Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Monday, October 13, 2008

The better angels of our nature

I just love this story out of Florida.

This is the kind of America that I believe in - the kind of America that Obama speaks to when he asks us to pull together as a nation: to be our better selves. There is no hatred, no cross-burning here. This is a story about the America where neighbor helps neighbor, and where people have each other's backs during hard times.

From Tampa Bay:

BAYONET POINT — Andy Law was eating breakfast with his girlfriend, Mary Dinan, at their Hudson home Saturday morning when she pushed the newspaper at him.

"Read this," she said.

It was a story in the St. Petersburg Times about a 66-year-old grandfather, Joseph Prudente, who was jailed without bail on Friday because his lawn was brown. For nearly a year, he ignored letters from his Beacon Woods homeowners' association and a court order because, he said, he barely had the money to pay his mortgage. He was trying to keep his house and didn't care about the lawn.

"This is not right," Law said. He was livid.

Law's own handyman business had slowed to nothing, and both he and Dinan lost money when they sold their houses to buy this, their dream home on 5 acres, which they likely will lose. Both are considering bankruptcy.

Law is a Marine and a problem solver. He is not used to feeling helpless.

But, he thought, he could fix this for Mr. Prudente.

"I'm going to do something," Law told his girlfriend.

"What can you do?" she said.

"I'm going to help," he said, and was out the door.

• • •

Pat Prudente was in her bedroom when she heard a knock at the door. "Go away," she thought.

She was in a black daze, thinking of her husband. They've been married for 23 years and met while both worked at a hospital in New York.

Pat is fiery and Joseph is calm. Even as he left for jail, clutching a grocery bag full of medicine, he tried to joke and make her feel better.

The two moved into their four-bedroom Beacon Woods home 10 years ago and they live off his pension.

The knock was insistent.

"Fine," Pat thought, and got up.

It was Law, who found their address in an old phone book. He told her they were going to get her husband home and started calling everyone he knew to come help.

He got a guy to let him borrow a machine to remove the old grass. Two companies donated sod. Soon, the yard was full of people. Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano also read the story, found the house, canceled a speech and went to work.

"I've never seen someone so important get dirty," said Jennifer Lehr, 32, who is Pat's daughter and calls Joseph her dad. Lehr, her husband and their two young daughters moved into the house two years ago after barely scraping by on their own.

Jennifer and Pat kept trying to feed the strangers working on their lawn, but they kept saying no, to not spend their money.

A man came to fix the sprinkler. People dropped off checks. A neighbor looked at all the work being done and cried because she felt her faith in humanity restored.

By 6 that evening, the yard was done. There were blocks of new grass, red mulch, flowers and a working sprinkler.

A few minutes after everyone left, there was a sudden, thick downpour. Jennifer stood in it, feeling the rain, arms wide. And when it stopped, there was a rainbow stretching over the house.

She looked up and thought, "Our luck is changing."

This is the way it is supposed to be. United we stand, divided we fall. Bravo to the citizens of Florida!

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