Decades ago, I and my classmates at USAFA were required to memorize a quote that continues to inspire me as often as I read it. We recited it frequently, stiff at attention, back to wall, sweat dripping from cheeks, as screaming upperclassmen threatened and blew droplets of spittle in our face, their nose to ours. In memory of 9/11 and the trial through which our country has persevered, I offer it as sustenance. Even today, I return to it often, particularly when tempted to doubt.
An American Creed
I do not choose to be a common man.
It is my right to be uncommon.
I seek whatever talents God gave me — not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen,
Humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and build,
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for the dole.
I prefer the challenge of life to the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout.
I will never cower before any earthly master nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
Enjoy the benefits of my creations and to face the world boldly and say,
“This, with God’s help, I have done.”
All this is what it means to be an American.
Dean Alfonge, 1952
United States Air Force Academy Contrails