I’m feeling rather patriotic this week. That’s right, I’m not embarrassed to say that I am proud to be an American. Sure, cue “The Star Spangled Banner,” if you want, and unfurl a giant drape of stars and stripes behind me. Or roll your eyes, call me obnoxious, hokey, and old-fashioned, if that’s how my proclamation makes you feel.

But the pride I awoke with this morning is exactly the same pride I felt for our nation after the historic 2008 presidential election. Because regardless of which side of the aisle you gravitate toward, it’s awe-inspiring to see freedom and democracy in action. Yes, it’s my constitutional right to be able to vote for the leaders I want representing me, and the laws I hope to have enacted. But it’s an undeniable privilege to live in a country that affords me that right. Where I am free to voice an opposing opinion without fear of persecution. Where I have access to a mindboggling array of perspectives and can choose to subscribe to whichever point of view makes the most sense for my family. Where I can look at issues differently from my friends, and still find the civility to disagree agreeably. Where I can engage in respectful discourse with strangers who have a completely different ideology. Where I am not prohibited—but rather, encouraged—to offer ideas and solutions.

I am exceedingly thankful to have that right. I view it with a sense of responsibility, rather than a sense of entitlement—just like I see it as my obligation and responsibility to do what I was scheduled to do today: fulfill my jury service. I had originally been called for jury duty back in the spring, but since I was playing the role of bleary-eyed book author on a tight deadline at the time, I postponed my service. I was actually looking forward to the experience today, having never served before. And like I was instructed, I called the courthouse phone recording last night, only to find that juror service for today was cancelled. To be perfectly frank, I was only a little relieved. Call me sappy and slightly nutty, but I was much more disappointed.

And so today I’m instead trying to do a tiny bit of civil service by reminding my fellow citizens just how fortunate we are to live in this country. My patriotism comes from a place of sincere gratitude. As a fourth-generation American, I don’t purport to have first-hand knowledge of what my predecessors were forced to endure while living under different forms of government. Nor can I even begin to imagine the sacrifices they made to come to America. But I am deeply indebted to those who came before me for the freedoms and rights I enjoy today. And though I don’t have immediate family members serving in the military, I can not extend enough heartfelt thanks, not only to our armed forces serving the country, but also to their loved ones on the home front who find the strength to get up day after day and face life without a warm hug or supportive word from their spouse or parent.

I’m genuinely sorry and sad for those fellow citizens who feel that being proud of our country is in some way offensive or condescending to other cultures. There’s no implicit devaluation of others by having pride in ourselves, if it’s expressed with a sense of gratefulness rather than boastfulness. With immense respect and thanks to our Founding Fathers—and to the Mothers of Suffrage—I will always view my ability to shape the future of this country as a responsibility, an honor, and a privilege. I hope others always embrace every opportunity to do the same.

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