for persons who may have been our enemies at one time. But you try not to live in the past, you are quick to forgive and quick to welcome, perhaps, some may say, to a fault.
As you look at the family album for the past 238 years, you probably beam with how the family has overcome obstacles. You recall with bittersweet tears how we overcame the Civil War to be united. You smile with amazement at how during the depths of the Great Depression men were selling apples on the streets to survive, but yet in what seems to be a short few decades, men and women were selling Apples because they were a pinnacle of American technological know-how.
Long before you turned 200 you looked on with horror as JFK and MLK, two voices of hope were gunned down because of what they believed. You probably panicked in 1968 as the major cities erupted in violence, adding to the turbulence that was rocking America.
But, dear Uncle Sam, you beam with pride at the resilience of your nieces and nephews. With a heavy heart, you point to Sept. 11, 2001 when more than 3,500 family members died because insurgents resented our freedom and success -- Freedom and success for everyone regardless of their race, religion, creed, sexual orientation.
And while the sense of ensuing unity brought insatiable pride to you, the opening of the 9-1-1 Memorial made everyone realize just how lucky we are.
You’re a great teacher, Uncle Sam. You teach by example.
I wonder how many people spend part of your birthday cheering for their favorite baseball team with little thought the traditional American pastime is truly American – the rosters of Major League Baseball teams are filled with players from more than 10 different countries. It’s hard to believe that it seems like only yesterday that Major League Baseball teams were limited to white players only. It’s also hard to believe that you were only 132 when the Cubs last won the World Series.
It’s fitting, in some ways that your birthday this year is on a Friday because it’s the start of the weekend when your nieces and nephews will take time to worship in synagogues, churches, temples and mosques – a guaranteed freedom missing in many countries.
But not here. Through it all, the pride and independence that you represent resonates across America for better or worse. We’re not perfect, but we’re light years ahead of most countries thanks to you and your unwavering support.
So to my favorite uncle – Happy Birthday. And thank you.
Because of what you stand for, it’s easy to say “God Bless America.”
A grateful nephew