Chesney Guest Column: American excellence abounds, even as American pride contracts among young adults

A recent poll conducted by Issues & Insights and Tippinsights found that 64% of young people age 18-24 are NOT proud to be an American. Young adults (18-24) were the age group least likely to say they were proud to be an American, the poll found, with increasing rates of American pride in each age bracket, up to 86% of adults over age 65 being proud to be an American.

Included in this at-risk age groups are many of our active-duty military, the next generations of community leaders, and many teachers educating our students. Clearly, more effort is needed to educate our young people about the exceptionalism of this great country. While a strong majority of older adults celebrated the Independence Day weekend’s festivities, American pride contracts among young people and we are all left wondering why.

On a recent Thursday evening, I was proud to have visited Elizabeth’s Freedom Fest. Visitors to the Freedom Fest were treated to a special demonstration by the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights are the demonstration and competition parachute team of the United States Army and let me tell you, they were a sight to see! The Golden Knights consists of demonstration and competition parachutist teams, drawn from all branches of the U.S. Army. Members must demonstrate excellence in parachuting. Proud Americans got to observe this excellence firsthand in our small, nearby town of Elizabeth. What a thrill!

As the Independence Day weekend went on, I would go on to visit Hanover and Mt. Carroll for their communities’ Independence Day weekend celebrations, as well. Again, I saw our shared Northwest Illinois values on full display. It was great to see people out and about, celebrating the U.S.A.’s glorious 245th Birthday! Locals were called to parade through town to show their community spirit and pride.

I know that the mainstream media and popular culture are busily convincing our young people they should be ashamed to be an American. I have seen this steady drumbeat of negativity, shame and “cultural responsiveness” building in some circles for decades.

It’s a shame to me that this gap is not better bridged. Those with grievances against this Country have a Right to make those grievances. This Right to do so was secured by generations of Americans who put their lives on the line to resecure, time and again, those Rights which allow the grievances of any American to be addressed at the end of a megaphone instead of at the end of a barrel aimed by their government.

The true “anti-fascist heroes” are the grandfathers and great grandfathers of these young people. They wither without visitors in nursing homes with only their memories of self-sacrifice beating back fascists in the battlefields of Europe so their American grandchildren can enjoy the freedom to protest today. Some of the early recyclers in these young peoples’ lives were their grandmothers who recycled metal and bottles, as well as manufacturing goods from those recycled materials, to aid the war effort from back home. Their grandmothers, great grandmothers and great aunts were some of the first feminists, breaking down barriers in the workplace to allow young women opportunities today their grandmothers never dreamed of back then.

Our shared values are our strongest of heritages. Young people may find they are a lot prouder to be an American by talking to and learning from those who helped pave the roads they protest down today. They may just find there is a lot more to be proud of than they were taught in school and perhaps even could realize. Agree with them or not on acts of patriotism, this greatest generation of Americans will soon be gone. Will their stories and experiences go with them, or be carried on through the next generation?