America is different things to different presidents. But they all seem to use that term - “America is.” President Obama used it when he gave a moving speech in Selma, Alabama in April. What he said then sounds a lot different than what President Ronald Reagan said in his inaugural address, although both are probably accurate.
America sounds like a remarkable and inspiring place when you put six presidents, Republicans and Democrats, together:
President Barack Obama in Selma, Alabama:
We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan. We are the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because they want their kids to know a better life. That’s how we came to be.
Jimmy Carter accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, 1976:
Our Party was built out of the sweatshops of the old Lower East Side, the dark mills of New Hampshire, the blazing hearths of Illinois, the coal mines of Pennsylvania, the hard-scrabble farms of the southern coastal plains, and the unlimited frontiers of America. Ours is the party that welcomed generations of immigrants—the Jews, the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, and all the others, enlisted them in its ranks and fought the political battles that helped bring them into the American mainstream.
Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inaugural address:
Those who say that we’re in a time when there are not heroes, they just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they’re on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They’re individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet, but deep. Their values sustain our national life. Now, I have used the words “they” and “their” in speaking of these heroes. I could say “you” and “your,” because I’m addressing the heroes of whom I speak—you, the citizens of this blessed land.
George H.W. Bush accepting the Republican presidential nomination, 1988:
For we are a nation of communities, of thousands and tens of thousands of ethnic, religious, social, business, labor union, neighborhood, regional and other organizations, all of them varied, voluntary and unique.
President Bill Clinton during his 1997 State of the Union address:
America is far more than a place; it is an idea – the most powerful idea in the history of nations, and all of us in this chamber, we are now the bearers of that idea, leading a great people into a new world.
President George W. Bush’s 2009 farewell speech:
These are very tough times for hardworking families, but the toll would be far worse if we had not acted. All Americans are in this together. And together, with determination and hard work, we will restore our economy to the path of growth. We will show the world once again the resilience of America’s free enterprise system.