Author’s Note: I’ve made a list of 100+ events, places and experiences that happily unite people. I’m taking a tour to see and experience as many of them as possible, and also meet up with Society members and friends. Of course, I’ll be sharing these #HappinessUnites moments with you. Find out more of the why’s of the #HappinessUnites Tour in my blog: 3 Reasons I’m Hittin’ the Road. Or find where my #HappinessUnites Tour has taken me so far – and what I’ve had time to write about. If you want to meet up with me, check out my #HappinessUnites Tour schedule.
#HappinessUnites Tour – Stop 13: Patriotism
This post was originally going to be about democracy. I love that America is a democracy – or as much of one as any country can be. However, while doing several of the activities where democracy is celebrated, it become obvious that our differences live in the heart of democracy, and our differences divide us. For everything that’s right about a democracy, a democracy is messy. It is kind of like your kitchen before a wonderful home cooked meal—a mess with purpose.
However, what makes our democracy unique is that it demands that we respect our differences, so that we live together in harmony even when we disagree. It’s true that the most active voices usually win those philosophical arguments, but living in a democracy requires that we love our country enough to participate in the arguments. Thus, it occurred to me that this tour stop really wasn’t about democracy; instead it’s about patriotism: Our common love of our country that unites us despite our differences.
My earliest memory of patriotism in action was my Uncle Nikki coming home for a visit from his Vietnam tour. He brought me a Vietnamese doll, when I was probably 2 because we didn’t have my brother yet.
I also remember when my brother was a baby and my dad’s reserve unit had been called up to go to Vietnam. The unit was scheduled to report for duty so my dad had on his uniform and before he left we took pictures. However, miraculously my dad was one of two reservists who didn’t get called up to go to Vietnam.
My first real act of patriotism was participating in the 1976 Bicentennial celebration at Shotwell Stadium. I twirled in the show, but, as I mentioned in the article about class reunions, my twirling skills were lacking.
Both of my parents believed that if you didn’t vote you didn’t have a right to complain. But other than that patriotism wasn’t really discussed growing up. Oh, and I did want to be Governor of Texas, but my dad simply thought I was being a bit of a snob. My mom always said I wanted to be POTUS, but I don’t recall being that ambitious.
The first thing I wanted to do for this post was take a picture with my United States Congressman Michael Burgess holding #HappinessUnites sign. It took a little tenacity to coordinate the photo opp with his staff, but it happened at a Town Hall meeting he hosted in The Colony.
I must confess that I’d never been to a town hall before, so it was enlightening. I knew most of the people attending were there to voice their concerns with the Congressman’s position on something. Everyone who had a question or wanted to make a statement stood in a line. The disheartening part was that so many people sitting in the audience yelled at the people when they were speaking or asking their question – and then in the next breath they would cheer when they agreed with them after the question was asked. The room was filled with anger, and not the kind that evokes change for the better, but the kind that just needs to spew.
I stayed for a while to absorb the town hall experience. I left it was with a new respect for Congressman Burgess, who continues to host town halls. I’m not sure, if I’d have had the patience to politely respond the way he did to the crowd – and I’m a mostly happy person.
When I was leaving, Linsey Fagan, who’s running in the Democratic Primary to run against Congressman Burgess, introduced herself. She explained her daughter inspired her to run for office. She feels our country needs to be fixed and wants her daughter to know she tried to fix it. She invited me to a margarita party that afternoon, but I had other plans. However, her grassroots spirit and campaign, meeting one voter at a time—inspired me.
I was also thrilled that I got #HappinessUnites pics with both a Republican and Democrat—a truly bipartisan show of happiness, unity and patriotism.
Despite the chaos, I did leave the town hall feeling hopeful. Everyone from Congressman Burgess, to Linsey, to the Handmaidens’ silent protest, to the constituents standing in line, to the audience (even the hecklers) are all people who love this country. Even though they might disagree with each other—and that’s the essence of a democracy—they also put their patriotism into action by showing up.
As fate would have it, my #HappinessUnites Tour was heading to Washington DC to meet up with two Society members, Junell and Teresa. Tour Stop 14 is about my trip with Junell to the National Gallery of Art.
When I landed in DC, I discovered that Linsey was in Washington too. Once I checked into my hotel, we FB messaged, and planned to meet up later that evening. I went to a lovely dinner with Junell and we planned our Sunday.
After dinner, I met up with Linsey and her team at the Watergate Hotel Whisky Bar. I got to know Linsey a little better and gained insights of the behind the scenes early steps of a political novice starting her grassroots campaign.
On my way back to my hotel I asked my Uber driver to stop at the Lincoln Memorial. I was so excited to see it at night that I left all my belongings in the car, while I ran up to take a picture of our 16th president. Even from a distance, seeing Abe Lincoln sitting in his chair, was breathtaking and regal. He was perhaps the President who faced the greatest amount of discord to date. His love of country cost the ultimate price – his life – and inspired patriotism in millions.
Then, I turned around and saw the Washington Monument standing in its glory as a beacon of hope for everyone to see. My heart skipped a beat.
The next day after visiting the capital, the National Gallery of Art, and walking the mall, Junell and I stopped so I could visit the Lincoln Memorial in the daylight. This time I made it to the rotunda and saw where Martin Luther King stood for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. When I looked down the mall to see the Washington Monument, I couldn’t help but think of all of the people who show up in Washington day after day to influence change. They show up because they love America. They want her to be the best country possible. Even when they disagree, they show up.
After a busy day of sightseeing, I got to reconnect with William, who I met once almost 20 years ago on a business trip in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Now he lives in the DC area. We connected on LinkedIn and Facebook years ago, but it was delightful to see him again for a quick dinner. Online friendships are nice, but they can’t replace in-person time with people. He even took a Parade of Smiles #HappinessUnites selfie with me.
Before going to my room I had to visit with some of the Ritz-Carlton staff about my tour. Alec and Lareese joined our Wall of Smiles too.
The next morning I got to meet Teresa, one of our Society members whose smile can light up the room, for breakfast. She described her profession as someone who makes people happier when using Word – I immediately thought I needed to enroll in one of her classes. She’s a road warrior who does trainings all over the country. After a delightful chat, she took me to the airport.
As I flew over the heart of America’s democracy, it made me smile to think of all of the people who show their patriotism every day at work.
On my first trip I didn’t get to see the Library of Congress which is #HappinessUnites Tour Stop 15. My first night there was so beautiful I had to visit the Jefferson Memorial and see the White House at night.
While I stood in the Jefferson Memorial, surrounded by so many of Jefferson’s wise words, it humbled me thinking of how our founding Fathers put their love of country and the ideas of our democracy — a new government of its time — above their individual ideas. It’s not that they didn’t passionately debate differing ideas, but in the end, they united behind patriotism.
Now, the challenge, hope and opportunity is for us to remember our common unity of being Americans first, and everything else after. When we do this, and when we celebrate our patriotic unity, our possibilities are endless.