Our founders created this country over two-hundred and thirty years ago with a unique vision. A vision of self-government, economic freedom, and individual responsibility. They did not separate from England simply to rebel against high taxes or reject the King. Our founding fathers created America because they believed in a powerful truth: that our rights as individuals do not come from our government - they come from our God.
America has never been perfect. It took a bloody war to end slavery and a civil rights movement to make every American equal under the law. However, this great nation has never been one to back away from its challenges. Instead, it has faced them head-on and found ways to solve them.
Because of this, it has always meant something very special to be an American.
Unlike so many other places on earth, citizenship in America has never meant living under the oppression of a dictator. It has never meant forced adherence to a certain religion or servitude to the government.
Being an American has always meant the freedom to worship as a member of any faith, the power to choose our leaders through the process of democracy, and the ability to turn an idea into a fortune 500 company.
Most importantly, being an American has always meant the duty to use our freedom for the good of those around us.
When Hitler stood at the brink of controlling Europe, countless Americans gave their lives so that others might be free. We fought the Cold War against Soviet Russia to preserve God-given rights of people everywhere. The day Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, our military men and women went to its aid in the name of liberty. Today, these same men and women have brought Iraq closer to freedom than ever before.
Simply put, Americans remain the only group in human history ever to use their power not for conquer, but to help others enjoy the same successes we have.
As long as we hold the ability to do so, it will always be our duty to make the world a better place. Most Americans agree with this statement. They know our country has a unique calling in the world to spread the liberty we have so long enjoyed.
Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington promotes an agenda which directly clashes with freedom.
It believes all Americans should be guaranteed certain services. It promotes wealth redistribution, universal healthcare and unlimited government.
What it fails to understand is that while its policies aim to make life in America acceptable, they prevent life in America from being exceptional. That is the debate we face: whether we will provide every American the opportunity to achieve greatness, or force every American into the security of mediocrity.
The outcome of this debate will not only affect America. It will touch the lives of people all around the world. After all, if America ceases to be exceptional, who will take up our mission?
America has always stood as a guardian of freedom. It has brought light into the darkest parts of the world and inspired people with the hope that one day they might enjoy the same prosperity we have.
The world still needs our country. Without it my life, your life, and the lives of countless others would be but a sliver of what they ultimately became. We must never lose sight of our mission or forget the principles that made this country the single greatest nation in the history of mankind.
David Wilhelmsen graduated from high school in 2010. He was named the 2010 Prescott Area Youth Leader of the Year; served as President of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council and President of Saint Vincent de Paul. Wilhelmsen began attending Hillsdale College in the fall of 2010, and received all A's his first year. He was elected Vice-President of the Hillsdale College Republicans; chosen to be Chaplain of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity and also selected as Chairperson of the Hillsdale College Saint Judes Children's Hospital Board.
For more information on John Trumbull's magnificent painting, visit the Architect of the Capitol's website.