Oregonian/1938/October 2/My Country 'Tis of Thee

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Oregonian  (October 2, 1938) 
My Country 'Tis of Thee by Ronald G. Callvert

This editorial about the virtues of the American form of government was published in The Oregonian on October 2, 1938. It was cited as the exemplar of Callvert's work when he was awarded the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.

In this land of ours, this America, the man we choose as leader at no time dons uniform or insignia to denote his constitutional position as Commander-in-Chief of armed forces. No member of his Cabinet, no civil subordinate, ever attires himself in garments significant of military power.

In this land of ours, this America, the average citizen sees so little of the army that he has not learned to distinguish between a Major and a Lieutenant from his shoulder straps. When the chief executive addresses his fellow countrymen, they gather about him within handclasp distance. Goosestepping regiments are not paraded before him. When he speaks to the civilian population, it is not over rank upon rank of helmeted heads.

In this land of ours, this America, there is no tramp of military boots to entertain the visiting statesman. There is no effort to affright him with display of mobile cannon or of facility for mass production of aerial bombers.

In this land of ours, this America, there is no fortification along the several thousand miles of the northern border. In the great fresh water seas that partly separate it from another dominion, no naval craft plies the waters. Along its southern border there are no forts, no show of martial strength.


In this land of ours, this America, no youth is conscripted to labor on devices of defense; military training he may take or leave at option. There is no armed force consistent with a policy of aggression. The navy is built against no menace from the Western Hemisphere, but wholly for defense against that which may threaten from Europe or Asia.

In this land of ours, this America, one-third of the population is foreign-born, or native-born of foreign or mixed parentage. Our more numerous "minorities" come from 14 nations. The native-born, whatever his descent, has all political and other rights possessed by him who traces his ancestry to the founding fathers. The foreign-born of races that are assimilable are admitted to all these privileges if they want them. We have "minorities" but no minority problem.

In this land of ours, this America, the common citizen may criticize without restraint the policies of his Government or the aims of the chief executive. He may vote as his judgment or his conscience advises and not as a ruler dictates.

In this land of ours, this America, our songs are dedicated to love and romance, the blue of the night, sails in the sunset, and not to might or to a martyrdom to political cause. Our national anthem has martial words, difficult air. But if you want to hear the organ roll give the people its companion—"America . . . of Thee I sing."

In lighter patriotism we are nationally cosmopolitan. Unitedly we sing of Dixie or of Ioway, where the tall corn grows, of springtime in the Rockies, or of California, here I come.

In this land of ours, this America, there is not a bomb-proof shelter, and a gas mask is a curiosity. It is not needed that we teach our children when to run when death-hawks darken the sky.


In this land of ours, this America, our troubles, present or prospective, come from within—come from our own mistakes, and injure us alone. Our pledges of peace toward our neighbors are stronger than ruler's promise or written treaty. We guarantee them by devoting our resources, greater than the resources of any other nations, to upbuilding the industries of peace. We strut no armed might that could be ours. We cause no nation in our half of the world to fear us. None does fear us, nor arm against us.

In this land of ours, this America, we have illuminated the true road to permanent peace. But that is not the sole moral sought herein to be drawn. Rather it is that the blessings of liberty and equality and peace that have been herein recounted are possessed nowhere in the same measure in Europe or Asia and wane or disappear as one nears or enters a land of dictatorship of whatever brand. This liberty, this equality, this peace, are imbedded in the American form of government.

We shall ever retain them if foreign isms that would dig them out and destroy them are barred from our shores. If you cherish this liberty, this equality, this peace that is peace material and peace spiritual—then defend with all your might the American ideal of government.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.

Works published in 1938 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1965 or 1966, i.e. at least 27 years after it was first published / registered but not later than in the 28th year. As it was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1967.

The author died in 1955, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.