On America’s Place in the World

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“As Americans we are always justified in glorying in our own country. While offensive boastfulness may be carried to the point of reproach, it is much less to be criticized than an attitude of apologetic inferiority. Not to know and appreciate the many excellent qualities of our own country constitutes an intellectual poverty which instead of being displayed with pride ought to be acknowledged with shame…

“While pride in our country ought to be the American attitude, it should not include any spirit of arrogance or contempt, toward other nations. All people have points of excellence and are justly entitled to the honorable consideration of other nations. While this land was still a wilderness there were other lands supporting a high state of civilization and enlightenment. On the foundation which that had already laid we have erected our own structure of society. Their ways may not always be our ways, and their thoughts may not always be our thoughts, but in accordance with their own methods they are attempting to maintain their position in the world and discharge their obligations to humanity. We shall best fulfill our mission by extending to them all the hand of helpfulness, consideration, and friendship. Our own greatness will be measured by the justice and forbearance which we manifest toward others…

“It is because of our belief in these principles that we wish to see all the world relieved from strife and conflict and brought under the humanizing influence of a reign of law. Our conduct will be dictated, not in accordance with the will of the strongest, but in accordance with the judgments of the righteous…

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“The integrity of the Union rests on the Constitution. Unless that great instrument is to be the supreme law of the land, we could have no Union worthy of our consideration. In its original inception it was the product of prayerful consideration by the best endowed minds that were ever turned to political deliberation. Although it was drafted in convention, it represented the mature thought of the country. Into it went the genius of Adams and Jefferson, of Franklin and Madison, of Hamilton and Washington. It has been expounded by Webster and other statesmen in the Congress, and adjudicated by Marshall and other magistrates on the bench. With its three independent departments, the executive, legislative, and judicial, it established a republican form of government incomparable in the guaranties of order and liberty with which it has endowed the American people. As a charter of freedom and self-government it is unsurpassed by any political document which ever guided the destinies of a people.

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“We have made our place in the world through the Union and the Constitution. We have flourished as a people because of our success in establishing self-government. But all of these results are predicated upon a law-abiding people. If our own country should be given over to violence and crime, it would be necessary to diminish the bounds of our freedom to secure order and self-preservation. In whatever direction we may go we are always confronted with the inescapable conclusion that unless we observe the law we cannot be free. Unless we are an industrious, orderly nation we can neither minister to our own requirements or be an effective influence for good in the world. All of these things come from the heart of the people. So long as they have the will to do right and the determination to make sacrifices, our institutions will stand secure at home and respected abroad. It is to those who had that will, who showed that determination that we today do honor.

“We can not leave this hallowed ground, decorated as it is today with all the flowers which loving memory has brought, without realizing anew that it is the spirit of those who rest here which gave us our independence, our Constitution, our Union, and our freedom. They have bequeathed to us the rarest, richest heritage which was ever bestowed upon any people. Their memory speaks to us always, reminding us of what we have received from them and of our duty to dedicate ourselves to its preservation and perfection” — President Calvin Coolidge, Memorial Day Address at the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 30, 1927.

President Coolidge placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Armistice Day, November 11, 1927.

President Coolidge placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Armistice Day, November 11, 1927.

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