We are a nation of strong and varied convictions and beliefs. We argue and debate our differences vigorously and often. But when all is said and done, we still come together as one people and pledge our allegiance not just to a place on a map or a certain leader but to the words my mother read to me years ago: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
That is the true genius of America — a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles. It's the idea that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes will be counted.
For me, it is the love and defense of these ideals that constitutes the true meaning of patriotism. They are ideals that do not belong to any particular party or group of people but call each of us to service and sacrifice for the sake of our common good.
I write this knowing that if previous generations had not taken up this call, I would not be where I am today. As a young man of mixed race, without a firm anchor in any community, without even a father's steadying hand, this essential American ideal — that our destinies are not written before we are born — has defined my life. And it is the source of my profound love for this country: because with a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, I know that stories like mine could only happen in America.
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