Tures: Proud to be an American

Published 3:39 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2019

John Tures
Political science professor at LaGrange College

The beginning of Lee Greenwood’s classic “Proud to be an American” focuses on being proud to be here in America, with people and our freedom mattering more than possessions and economic wealth.

In my American Experience class, my students tell me they see the American Dream as prosperity. But maybe it means just a little more.

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Former State Senator Josh McKoon, a conservative Republican, let me relay his social media post. Perhaps the subject isn’t who we first think of when we hear that song played around the Fourth of July, but perhaps we can broaden our minds a little to appreciate what we have.

“Yesterday I was in an Uber. My driver was from Jamaica and moved to the U.S. several years ago. As we were chatting, he told me he became a U.S. citizen last month. After congratulating him he told me since becoming a citizen how much he loved the flag.

He was given a flag at the naturalization ceremony and carries it with him everywhere he goes. The gratitude and the love of country he had was palpable.

I just thought it was a powerful reminder of how great this country is and how easy it is for those of us who were born here to take so much of our freedom and opportunity for granted.”

Back in 2016, one of my students became a U.S. citizen, as her husband and daughter already were.

She came to LaGrange College via Trinidad & Tobago, a pair of islands in the Caribbean. This non-traditional student was also the winner of our college’s academic integrity award, and worked as a mentor and second mom to her fellow students, inspiring them to do better on tests and papers. And she would have never made it without the help of our GOP Senator Johnny Isakson and GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who simply insisted that the bureaucracy follow the laws, as our student did while getting the runaround.

Wearing a suit and a patriotic flag tie, I was taken by the new citizens to be with the U.S. government. They begged for pictures to be taken with the American flag, the cardboard cutout of the Statue of Liberty, family and residents. There were a pair of grandmothers from the Dominican Republic who couldn’t stop crying, hugging me with gratitude. I met a Syrian doctor who practiced in an area most U.S. doctors shunned, who couldn’t wait to cure Americans as a way of saying thank you for letting him leave his war-torn nation. I will never forget a little girl from Bangladesh, happily waving her American flag calling “Papa! We are Americans now!” There wasn’t a dry eye that day as the former Europeans, Africans, Asians and those from Latin America got to appreciate what many of us have always known and enjoyed, and maybe need a little reminder of what makes this country special.