I have loved my country ever since I was a small boy. I cannot recall exactly how that love affair first began… but unlike so many other schoolboy crushes that pass with time, this love never passed.

I grew up in New York City during the time of the Vietnam war, race riots, moon landings, Watergate, oil embargoes, the Cold War and severe economic recession. By the time I was 13 my father had died and my mother was raising three children on her own. It was a time of turmoil and of uncertainty, in many ways similar to our own times.

Life was tough and America was bruised and hurting. If America were a young woman, it would have been like falling in love with one of the ugliest girls in the class. Yet despite what she looked like to the rest of the world, I did fall in love with her. I knew her, she captivated me. She inspired me.

I can still remember the words she first whispered to me so many years ago. Words that captured my heart and in times so challenging, words that gave me hope:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Imagine that! A country where all are born equal—no kings, no queens, no dictators, no hereditary titles. Every life, a sacred life. From a child sleeping safely in the womb of its mother, to the street peddler in the city. Black, White, male or female, rich or poor. Every life—even the most inconvenient or wretched—mattered.

A land where Liberty was not a right reserved only for kings, or only bestowed upon the privileged. Liberty as an inherent, sacred right of all men, granted by the creator himself, and codified in our U.S. Constitution. Second only to the right to life, it is liberty that protects the latter.

And it is liberty that gives the oppressed the sacred right to end their oppression. And it is thru liberty that a person gains the sacred right to pursue happiness, to become what God had given him or her the talents to be. America did not guarantee me happiness—just the ability to pursue it.

Simple words, simple concepts, that reflect the very essence of who we are as nation, as a people and as brothers and sisters on this tiny piece of land we call our home. This simple declaration, our mutual declaration, of what we hold sacred and, in the end, what separates us from the evil that lurks in this world.

Some 50 years have now passed since first falling in love with my country. And even though I am older and a bit more weathered than when I was a boy, I am still the same person, yet hopefully wiser. My beloved country has also grown older; lines of aging born out of life’s struggles and the sacrifices of her children on the battlefields now mark her once innocent and youthful face. Still an adolescent in the realm of kingdoms, she too has made many regrettable mistakes, but is also now the more wiser.

Others who have resented her beauty continue to attack her and bruise her. The selfish squander her riches. Other nations resent her. But she is still glorious and magnificent, and carries the torch of freedom so that others, who are oppressed, may see in the darkness.

So here we now stand, on the precipice of history, facing our own critical moment in time. Will this generation, which has enjoyed the fruits of life and liberty, deny these very same fruits to future generations?

I, like so many others, will never give up on my beloved. The principles on which she was founded are too strong to be shaken by any socialist storm. Grounded deep within the bedrock of liberty, her foundation of freedom and liberty is unwavering.

There will be those, who think she is weakened. They are wrong.

Her people are strong. This storm will pass. And just like she captured my fancy 50 years ago, she will continue to cry out to the world: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” And the oppressed will answer.

For America is not just a nation—it’s an idea. The simple idea that ordinary children, born out of the wombs of average folks, can take down tyrants, dethrone kings, and create a land filled with opportunity, guaranteeing life and liberty for all.

May God Always Bless My Beloved: “America”

This essay was entered in The Epoch Times “Why I Love America” contest.