What it Means to Be an American

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What it Means to Be an American

By J.C. Amodea

Americans are citizens of the United States of America, home to those representing many ethnic origins. Because of this diversity in ethnic backgrounds, the culture of America and its laws do not equate nationality with a person’s ethnicity or race, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance. 

We canvassed several notable individuals about their thoughts on what it means to be an American, selected for their deep gratitude at having the privilege of sharing a country with the eternal values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, guaranteed to all without condition. 

Liz and Donald Pecora work tirelessly for the 100 percent, all-volunteer, Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, based in Marco Island that has been feeding 650 to 700 families weekly, during these challenging times.

Donald and Liz Pecora of Our Daily Bread Food Pantry give their thoughts on what it means to be American.
Donald and Liz Pecora of Our Daily Bread Food Pantry give their thoughts on what it means to be American.

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos, a committed community leader and founder of Chabad Jewish Center of Naples, along with his dedicated wife, Ettie, Director of the Preschool of the Arts, gives his all to promote the religious, social and civic zeal of his members.

Sabrina Williams, a Jamaican native recently pledged her allegiance to our country. In the Caribbean, she was recognized as a top television and theater entertainer and singer who once performed to acclaim from Nelson Mandela. Today, she provides compassionate healthcare and continues her craft as an in-demand vocalist.  

Palma Rosenbauer immigrated to the US, and with hard work achieved the American dream and shot to the top as Executive Director of a major cosmetics corporation. Her husband, Jim Rosenbauer, holds an impressive history in service to the country during the Nixon administration – can you imagine that he held and maintained the infamous Nixon tapes as part of his daily job assigned to the communications detail for President Nixon?

He was also charged with maintaining the operation of the “hotline,” at that time, a red phone on the President’s desk which connected via a separate communication line to Russia, tested each morning by the Communications Agency. Jim was also trained to use and carry an Uzi when transporting the “football,” a briefcase that contains the codes for a Nuclear War that needed to be accessible to the President at all times. Incredible. 

What an impressive list of individuals who make up all that America represents – opportunity, service and the precious freedom to be all that you are and aspire to be. They have given back to America which they revere, and I am so proud to know each one. God richly bless them and God bless our country. 

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos, Alex & Carol Glassman Chabad; Jewish Center of Naples, Naples, FL  

“The question ‘What does it mean to be an American?’ might be better phrased as ‘What does America mean?’ America was an idea. Most, if not all other countries evolved out of necessity. A piece of land with people on it needed governing, borders were drawn and nation-states were declared.  

America was a country to which people traveled across dangerous oceans and impossible travel conditions because they knew that they were entering a country based on an idea. Ideas formed this nation. Ideas such as liberty, equality before the law, in God we trust, E Pluribus Unum, ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ and the American Dream have made the America that I love and cherish. 

To be an American is to believe in these eternal ideas. To believe that which has made us great are the ideas that form the foundation of this state. I pray that these holy ideas continue to guide us into our collective future. America, the idea, is the best hope for all mankind. I pray that we never forget that.”  

Palma Rosenbauer, Executive Senior Director Mary Kay Cosmetics (ret.), Cream Ridge, NJ 

“As a youngster, my family immigrated across the ocean from Italy to Canada with their four children, because they did not see a future for their family in post-World War II Italy and Europe. When I was a teenager, we moved to America. My parents, especially Mom, loved America and would always remark how grateful she was to live here. I believed that she coined the phrase “God Bless America,” because I heard her repeat it so often. 

As a child in the 50s and 60s, my life and the moves we made were an adventure. As I got older, and as my parents relayed stories about the difficult life they had in Europe and how much better life was for them in America, I saw that the freedom which we take for granted did not exist for them there. The fact that we could have an education and the opportunity to follow our dreams has been a blessing for me.

In past years, I have come to understand and appreciate America even more as I had to navigate the red tape and bureaucracy of Italian laws as I sought for years to reclaim inherited property that had become occupied by non-owners. This ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ could not happen in America because there are laws protecting property. I do believe that it is a privilege and an honor to be an American. This land truly is one nation under God, and I pray that it will continue to be so.”  

Jim Rosenbauer, Emergency Management Coordinator and Retired Math and Science Teacher, Cream Ridge, NJ 

“I am proud to be an American, and I love this great nation and my fellow Americans. 

I will always stand for the flag and am ready to defend it, and pray that God continues to richly bless America. The values my parents instilled in me and the opportunities this great country offers saved my life. My parents taught their children by example and taught right versus wrong, which became ingrained in our choices to do the right thing. Dad valued having a proper education, often checked and quizzed us on our homework, asked what we did in school and asked to see our schoolwork. I was enrolled in St. Peter’s University early, as I started school a year ahead. I majored in education and English and minored in science and math. 

The moral standards were set in our behavior, but this great country gives us the framework to achieve a life to which we aspire. The opportunities are endless and only limited by our intellect and our ambitions. I became an educator, and during my first year of teaching came the Vietnam war and my draft notice. I had completed officer training while at St. Peter’s, so my chances of receiving orders to Vietnam were very high. Then, during my basic training at Fort Bragg, it happened – I was given an FBI background check that resulted in the highest-level Crypto Clearance

I was assigned to the White House Communication Agency and served President Nixon for three years. My job was to maintain radio and phone equipment for the President’s office, situation room, Camp David, Key Biscayne, Florida, his vehicle and Air Force I, and other secure sites. I was assigned to the advance team on Presidential trips to set up radio communication for staff, security service, FBI and Law Enforcement. Oftentimes, I drove the communication vehicle in the motorcade. 

After my service, I taught for 41 years. Today, I am back at work providing service to my community as a member of the Board of Health, serving on the Planning Board and I am the Coordinator of Emergency Management. Thank you, America!” 

Sabrina Williams, Marco Island, FL 

“Being an American citizen has been an interesting experience for me. The notion of freedom varies depending on politics and ethnicity. Living in the USA for the last 10 years feels like living in two different countries. Although I have close family members of different races and attended a high school with international students and teachers, Jamaica is a predominantly African-rooted country. Jamaicans have written many songs revering our black men and women and African connections. My personal experiences have been positive, but the negative experiences of African Americans have been traumatic in an empathetic way.  

The greatest thing about being an American is that there is always hope for change and the true power is in the hands of the people. I’m excited to vote for the first time, this year.  

Singing is my joy and music has been the greatest equalizer where it’s fulfilling to work with musicians who have mutual respect for our crafts. As a nursing assistant, I love, protect and advocate for my clients who have ethnic and political differences.”                      

Sabrina Williams, vocalist and entertainer of Marco Island explains what being “American” means to her.

Donald and Liz Pecora, Director of Communications, Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, Marco Island 

“Living in America means Freedom. Freedom to be the person we were created to be,  

Freedom to move or travel, to speak our truths and choose our leaders. Freedom to worship our Creator, freedom to work, and rest, and love, and play. It is an honor to use our freedom to share the blessings we have with others in need through Our Daily Bread Food Pantry.” 

God Bless the U.S.A. 

By Lee Greenwood 

If tomorrow all the things were gone 
I worked for all my life 
And I had to start again 
With just my children and my wife 
I thank my lucky stars 
To be living here today 
'Cause the flag still stands for freedom
And they can't take that away 
And I'm proud to be an American 
Where at least I know I'm free 
And I won't forget the men who died 
Who gave that right to me 
And I'd gladly stand up next to you 
And defend Her still today 
'Cause there ain't no doubt 
I love this land 
God Bless the U.S.A. 
From the lakes of Minnesota 
To the hills of Tennessee 
Across the plains of Texas 
From sea to shining sea 
From Detroit down to Houston 
And New York to L.A. 
Where's pride in every American heart
And it's time we stand and say 
That I'm proud to be an American 
Where at least I know I'm free 
And I won't forget the men who died 
Who gave that right to me 
And I'd gladly stand up next to you 
And defend Her still today 
'Cause there ain't no doubt 
I love this land 
God Bless the U.S.A.

Source: LyricFind  
God Bless The U.S.A. lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group 

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