What is affirmed or disaffirmed when we identify something as patriotic? How we conceptualize American patriotism today has been distorted by political extremes for political ends. Since January 6th it has become very clear that it is not knowledge that our society lacks – we all saw what happened. What is clear, however, is that we lack the courage to confront, to process and understand, and to accept what we know to be true: Patriotism requires historical, cultural, and philosophical contexts to begin to understand its ebbs and flows; it is a nuanced and complex space that has been the best and worst of all of us. It is aspirational and illustrates our relationship between what we choose to believe about our nation and who we choose to be. Authenticity within patriotism belongs in the complex story of us; all of us and not just the few.
On this day, I honor SFC Alwyn C. Cashe and I remember SSG LaDavid Johnson who both lost on the field of battle but should not be lost from our memories. That the descendants of once enslaved people in America can resolve to serve this country is a testament to their faith in the highest aspirations of this nation’s values and principles. Thank you to all who are lost to us in service to this nation and I especially thank all of the descendants of formerly enslaved people like me who served and gave their all. You believed in the highest aspirations of us – this nation – and I honor each of you.