I am 71 years old. My American story is similar to many of my generation. I am the product of immigrants — Scots-Irish, German and English — who came to America seeking a better life and a chance to write their own stories and chart their own course of limitless opportunity. This was the American dream. They worked as farmers, day laborers and soldiers. They raised children with hopes and dreams of a better life for them and their grandchildren.
An important part of my story includes service to my country. I enlisted in the Army during a time in our country’s history where such a choice was very unpopular. It was an important moral choice for me. I ended up serving 30 remarkable years in uniform. During those years I completed graduate and postgraduate education, served at the highest levels of the government and had the ultimate privilege of leading the finest men and women in our country.
I remain hopeful that my American story is one that still lives today, but I fear it is being hidden from view.
I still see glimpses even in today’s toxic political environment that my story can be found and celebrated. In my story I was taught to respect everyone, even those who looked different than me. In my story I was taught that nothing could prevent me from achieving my goals in life. In my story, Americans all believed in their country, its opportunities and each other.
I grew up in the “ask what you can do for your country” era. Opportunities were available to anyone from anywhere who was willing to work hard and be part of our collective society. We all believed this.
America has been and remains a remarkable success even if it is hard to recognize in today’s charged environment. Anyone who has spent more than a few days in any part of the world where freedom is denied can tell you how truly blessed we are to live in a country where you are free to express your opinions and make your own choices.
I have two beautiful granddaughters who I fear may not experience my American story.
I hope that their story will not include institutional hate, fear and division that are clearly alive today. I hope that their story will not include mistrust of our institutions, their fellow citizens and the values upon which America was founded.
I hope that when they sit down to write about their stories they will be able to write about great and exciting opportunities in their lives, a grandpa who loved them, a grandpa who instilled in them a love of his country and its institutions and a life in which they were able to experience and celebrate a history and foundation that has made America a truly exceptional experiment.
As someone who has served his country, both in and out of uniform, for more than 50 years I can only hope that the American people will wake up to what is happening in our country today and get us back on the right track.
America is a rich collection of amazing stories that need to be shared and celebrated. America is a great country; my hope is that we will keep it that way.