There has been a lot of talk lately about American Exceptionalism. The dictionary defines exceptionalism as the condition of being different from the norm; also: a theory expounding the exceptionalism especially of a nation or region. In my opinion it does not mean we are better than everyone else, it means we are a nation that strongly believes in the freedom of every individual and we are willing to die for that freedom. Our nation was built on this premise and our constitution defends it. We may not like the policies of our government at certain times, or our jobs, we may struggle to make ends meet but we have something that many people don't have, we have the freedom to live the life of our choosing. It is easy to become complacent believing that one individual can't make a difference, but it is not so, recently I was reminded just how powerful one person can be.
My uncle is a Vietnam veteran and a part of him never returned from Vietnam. His lifelong struggle to move beyond the war turned out to be a 30 year quest to find some way to properly remember his fallen brothers. The quest became reality on Veterans Day of this year.
It began 14 years ago with the desire to build a monument in his hometown to make sure no one forgot the four McHenry, IL High School graduates killed in Vietnam. The unveiling took place on a rainy, cold day yet hundreds gathered to tell stories and celebrate the lives of the four young men. The memorial includes the names of each man and the location where they died, indicated on a map of Vietnam and it is illuminated at night. The monument is a beautiful work of art that pulled together a small community. The efforts of many moved mountains to make the monument possible but the seed was sown by one man and his efforts to make a difference.
The front page of the program for that day reads: "In honored remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price so all may live free."
My uncle is a reminder of the power of one. That is American Exceptionalism!