Category Archives: Patriotism

The Exact Moment I became an American (rev.)

The Booker T. Washington Society

By Ronald Court (nee, Courtemanche)

In just two days on September 11, 2010 I will observe the exact moment I realized I was an American and not a multi-hyphenated French-Canadian-American whose grandparents came down from Quebec in search of a living-any living.

It was 11:35am on that fateful day nine years ago in 2001. I had been teaching at Champlain College but as the planes stuck the towers, classes were cancelled. I drove home, but found myself turning off toward the local flag shop. As the realization of what happened set in, that America, our country… my country, me was attacked. I heard myself declare, “I am an American.” I am not French-Canadian. I am an American … of French-Canadian descent.

Today, it makes me ponder why some Americans descended from several generations of American-born ancestors still refer to themselves as African-Americans.

Sure, there’s an obvious answer. But can you tell me who the real African-American in this picture is?

(Hint: Actress Charleze Theron (above) was born in South Africa; Will Smith in Philadelphia.)

The Exact Moment I became an American

By Ronald Court.
It was 11:35 in the morning, seven years ago today, September 11, 2001. As I was driving home – classes at the local college where I taught were cancelled for the day – I found myself muttering, then loudly with determination, “I am not French-Canadian, I am an American, dammit , just as I turned off Route 15 to head towards a local flag shop.
Even then, so soon after we had been attacked, a few others were already ahead of me, purchasing U.S. flags in a shared spontaneous impulse to explicitly demonstrate our love of country, come hell or high water.
It occurs to me, as an American (of French-Canadian descent) that the age of hyphenation is over – or should be. It has done little to bring us together, and may contribute to keeping us apart. This is not so say we must set aside differences and disagreements. Indeed, entirely within the spirit of being an American is to celebrate each individual’s freedom to disagree.
Ever since the founding of the Booker T. Washington Society, I’ve refrained from using the term African-American. To my mind, it does more to divide than to define. As fellow Americans, our legitimate struggles are over values, not external characteristics.
Booker T. Washington never lost sight that his role was to improve the people of his race. He did not see alienation as advantageous to anyone’s interests.
So, don’t expect to find “African-American” bandied about on this site. If necessary, you’ll see “black” instead.
Which reminds me, can you tell me which of the two in the photograph below is African-American, and which is American?
A-A photo

Lincoln on Thanksgiving

By Ronald Court

“It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year…to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health.

“He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our working men in every department of industry with abundant rewards.

“Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage and resolution sufficient for the great trial … into which we have been brought by cause of freedom and humanity …

“Now, therefore, I …. do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may be then, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the universe.

“And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid, that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust, and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the great Disposer of events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling-place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.”
(with thanks to Geoffrey Norman at VermontTiger.com)

Mt. Vernon

By Ronald Court

I hope the BTW Ambassador Scholarship students, parents and teacher/mentors the Society brought to Washington from New Orleans this April watched the news tonight reporting on the Presidents of the United States and of France touring George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate. It reminded me of the evening the Society treated them to dinner at Mt. Vernon and a special evening tour of its museum.

Actually, we had booked a special private evening tour of George Washington’s Mt. Vernon home for them, but were “preempted” at the last minute by Nick Cage and his Hollywood film company shooting scenes to a sequel to “National Treasure,” their film about stealing the Declaration of Independence in order to preserve it.

2 BTW Ambassadors at George Washington’s Mt. Vernon Estate Museum‘/>

Still, the museum was opened up for our group to tour and view an exciting multi-media presentation of the independence of our country. In a way, there are two “Fathers of our Country,” both born Virginians, both named Washington and both inspired millions to become independent.

Inasmuch as all our BTW Ambassador students this year were from New Orleans, a city founded by the French, perhaps having walked the same grounds as the Presidents of the US and of France at Mt. Vernon will hold special meaning for them. I hope so.

A Blessing in Disguise

By Ronald Court

I’ve been off-line for over a week – ever since my computer’s hard drive crashed. With computer and back-up software off to a Geek Squad for repair and reconstruction, I was “stuck” with time on my hands, and voilà, my disaster turned into a blessing in disguise.

I opted to catch up on my reading. First up was “1776” David McCullough’s account of General George Washington’s 1st year in the Revolutionary War. Defeat followed defeat until Washington launched a “brilliant stroke” and changed history, though the war raged for another six and a half years, taking 1% of our population. In percentage terms, it was “the most costly war in American history, except for the Civil War.”

McCullough closes with, “Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning–how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference–the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.”

Amen. This inspiring read gave me pause to ponder how the history of our country as it is being written today will turn out–will circumstances or “strengths of character” make the difference? Only time will tell.

It is little short of a miracle to me that our country, born in a bloody revolution, dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal,” and still struggling to make it so, would produce not one, but two leaders who shared such ‘strengths of character’ and much more.

Consider two men separated by time, yet: both born on tobacco farms, both Virginians, both self-educated, both spending their earlier years working the same West Virginia land (one a surveyor, the other at salt & coal mines) both receiving honorary degrees from Harvard, both with a brother named John and both with the surname, Washington. (and here’s a stretch: both had a wife whose 1st name was “Mar…”)

To be sure, one was born into slavery, the other into slave-holding. However, my sense is we, all of us, stand to benefit more by choosing to embrace and emulate the qualities common to these two great Americans? Not because or in spite of the color of either, but because both were great leaders, period.

(Thank you, son Barnaby for the “1776” Christmas present I have finally come to more fully appreciate.)

What the 4th of July Means to Me

By Ronald Court

A.M.E. Zon ChurchExactly 126 years ago today in 1881, Booker T. Washington opened the doors to the Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute for the first time. He had arrived a month before, but mindfully selected July 4th as opening day, holding the first class in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion church (replica opp.).

Booker T. Washington thus established his school “under the auspices of both religion and patriotism.” Like the founding fathers and other great American leaders (some quoted below) both before and after his time, he seemed to understand the uniquely beneficial power these forces, in just proportion to one another, hold for us all.

“We all can pray. We all should pray. We should ask the fulfillment of god’s will. We should ask for courage, wisdom, for the quietness of soul which comes alone to them who place their lives in His hands. Harry Truman, 33rd US President

“America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side.”
Ronald Reagan, 40th US President

“Education is useless without the Bible. The Bible was America’s basic textbook in all fields. God’s word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct.”
Noah Webster, “The Schoolmaster of the Nation” 1758-1843