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Living up to the ideals of the Fourth of July means paying attention to more than just ourselves.
By Ed Jones
THE embroidered pillow was beautifully stitched.
Its message all but jumped off the fabric: "God bless America."
In another part of the world, an older gentleman eagerly reached for my hand as he left the Anglican Cathedral in Bukavu, Congo, in May. He was wearing a faded shirt that said: U.S. Postal Service. He was delighted to know I was from the United States.
With the din of the Fourth of July fireworks still ringing in our ears, it's timely to ponder the question of America's place in the world.
Many of us may not realize how extended and pervasive our influence already is. But what does America symbolize these days for the English, the Congolese and others all over the globe?
The good news is that, for millions, America still means freedom and prosperity. It's still the stuff of dreams. Our political principles and our cultural power combine to maintain our role as a beacon for the needy of the world.
But that's hardly as dominant a view as it was a half-century ago. Wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East have changed that perception. Tough political talk on immigration has altered the old Ellis Island reputation of America.
Yet the United States remains the country with the most opportunity to help, and to hurt, the citizens of the other 195 nations on Earth.
That opportunity gives us the responsibility to use our power and influence for good.
Yet I can't remember any time in my lifetime when America has seemed so insular. The heady days of John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress have been replaced by the polarized politics of 2012 that focus America's political attention squarely on itself.
Times are tough. Of course, we need to focus on the economic problems of the millions
But that can't be all we do. America still has the means to make a positive difference in the world. It's not just the security our armed forces provide. It's also the sustenance of our economic might.
Why should we care what other countries think of us?
Because the Founding Fathers, whose work we salute this week, cared about America's place in the world. They created a land of the free that could be a beacon and model for others. That "shining city on a hill" John Winthrop wrote about almost four centuries ago was meant
On this Fourth of July week, may our gaze go beyond our mountains and prairies to other lands, where people still look to America as a model of good works.
Ed Jones: 540/374-5401