History will be made this year in the presidential election when Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is elected.
We may have the first Black President who will serve a second term, or our country will elect its first Mormon President.
In my 20 years of living in this great United States, I have never experienced the type of visceral passions stirred up by opponents and supporters of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The candidates have done a remarkable job of clearly defining their differing worldviews and dissimilar attitudes toward government.
I teach American Literature each day to over 90 students who constantly hear me describing America as a country that would be unique from every other when it declared in 1776 that hereditary status, class distinctions and religious affiliation would be replaced by the merits and actions of individuals with liberty.
Our country would then go on to deal with the contradiction of slavery in our “free” Republic and in a Civil War our country would be reborn out of the blood of our own citizens and the issue of oppressive servitude would ultimately be resolved.
Presidents down through our history would later tell us that all we had to fear was fear itself or not to ask what our country could do for us but instead to consider what we could do for our country. Other Presidents would tell us that it was our responsibility to live up to our calling as citizens of a nation that celebrated and protected liberty.
The lesson I try to teach students is that the self-evident truths of the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of an equally created people carries with it the cost of responsibility.
The price of liberty (the right to self-determine) is that our freedom to choose has consequences, that life is guaranteed because it is valued and protected, and the pursuit of happiness means that we must seek out and find it for ourselves.
We will elect our next president in a few weeks and the day after the election we will wake up as Americans whose politics, worldviews and religious beliefs may conflict but whose certainty in the “United States of America” must never waver.
That’s the lesson I attempt to teach my students through literature. I hope we, as adults, still believe it is possible.