By WILLIAM HODGES
Much has been written about the factors that make America great. Certainly our climate, fertile grasslands, abundance of forests, and fresh water allow for a diversity of agricultural products, which gives us a factor of self-sufficiency. When it comes to strategic metals, most of the required ores can be found within our borders. But I don’t believe that’s what makes America great. I don’t believe the diversity of natural resources—farmlands, mines, trees, and rivers—is the deciding factor. I believe the deciding factor that gives us our greatness is the diversity of people populating this unique land.
The pages of our history have been written by the blood, sweat and tears of the Chinese who built the great railroad, the Africans who picked the cotton, the Irish and Scots who worked in the mines, and the Scandinavians who planted the wheat—just to name a few diverse contributors. But diversity goes beyond that; there are many who have contributed much who share a common bond. That bond is a physical disability. It’s almost ironic that the man who gave us the microphone, sound recording and moving pictures was himself hearing-impaired. Thomas Alva Edison suffered with a continual degradation of hearing throughout his life; at the end he was almost completely deaf.
I believe our strength lies, not only in our land, but in the fact that America is making room for all of its citizens to participate regardless of age, gender, race, color, national origin or physical ability. The more we can do to encourage access to mainstream America for everyone, the stronger our country will be. There is a beauty in each human being, and in the culture and abilities they can share with us. Much has been made of the “melting pot” idea. In fact, America has been referred to as the Great Melting Pot. On the surface, the idea appears good, but the more I think about it, the more I reject the idea that we should become lock-stepping clones of each other. It is important for the strength of our country that we maintain vestiges of our individuality. How then, do we come together? The answer came to me through one of my students at an “Effective Briefing Techniques” seminar. Connease O. Warren, an employee at the Defense Finance and Accounting Center in Indianapolis, shared this poem she had written, which celebrates diversity better than anything I have ever read. The poem is titled The Cloth of Life:
“Like one thread in a multitude of fibers knitted in the cloth of life, I exist.
How be it some think they have control over this life and the shape of destiny?
We must acknowledge the Weaver, the pattern and the design of the cloth.
The pattern is continuous, the rhythm is steady, the design so intricate.
The Master Weaver ingeniously blends the short and long threads, the nubby and the smooth.
Many multicolored textures lend their beauty in unison or simply keep step to the rhythm of the Master’s hand.
Some threads conspicuously show their grain, others gently blend in, remaining unnoticed.
Some threads are silver, some are gold, harmoniously woven meticulously throughout the cloth. Life unfolds.”
What a lovely thought. America, not some boiled-down mash from a melting pot, but rather a wondrous cloth of many textures and colors. All of us are a thread in the cloth, each lending strength to the other. That, I believe, is the true strength of America.
William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. He also hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government, on the Tampa Bay Community Network, that airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (Spectrum channel 639, Verizon channel 30) and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (Spectrum channel 638, Verizon channel 36). The shows can also be viewed at hodgesvideos.com. Phone: 813-641-0816. Email: email@example.com Website: billhodges.com.