Patrick J. Hurley
Patrick J. Hurley
In reporting to the President the reasons why many young American soldiers captured in Korea had "cooperated" with their Communist captors, the Advisory Committee on Prisoners of War of the Defense Department reported that ". . . They couldn't answer arguments in favor of Communism with arguments in favor of Americanism, because they knew very little about their America."
America is not just a place, or a history -- ("Our greatness is built upon our freedom -- is moral, not material. We have a great ardor for gain; but we have a deep passion for the rights of man." -- Woodrow Wilson) -- it is a hope, a collection of ideals to which men have aspired for many centuries. The ideals represented by the word America can be reduced to a few fundamentals: the right of man to (1) individual liberty, (2) self-government, (3) equality of justice, and (4) enjoyment of the fruits of his labor. Ideals, however, mean little unless translated into a way-of-life by the actions of men. Unless they are lived, they tend to become cliches-mere words, without any depth of meaning, without any power to sustain the spirit and the courage of the men called upon to suffer for them.
Likewise, the actions of men, however brave or dramatic they might be, cannot be lifted above their simple physical importance unless motivated by an ideal. Heroism is not bravery only, but courage plus an ideal -- without the ideal it might be no more than foolishness.
America must be the ideal and the men, together. The inspiration of great ideals when united to great examples can carry the inspiration from generation to generation, and make a permanent impression on every character that comes in contact with it. If the ideals which we, as a nation, profess to support are taught not as phrases to be learned only by repetition but through the example of the men to whom those ideals were actually a way-of-life, then we need not produce bewildered men who "knew very little about their America."
Man, in general, is not adept at abstract thinking. He must have . . .