Courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Adventure: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.
Ingenuity: the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful.
What does courage, adventure and ingenuity have to do with making America great, you might ask? Throughout the history of our country we see time and time again the perseverance through difficulty, resourcefulness and tenacity of the people who made America what we know today. Just think about this for a moment, why did the first colonists, settlers, and immigrants come to America in the first place? It wasn’t necessarily the friendliest place on earth. These people didn’t have google to look up climate, growing seasons, or the language of the people. They left everything they had ever known – their homes, friends, and family members because they wanted a new life, religious freedom, or adventure and they did all this not knowing what hazards and difficulties they would face. Here are some examples:
- May 14, 1607, – 104 English men and boys landed at what would later be known as the first successful colony in the new world, Jamestown. These colonists were sponsored by the Virginia Company of London, a group of investors who hoped to profit from the colony. Jamestown was the first successful English colony, but not the first English colony to be established. Only 22 years before, Sir Walter Raleigh established the Roanoke colony which was also in Virginia. Mysteriously, the people of this colony disappeared, never to be seen again. There are several different theories. Some believe that the colony was looted and the colonists taken captive by Indians, but we will never know for sure. However, the knowledge of Roanoke’s demise didn’t stop the settlers of Jamestown. They came anyway and because of their determination the colonization of Jamestown was a success.
2. December 16, 1620 – The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth harbor with 102 people comprised of men, women, and children. These people were called pilgrims or separatists. They originally left England to go to Holland so that they could have religious freedom. While these families did have religious freedom in Holland, the parents began losing their children to the influence of the Dutch. They came to America to protect their families from ungodly influences and so that they could worship God how they believed was best. These families knew that it would not be easy, however, and during the first winter 45 of the original 102 people died. Because of the incredible perseverance of these families through great difficulty, the Plymouth colony became the second successful English colony in America.
3. July 4, 1776 – The original thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. The British saw this as a revolution and rebellion against their King, King George III. The colonists were willing to die, if necessary, in order to establish freedom and liberty for future generations. Patrick Henry, one of our founding fathers, in a speech he made in 1775 said this “…The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? …Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” We owe the freedom and liberty that we enjoy today to the courage of these brave men. They were willing to lose everything and pay the ultimate price, if necessary, in order to provide a better future for their children and generations following.
4. Westward Expansion spanned the years of 1807 to 1910. During this time hundreds of thousands of families and individuals traveled west for different reasons. Fur trappers, who were among the first pioneers, traveled west because of the abundance of animals available, missionaries travelled west to bring the gospel to Native American tribes, others went west due to Manifest Destiny which was a belief that American values should be spread all the way to the Pacific Ocean, still others because of the California gold rush, abundant land for farming, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, new opportunities or a fresh start in life. Traveling west was a dangerous undertaking and filled with unknowns, but for many, it also held the promise of hope and a new beginning. Morris Birkbeck, an English agricultural innovator, author and early 19th-century pioneer in southern Illinois wrote the following paragraph in his book, Notes on a Journey in America: “The condition of the people of America is so different from aught that we in Europe have an opportunity of observing… They are great travelers, and in general better acquainted with the vast expanse of country, spreading over their eighteen states… than the English with their little island. They are also a migrating people, and even when in prosperous circumstances, can contemplate a change of situation, which under our old establishments and fixed habits, none, but the enterprising, would venture upon, when urged by adversity.”
5. July 20, 1969 – After years of preparation, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Because of the diligence and tenacity of the men and women who were a part of the space program, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to set foot on the moon. This was …”one giant leap for mankind” as Neil Armstrong said himself.
In the examples above, it is this courage, adventure and ingenuity that we have come to think of today as the American spirit. Think of our founding fathers, Sacajawea and the Lewis and Clark expedition, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, the building of the Panama Canal, Eddie Rickenbacker, General Patton, the Manhattan Project, the space program and so much more. All these people were driven by the American Spirit and didn’t give up. It’s part of what makes us, as Americans, who we are. Unfortunately, we are beginning to lose this American spirit. Slowly, but surely, it is starting to become non-existent. Studies show that teenagers today spend around 9 hours a day in front of a screen, whether that’s watching the TV, playing video games, or using social media. Young adults and teenagers are satisfied with the entertainment industry to give them feelings of accomplishment and adventure. They are becoming dissatisfied with the real world because of the alternate reality they live in. This is not only dangerous, but also very sad. I would encourage you to read good books, learn about the amazing people that helped to shape our country, and encourage the young people in your lives to do the same! God has blessed us with an incredible heritage, let’s work together to continue that incredible heritage for generations to come!
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