America Essay Contest: The True Heart of America: Lives Are Measured by a Virtuous Character

America Essay Contest: The True Heart of America: Lives Are Measured by a Virtuous Character
4th July 1776: John Hancock (1737–1793), president of the Continental Congress is the first to put his signature to the Declaration of Independence, watched by fellow patriots Robert Morris, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Rush, Richard Henry Lee, Charles Carroll, John Witherspoon, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge. Original Artwork: Printed by Currier & Ives. (MPI/Getty Images)
Michael Stevens

How do we measure the value of America? Is it measured from a historical perspective? Sociological perspective? Religious perspective?

Unfortunately, there is no methodology that will yield a meaningful formula for determining the worth of America, for it is not quantifiable except in the hearts of individuals whose lives have been shaped out of the principles of freedom and liberty. That is the hidden beauty and the true value of America, nestled in the fiber of every American seeking to find relevance in a society that is so diverse and demanding but yet is undergirded by opportunities that abound beyond any other nation in the world.

America is where dreams come true, where lives blossom, where lessons are learned, and where each person regardless of race, age, gender, or economic status deserves the equal right to enjoy life to its fullest.

A vibrant society depends upon people who are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and full of loving-kindness. When these virtues form the basis of a society, trusting relationships flourish through which character and identity can be developed, and transmitted from one generation to the next.

Where is this trusting relationship best found? It begins with the family, further developed through our religious institutions and an abiding relationship with God, then refined through an educational system designed to encourage critical thinking and the sharing of ideas that foster a more caring society. When a loving and moral character is developed through the continual flow of trusting relationships then the future demands of marriage, work, and life become more manageable.

Undeveloped character, however, results in immaturity. Throughout life, the immature person finds it more difficult to keep their emotions and feelings in check. They see things from a distorted self-driven value-based belief system that advances their own prideful interests to gain more for themselves.

Our founders understood the dangers of an immoral society and created a foundation of liberty designed to encourage the development of a virtuous character. George Washington, in a letter to his nephew, wrote, “Good moral character is the first essential of a man.” Samuel Adams argued that “The soul and spirit of Democracy is virtue. No state can long preserve its liberty where virtue is not supremely honored.”

Building lives measured by a virtuous character represents the true heart of America and is the essence of what makes America good and beautiful and worth defending. The love of family, the goodness of God, the care of teachers, the trusted friend, sacrifices made, courage displayed, and humility exhibited work together to shape the heart and provide the content for the development of a virtuous and moral character.

But when a society goes so far as to destroy the integrity of its people, then liberty is lost, and along with it, meaningful relationships that build character from generation to generation. When justice becomes perverted; when the media manipulates the news to promote the ideas of one group over another; when God is no longer permitted in the public square; when political correctness dominates; when individuals are arbitrarily assigned to a group to discredit and destroy them; when trust in our leaders declines; when the sharing of ideas is limited to selected groups; then we ask, what are we to do?

We must turn to each other and put leaders into office who affirm that every human being is important, unique, and dignified. Americans deserve to be treated with dignity, but to be American means to look not only to one’s own interests but to the interests of others as well. This represents the soul of Americanism and is why I love America.

Americans help each other. We do not do so because of obligation but out of love and joy and a passion that has been developed from generation to generation by trusting relationships that thrive within the framework of liberty designed and created by our founders.

We see this type of relationship in South Dakota as Governor Kristi Noem never went into lockdown during the fight against the spread of coronavirus. She trusted the people and their caring character to work together to protect the interests of each other. Virtue was honored and liberty was preserved.

We have not always gotten it right, and yes, there are gaps that have been created from generation to generation, but as Americans we must stand for what is just and respect the equal freedom of others.

During these times, let us remember the words of Albert Einstein: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Let us not be recognized as the generation that stood aimlessly by and watched as others destroyed America.

Michael Stevens is a retired attorney from the law firm of Stevens & Malone, PLLC, living the American dream in Wimberley, Texas.
This essay was entered in the Epoch Times “Why I Love America” contest.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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