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We’re building a student movement to bring the country together. We cannot coexist if we cannot talk to each other – it’s that simple.

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Our movement empowers young people from across the political spectrum to fight for a less polarized society.

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What It Means To Be American On Flag Day

Ross Irwin I can’t remember the first time I stood for the Flag. Most likely it was for some sporting event or at school. At that time, I had no idea why I was standing, no concept of a flag, or pride in one’s country, or even a country for that matter. But that moment was my first moment of patriotism, however unknowingly, by way of a salute to “the Flag”.  The flag has been used to express both pride and disdain for America’s culture and policy. Both are displays of patriotism and are equally important in helping us to move the country forward. For some, a flag is a colored piece of cloth. For others, it is the representation of the highest ideals of our country. It’s been used by Americans as a show of strength and pride; It’s been seen by migrants as a promise of freedom and opportunity. For some, it’s a symbol of inequality and oppression. In reality, it’s what you make of it.  I stand for the flag because while America’s promise is not complete, the ideals of equal protection, fair representation, and egalitarian input in governance are some of the most honorable rules of government that humanity has ever seen. But that work is not done, and so most of all I stand for the aspirational America, and because I want to be part of the change that helps our country fulfill its ideals more completely.  My mom has a different relationship with the flag. As a self-ascribed pacifist and socialist, she is generally opposed to “nationalism that puts the welfare of the inhabitants of one country above others.” As a high school teacher for over 30 years, each work day would begin with a school-wide pledge to the flag. She did stand, but did not recite the pledge. When I asked her about this, her answer was very nuanced. Essentially, she has trouble “pledging loyalty to a flag that has been or is being used to defend so much injustice and inequality”.  Many other people I love would be aghast at that statement – taken aback by the full-throated critique of their beloved home. I think my mom’s decision is just as important, and American, as my own decision to stand. As Flag Day approaches on June 14, our toxic partisanship machine will ramp up. Some will debate the “proper” way to observe and interpret the flag, but I believe standing and sitting are equally American. Sitting quietly through the Pledge of Allegiance and belting out the National Anthem are commensurate patriotic expressions, and I believe that a new America will be crafted in the tension between those beliefs. America’s history with its flag is long and complicated. Since its establishment 245 years ago, the dichotomy between those that love the flag and those that hate it has only become more pronounced. In the 1960’s, Americans were simultaneously burning the flag in the street and planting it on the Moon. In 2016 Colin Kaepernick re-ignited this debate and Americans of all backgrounds weighed in on whether he should be fired or celebrated.  But all of these people have pushed America to more accurately fulfill its promise of equality of opportunity and government by and for the People. The America we see today has been created by those that were disappointed with America and strove to make it better and those that loved America and wanted to push its principles further.  In this debate I believe there is only one belief that is distinctly anti-American. Many Americans who think of themselves as first-rate patriots repeatedly yell and whine that those who do not “respect the flag” should be forcefully removed from this great country. That, in its essence, is far worse than not standing for the anthem or reciting the pledge. It is a denial of our first amendment rights and a refusal to see the diversity that has, and will continue to make America better. Our disagreements and our desire for better is the vehicle that has created the nation you see today. Tomorrow’s America must be created together, by those that love the flag and those that hate it. It will take a recognition of what we’ve gotten right and what we’ve gotten wrong, when we’ve been the hero and when we were the villain. But it must be created together. Otherwise we will be left with an America modeled off of 1950’s nostalgia or an America devoid of the foundational principles that have allowed our improvement. So let’s join hands, whether they are glued to your heart in praise, or firmly at your side in disgust, so that we may create a new America, one that celebrates our differences and disagreements. 
06
Jun

We Need The American Spirit Of D-Day To Fight Division Today

We Need The American Spirit Of D-Day To Fight Division Today

Manu Meel Seventy-eight years ago today, thousands of Americans from all walks of life embarked on one of the most ambitious and courageous missions to rid Europe of the evil and threat posed by Nazi Germany. On that day, it did not matter whether one was Italian or Irish; young or old; Democrat or Republican. All that mattered was that they were Americans, and they had a common enemy. Of all the gratitude, remembering, and perspective taking that we can and should undertake on D-Day, this year, what is often overlooked about the events of June 6th, 1944 is that the level of collective and unified mobilization required to fight Hitler’s army was inconceivable to most Americans at the time.  It is easy to look back and normalize the widespread unity on D-Day. The fact is that America’s ability to collectively overcome the greatest of odds in the face of unimaginable uncertainty was nothing but extraordinary. Importantly, there are lessons that we can learn to guide ourselves through what seems to be another truly trying and uncertain moment in the Story of America.     In the decade prior to 1944, American society experienced significant stress and upheaval as the Great Depression altered the landscape of wealth distribution and left lower class Americans completely lost and alienated. Simultaneously, racial divisions continued to fester as African Americans became the hardest hit group during the Great Depression – by 1932, approximately half of all African Americans were out of work. To add to the division and discord, there was a significant contingent of Americans who were isolationist and believed in America First policies that prioritized non-intervention, with Charles Lindbergh being the most prominent character. To put it simply, bringing the institutions and citizenry together to produce a substantive response was not inevitable. What enabled a relatively fractured United States to mount one of the most ambitious and unified responses in the history of nations? Leadership. A clear articulation of an urgent crisis. And a common narrative that bound all Americans together. With his ability to communicate directly to every American combined with his earnest fidelity to the Union, FDR had to navigate a landscape fraught with isolationism. FDR employed every tool in his administration to urge the American people to care about a rising threat on a foreign continent. He built a case on empathy and spoke to the values of Liberals and Conservatives in the hopes of mobilizing the mighty American potential.  FDR’s leadership was aided by the fact that Nazi Germany represented an imminent and urgent threat with tangible cause for concern. Unlike many modern day problems like climate change, the risk posed by Hitler’s march across Europe underscored what would happen to the Free World, that non-intervention was a non-starter. Importantly, there was a clear understanding of agency; if the American people acted, they could win.  Finally, the various factions of the country had to be sold a common narrative that they could see themselves within. Whether one was working class or an elite member of society, Irish or Italian, unemployed or employed, every American could unite behind a narrative of “good vs evil”. This belief in a common good created the conditions for a widespread mobilization that was resourced from every part of American society.  This understanding behind the conditions that allowed Americans to respond with such courage, bravery, and unity on D-Day and throughout World War II holds three important lessons for our current moment.  The fact is that America is once more being tested. But this time, the greatest threat that America faces comes from within: bitter polarization that is threatening to rip the country apart. While the threat is not as imminent and easy to grasp, the inability for Americans to have dialogues across lines of difference and prioritize problem solving over partisan wins is leaving the United States dangerously vulnerable for years to come. Apathy is increasingly gripping every American. Democracy appears incapable of responding effectively to crises. And rapid technological change that is unevenly affecting Americans is deepening societal cleavages. For the first time since World War II, the American experiment faces another existential threat.  On this anniversary of D-Day, we as Americans must remember the courage of those brave Americans who put aside their differences; who rallied in communities across the country towards a common effort; and most importantly, who understood that their fidelity to the American experiment must rise above all else. As our democracy flounders, we have it within us to inculcate leaders who seek to brandish a new form of unity. Unity that exists not to maintain the status quo, but a unity that speaks to a new vision for America.
30
May

Memorial Day: Answering Our Call to Civic Duty

Memorial Day: Answering Our Call to Civic Duty

Manu Meel Every Memorial Day, we rightfully remember and reflect upon the millions of brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom, opportunity, and liberty. Those Americans represented a clarity in moral purpose and courage that few ever embody. And every Memorial Day, I am left wondering how we can best honor their sacrifice. How can we ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain? William Faulkner once wrote that, “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” Our brave men and women in uniform practiced freedom by defending freedom against all enemies foreign and domestic. In 1776, it was those early colonists who picked up their rifles to overthrow the grip of tyranny. In 1861, men and women young and old went to battle to break the shackles of slavery. In 1941, twenty-somethings signed up in troves to go to the beaches of Europe and the Pacific to fight back fascism. In 2001, our neighbors, coworkers, and friends went to the distant land of Afghanistan to avenge the terrible 9/11 attacks.    In our darkest of moments, America has always counted on her brave citizens in uniform to fulfill their call to duty. .stk-9cdbdc1 .stk-img-wrapper{width:100% !important;height:486px !important} In 2022, America needs her civilians to practice their freedom by answering their call to civic duty. That is how we honor the sacrifice of millions of Americans. They gave their lives so that we could make the most of our freedom; so that we could live a life worthy of living.    Just in the last three weeks, America has been rocked by the leaked Roe v Wade decision and three mass shootings, with the most recent shooting taking the life of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas. Since the last Memorial Day, we experienced the withdrawal in Afghanistan, a persistent pandemic, soaring inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and continuous gridlock in Congress. Our country is reeling with mistrust, division, and a loss of purpose. Simply put, we as Americans are not living up to the promise of the greatest democracy in the history of humanity. We have a moral responsibility to uphold the sacrifice of the millions of Americans who gave their lives so that we could live ours. Our call to civic duty begins with acknowledging the basics. We do not have a democracy if we don’t engage. We do not have a country if we don’t have some sense of unified belonging. We do not have a society if we cannot talk to each other. Our call to civic duty requires much less courage and bravery than the brave men and women whom we remember today. We are not being asked to set off to distant shores and lands to lay our lives on the line. We are simply being asked to be better in our daily lives. Our call to civic duty requires humility. It requires us to understand that our rights come with responsibility and that empathy and respect must guide how we engage our fellow Americans. In our everyday lives, we must remember that our actions add up in the aggregate to determine the direction of our democracy.    And as a young person, my call to civic duty requires me to recognize the legacy of everyday Americans who have created change by finding their purpose and acting with conviction. The greatest threat that young people face is apathy. And we must recognize that by choosing apathy, we are actively ceding ground to the loudest voices in society to claim representation for the majority. Just as those in our uniform united behind the cause of defending freedom, we must actively resist our divisions and find common cause to write the next chapter in the Story of America.  On this Memorial Day, we must not just remember the sacrifice of our fellow Americans; we must commit to carrying their legacies forward by answering our call to civic duty. Whether it is community service, registering to vote, or taking time off social media to talk to our neighbors, we must practice our freedom with responsibility for it is a privilege afforded to those lucky enough to be born into a democracy.
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