What is an American patriot?
Throughout the centuries of America’s history, people have achieved greatness on behalf of this nation through their vision, dedication, dreams, self-sacrifice, and love. These qualities have established America in greatness, and will preserve it for future generations. It is the people, the individual men, women, and children who fill the land and exemplify these qualities that embody patriotism. America is not the government, the land, or even the freedoms; the everyday people in each state are America. Thus, while certainly the men and women who have given their lives for this country deserve honor and respect for their patriotism, we must not forget, it is the individuals who make this country great, who are also patriots.
As they set the groundwork for our nation, the diverse group of founding fathers looked toward the future, considering the following generations in their grave decisions. They did not seize the opportunity to establish themselves in power. Instead, they created a country for both the people at that present time and for generations to come, realizing the preservation of America lay in hands of the people, not the leadership of one person. George Washington, in declining a third presidential term, exemplifies this when he says in his farewell address, “that in withdrawing the tender of service . . . I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both” (Washington). Such vision as this, in careful consideration for the needs of the country and its future interests, has affirmed George Washington, as well as the other founders of our nation as American patriots.
Nevertheless, similar preparation for the future has been enacted by many men and women throughout the generations. Before each election numerous citizens compare the candidates to the ideals of the United States Constitution and support the men and women they think best suited to execute each office. Despite differences in opinion, these citizens do what they think best for the country in accordance with the American dream. Attentively, they engage in supporting their country. These Americans who plan for America’s future are no less visionary for their nation than the founding fathers. Thus, in putting to action their vision, they too are American patriots.
The great American patriot, Abraham Lincoln, rose from a humble log cabin in Illinois to become the president who did not let the union dissolve. In delivering his Gettysburg Address, he speaks of the dedication of the fallen heroes, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract” (Lincoln). It is through the dedication of such people who have devoted themselves to fight for freedom, for equality, and for the preservation of this nation that America has conquered all which has threatened to destroy it. Abraham Lincoln spent his presidency declaring that while a divided house cannot stand the United States of America would stand because they would be united. None can doubt the patriotism he and the soldiers displayed through their dedication to defend the American Union.
Yet, there are still those in this present time who show similar dedication to America. Whether or not they fight with their lives, or with their hands, with their words, or with their intelligence, the people of America who have dedicated themselves to their work, to the tasks at hand, they too are patriots. Abraham Lincoln continued his speech with the words, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (Lincoln). The everyday Americans hard at work, the men, and women who have dedicated themselves “to the great task,” these people are the American patriots.
One hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech, a speech calling America to fulfill the freedoms it proclaimed, a speech dreaming of a future for America where everyone would have a right to dream for their country and a right to reach these goals. His desire was not for himself. He dreamed for America, that America could achieve something great. Today in America his hopes are fulfilled. Today Americans do “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (King). But it is because one man dreamed and acted, telling America that, “even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream,” and a dream of freedom and equality for all (King).
Because of this freedom we, the American people, can dream. But not only can we dream, we can achieve these ends. Like the entrepreneur who longs of creating a strong business, supplying goods for the people in the market; the medical student thinking of the lives he or she can save; the athlete striving to win the Olympic gold medal to honor America; like all the men and women in this great nation who dream for America to achieve greatness, who dream for a better tomorrow not only for themselves but everyone around them, these people are the American patriots. While our aspirations do not need to be as bold as Martin Luther King Jr.’s, the patriot’s dream is to support the good of America.
During a time when our country faced the horrors of World War II and our men bravely fought overseas, our women rose to meet the new production demands. Rosie the Riveter emblemized her army of hard working women who supplied weapons for the frontlines. Their love for this country and for the lives of its people was revealed through their readiness to leave the comfort of their homes and to enter the workforce. Had they remained complacent, watching from a distance and worrying instead of arming the soldiers, the war could have ended differently. But their patriotic love for this nation sprung forth as they battled to preserve and protect America.
They left an example for generations to follow as women today still stand up strong, working hard to protect America and preserve their way of life. Women imitate Rosie and roll up their sleeves, providing for their families through hard work. They often sacrifice their personal goals for the love of their families, which, in its turn, provides a strong foundation for the good of the country. Such love as this, while often unnoticed, deserves recognition as American patriotism.
At first glance he looked like an average person, but the courage and self-sacrifice of Todd Beamer and his fellow passengers on behalf of America cannot be forgotten. When Flight 93 was hijacked and targeted to crash into either the United States Capitol or the White House, the ordinary men and women aboard the aircraft rose to the occasion to defend America. Displaying the greatest love mankind can bestow, they sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others and to preserve an emblem of the United States of America. With the famous, calm words, “Let’s roll,” Todd Beamer rallied the other passengers to retake the cockpit of the plane and crash-land it into a Pennsylvania field. These words were a call to action, and a call to sacrifice. In this great patriotic act, they gave their lives for America.
It is average people from average places, like Todd Beamer, who have risen to the task to protect America, who have demonstrated self-sacrifice on behalf of this country. All around America are men and women who have dedicated and sacrificed their lives. In every generation people died on the frontlines defending, protecting, and preserving this land so the millions of others can sleep in peace. These seemingly average people have accomplished extraordinary feats on behalf of their country, giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. We cannot say enough to the Marines, the Navy, the Air Force, the Army, and the National Guard for their great service to this nation. These brave men and women, from ordinary backgrounds, are American patriots.
Dictionary definitions of patriotism can only describe the lifeless love for one’s country. It cannot express the active participation of planning for future generations, the dedication of preserving the nation, the dreaming of the greatness it can accomplish, the selfless love for country, or the sacrifice for the protection of its people. This great nation is filled with such people –people who doff their hats, hold their hands over their hearts, and watch with pride as the red, white, and blue unfurls overhead –the people whose hearts swell and eyes dampen as the anthem rings clear –the people who pledge allegiance to the flag. Whether they come from high rank like George Washington, a poor cabin like Abraham Lincoln, a history of slavery like Martin Luther King Jr., out of kitchens like Rosie’s army, or a seemingly average existence like Todd Beamer, America has seen many patriots who have served their country in separate ways as each was differently called. The American people, with their vision, dedication, dreams, love, and self-sacrifice, are patriots in the truest sense of the world. Regardless of the color of our skin, the place of our birth, or the style of our upbringing, we, the American people, can achieve greatness on behalf of our country through the application of such magnificent qualities. We the people, we are the patriots.
King, Martin Luther Jr. (1963, August 28). I have a Dream. Retrieved from
Lincoln, Abraham. (1863, November 19). Gettysburg Address. Retrieved from
Washington, George. (1796, September 19). Farewell Address. Retrieved from