Dean Alfange was an American politician in the early 1950’s who led two unsuccessful campaigns for governor and Congress, both in New York. In the midst of his otherwise dull political career, he wrote a short segment that was published in Reader’s Digest in 1952, which is known as “An American’s Creed.” This written statement earned Alfange an award from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge and continues to stand as his legacy. “An American’s Creed” is a hauntingly beautiful statement that struck a chord deep within myself. It goes like this:
“I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can,
I seek opportunity … not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the
State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life
To the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment
To the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect.
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, with God’s help, I have done
All this is what it means
To be an American.”
I imagine that something similar to this creed was running through the hearts and minds of our Founding Fathers as they gathered to lay the foundation for the greatest country the world has ever seen, a country that was born from man’s desire to be righteous and free from the evils of tyranny and oppression.
There are many times each day where I find myself feeling hopeless for our country, as hate, insults, lies, and the general lack of empathy pervade our lives through social media. I often ponder the notion that those of whom I accompany in the fight for liberty occasionally lose sight of the end goal and abandon their ideological principles, claiming that conservatives must fight fire with fire in order to beat the Left. This has been a major problem on the Right in recent years that stems from a lack of a true ideology or worldview. Because without one, it is impossible to achieve consistency in decisions, beliefs, and actions.
However, reading this “An American’s Creed” has given me hope.
It gives me hope because the principles that our country was founded upon, the moral principles that guide our nature as humans, are concrete. They will never fade and they will never change, no matter the nature of political rhetoric. It gave me hope because it reminded me what I fight for: the right to be uncommon. I fight for freedom over beneficence, for the ability to pursue the challenges in life rather than the guaranteed existence, and for the ability to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.
My favorite line is: “It is my heritage to stand erect. Proud and unafraid; To think and act for myself, To enjoy the benefit of my creation, And to face the world boldly and say: This, with God’s help, I have done.” It not only pays homage to the Founding Fathers and all the men and women who fought for our freedom, but it’s also a call to action, calling us to stand up for what we believe in, proud and unafraid. It’s calling us to protect the freedom we love and cherish, the freedom that millions of people have died to protect. It calls us to protect the values we share as Americans from all the threats of the world.
At the end of the day, your political affiliations don’t matter. But what truly matters is that each American citizen undoubtedly understands the concept of freedom and fights everyday to protect it. We, as Americans, were born into incredible opportunity. Do not waste it; take the calculated risk. Dream, build, fail, and succeed. Do not give up your will to the state, nor cower before any master. This is, after all, the essence of what it means to be an American. Do this, and at the end, with the entire world as your audience, you will say, “This, with God’s help, I have done.”
This is my creed, and I will live by it every day.