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The American Way

Posted November 2, 2020 at 9:29 am

The original column appeared in the Tribune-Democrat , written by Dr. Steve Nunez. Click here to see original sourced column. 

Last weekend, while I was visiting my mother in beautiful southwest Virginia, she showed me a newspaper clipping of my very first newspaper editorial. At the time, I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech, and my editorial was written as a rebuttal to an author who I considered to be close-minded and bigoted. My mother beamed with pride even though that letter was published more than 30 years ago. However, I was a little embarrassed by the brashness of that young fellow with little life experience but seemingly all the answers.

On my drive back to Pennsylvania, I found myself thinking about that letter and this upcoming election – which seems to be even more divisive and combative than normal.

I’m not a poet, nor a philosopher, but I’ve read enough and lived enough to know that our country has had turbulent moments. Examples include, just in the past 100 years or so, the Spanish flu of 1918, World War II, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is estimated that the Spanish flu may have killed more than 600,000 Americans. Armies and air forces of the allied nations, including members of the U.S. armed forces, overcame the aggression of the German and Japanese empires in the 1940s. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s improved but did not solve racial tensions and inequities in our country. And, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 made us feel truly vulnerable for the first time since the threat of nuclear catastrophe during the Cold War.

What traits of our people bound us together to see the country through the worst of times? We, as Americans, are optimistic almost to a fault. We are creative and inventive. We have the courage to do what is right, fair, and equitable. And we can do the hard work to meet any challenge.

However, the wisdom of that former 22-year-old graduate student at Virginia Tech still echoes in my mind; we must also avoid the trap of bigotry and close-mindedness.

To me, that is a crucial trait that has made America “America” – our ability to listen and respect the viewpoints of others – to not judge the motives and patriotism of those that see the world differently.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats (nor any other political party) have a monopoly on patriotism, and while we may disagree on many issues, ultimately, we are all Americans.

Please, do your patriotic duty and vote for the candidates of your choice on Tuesday or before. And then afterward, remember that we are all Americans who love our country – the “United” States of America.

See you at Penn Highlands.

Written By Dr. Steve Nunez, College’s Fifth President. This monthly series appears in The Tribune-Democrat, and will allow Dr. Nunez to provide his perspective on the value of education and of a community college.