On Being an American in Arromanches-les-Bains
There are a few days throughout the year that cause you – or at least me – to pause and reflect on what it means to be American. To think about the events, good and bad, that have sewn themselves into the fabric of our nation. What it means to grab the American dream, and what that costs.
To have spent our nation’s birthday on the beaches in Normandy was a profound thing. While the Revolutionary War was one spent fighting for our own freedom, and for the values that we were championing, more modern wars have been waged for the freedom of others, while still hoping to defend and promote liberty and justice for all.
On September 11, 2001, I was 15 years old. For almost my entire life, our country has been battling the war against extremism through political highs and lows. There is little consensus about what it means to be an American at home or abroad. Yet this Fourth of July, in Arromanches-les-Bains, I was moved to think of how proud all Americans should be for our contributions to end World War II. Without hesitation, we can hold our heads high knowing that we were on the right side of history.
Our accommodations in Arromanches were spectacular. We stayed in a gorgeous AirBnB, attached to a grand chateau perched right on the beach front. Upon our arrival, the French flag was proudly flying above it all. Yet at one point, while Dennis was enjoying the view, the Parisian teenage boys whose family owns this home that has seen so much history, came over to say hi. They asked if we were British, and when Dennis replied we were American, they went and replaced the flag with our own American Stars and Stripes. Because, as they said, it was an important day for our country.
What great hosts those young men were. And while one could be cynical about it, I choose not. I like to think of it as a reflection of some of the good that we have done in the world. I hope that it shows that there are friends across the oceans who want to see us all at our best. And I pray that we join together with well-intentioned friends everywhere to champion our nation’s founding values, not through conflict, but through gracious hospitality, recognition of others’ contributions, and a commitment to upholding all of America’s best dreams.