At sunrise, the Great Smoky Mountains are so majestic their beauty could kill you. So are the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevadas at sundown.
The same goes for the Tetons, the Blue Ridge, the Bighorns, the Elks, the Adirondacks, and the Appalachians, which were carved by the pocketknife of God.
Oh, and the Missouri River, when seen from 34,000 feet above, it will break your heart with its glory. The Missouri moves like liquid silver across a green patchwork of American farmland. So does the Mississippi, the Rio Grande, the meandering Columbia, the Ohio, the Arkansas, the Tennessee, the Colorado, the Youghiogheny, the Chattahoochee, and the boisterous Potomac.
But then, you can also feel this wonder in other places. Like when the Gulf of Mexico reflects the colors of dusk.
Or when you gaze across the Chesapeake Bay. Past the river reeds and gray water. When you listen to the geese overhead, honking their chipper hellos.
You get this same feeling when standing on Ellis Island. You begin to visualize the hundreds of thousands of congregated Germans, Norwegians, Chinese, Dutch, Sicilians, Hungarians, Polish, Jewish, Danish, and Swedish, all dressed in drab rags, holding tight to their entire lives, crammed into duffle bags. And it all makes sense, why your old man was such a tightwad when it came to buying your Little League uniform.
I visited Ellis Island once, I could swear I almost saw my Scots-Irish ancestors waiting in line. I could practically feel their breath on my neck.
You experience this same feeling in Savannah, within Trustee’s Garden, when an expensive tour guide reminds you that this was where the first seeds of American cotton, apples, coffee, and wheat were experimentally grown.
And when you walk Savannah’s streets to Oglethorpe Avenue, you feel a similar awe inside the home of Juliette Gordon Low; a girl who was deaf in both ears, who founded a humble youth organization in 1915.
Her all-female club was built upon the idea of empowering girls, and teaching compassion and kindness. She called them “Girl Scouts.” And although they were laughed at by high-society snobs of their day, this group would predate the American woman’s right to vote.
The great feeling I speak of can be found when you stand on the grass of Mount Vernon, Virginia, overlooking the whitewater, enjoying the same view General Washington loved to watch while sipping his tepid beer.
And in Moab, Utah, within the mysterious Arches National Park, where ancient remnants of time stand like archaic ruins.
You sense this same reverence high upon the south rim of the Grand Canyon, when staring at an itty-bitty, mercury-like river, miles beneath you, just before a 12-year-old tourist almost knocks you over the edge because he is playing tag with his sister.
You gaze over the canyon at the pancake-stacked rock formations of redwall limestone, bright angel shale, and Coconino sandstone, and you sigh a quiet but heartfelt, “Whoa.”
You will find this sacredness within the Navajo Nation, the largest land area still retained by an American indigenous tribe, covering 17,544,400 acres, an area larger than 10 U.S. states.
And in Atlanta, on 501 Auburn Avenue, inside the two-story Queen Anne home where a young boy named Michael King Jr. grew up, before later renaming himself Martin Luther King Jr.
You will feel wonder in Montanna, where North America’s first dinosaur specimen was found in 1854. Where 50 years later, the first Tyrannosaurus Rex was discovered in Hell Creek.
And in the serenity of the Great Plains of Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The remains of North America’s ancient interior sea, which covers approximately 1,125,000 square miles, roughly one third of the United States. An area slightly bigger than Disney World.
The lowlands of the Mississippi Delta. The wilds of Alaska. The Great Lakes. The deserts of Nevada, which can cause a man to feel fear, awe, and gratefulness for his GPS. The Ozarks. Yosemite. Yellowstone. Mount Shasta. And of course, Cracker Barrel.
And in Adams County, Pennsylvania, where a battle was once fought near the borough of Gettysburg, where an estimated 48,000 men fell. Our men. Our brothers.
Also, in Saint Augustine, Florida, where in 1565 Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his 800 colonists ate supper with the indigenous Timucua, and held the first Catholic mass on future U.S. soil.
This good feeling is in every truckstop cafe. Every beer joint. In Boston’s Fenway Park. At Busch Stadium. Yankee Field. Talladega Superspeedway. Burger joints. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The American Royal Barbecue Competition. Wednesday night church meetings. Pinewood derbies. Bunco night. And every backyard game of hide and seek.
In the ornate finery of the U.S. Capitol building, which has survived 228 years of turbulence. In the vacant dust of Death Valley. In the suffocating swamps of the Everglades. And in the nightmarish hellscape that is LaGuardia Airport.
Nothing can take this feeling from us. Because—don’t you see?—this feeling IS us. It is not a sensation we experience privately, but it is felt within our common bond. We belong to us.
So no matter how the flames of discord burn; no matter how the fires of time threaten to consume our fabric; no matter how badly our nation’s brothers disagree; today I just want you to know that I love you. I truly do.
Not only because we are American. But because we are human beings whose ancestors were bold enough to call themselves by such an ambitious and inspiring name.
Bob E - January 21, 2021 6:56 am
Ellouise Pennington - January 21, 2021 7:07 am
I hope you get to read this at a future inauguration
Christina - January 21, 2021 7:16 am
Wow Sean. Standing ovation. Yes waiting for see you read this at the next inauguration
Susan Parker - January 21, 2021 7:48 am
I needed this. We needed this. Thank you for saying it just right, Sean.
Kim Ladoczky - October 12, 2021 1:45 am
This is my America. What I have been saying all along. Just not as beautifully as you…. Thank You.
Melissa A. - January 21, 2021 7:50 am
Thank you for this!
Debbie g - January 21, 2021 8:47 am
I love America and every beautiful brother too and Sean. There are no words I can think of for you except love. Keep spreading it ❤️❤️❤️
Sandi. - January 21, 2021 9:03 am
I sincerely appreciate you putting into such well-chosen words what so many of us feel about living in America, Sean. It’s a keeper of a timeless post to read and re-read. What a privilege to reside in such a beautiful country!
Deborah L Blount - January 21, 2021 9:04 am
God bless America. And God bless our troops.
Sharon Brock - January 21, 2021 9:48 am
Perfect, Sean. Just perfect. Only you left out one of the nations natural wonders. If you have never been to Mammoth Cave National Park, you should. The longest by miles of explored cave on the planet–400 miles.Estimated 600 miles still unmapped. Only about 40% of the cave has been mapped. And every single mile created by God. Inside it’s walls, imagine Niagara Falls, only it is all rock.
River Jordan - January 21, 2021 10:00 am
Amen and amen.
Tammy S. - January 21, 2021 10:33 am
God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Through the night with the light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America, my home sweet home.
Thank you, Irving Berlin and thank you, Sean.
Both Beautifully written!
Ron M - January 21, 2021 11:51 am
We are indeed Blessed to call all such our homeland!
D. Green - January 21, 2021 11:52 am
Susan Nelms - January 21, 2021 12:16 pm
Thanks for being a light in what can seem pretty dark surroundings at times and reminding us just how blessed we are to live in this country! You are awesome!
Jean - January 21, 2021 12:22 pm
Te Burt - January 21, 2021 12:40 pm
It’s a shame that wasn’t Biden’s speech yesterday. It would have gone down as one of the best. Instead, you said it. Biden won’t be there long, so it probably doesn’t matter. And I’d rather hear it from you. I can believe you.
Joretta Parker - January 21, 2021 12:40 pm
Thank you Sean, well said. I’m from WV and feel that way looking over our beautiful mountains. I now live in Alabama and sure do miss those beautiful mountains. I don’t know what is in store for this wonderful nation but we will persevere! May God bless you!
Kim - January 21, 2021 12:46 pm
Cyn - January 21, 2021 1:02 pm
Cindy - January 21, 2021 1:04 pm
Jil Borden - January 21, 2021 1:05 pm
America’s Heritage. One of the things some try and remove from the youngand the old. But it’s the thing that holds us all together. Ye Haaaaaa. It’s notany one thing, it’s, like you said, it’s a feeling, a wholeness and oneness withthe land and its’ people. It is who we are and those who experience this are blessed.
Larry Maun - January 21, 2021 1:10 pm
Wonderful and uplifting. Love you, Sean.
Heidi - January 21, 2021 1:11 pm
Beautiful inspiring sentiments for the people and land that I love. Thank you. God Bless us and keep us safe.
Lisa - January 21, 2021 1:17 pm
Beautifully written. Thank you, Sean. Much needed perspective today. Thank you!
Sue Rhodus - January 21, 2021 1:28 pm
I wish every person in America could read this. Thank you for the words. Beautifully done. May God Bless Us ! 🇺🇸
Cheryl - January 21, 2021 1:30 pm
Farris Jones - January 21, 2021 1:33 pm
Thank you for these beautiful inspiring words at a time when needed most ! “Love your neighbor as yourself” Romans 13:9 , may we all practice this in the days ahead !
firstname.lastname@example.org - January 21, 2021 1:45 pm
Sean, this may be your finest hour! Much needed words. God bless America! 🇺🇸
Gail - January 21, 2021 1:53 pm
Our thoughts and hearts need to be focused on how blessed we are. How we can be a light in our nation and you certainly are. Thanking you for sharing your inspiring gifts.
Sara C Nichols - January 21, 2021 1:54 pm
Thank you. America IS beautiful.
Connie - January 21, 2021 1:58 pm
You never fail to reach my heart. This is beautiful. Thank you. Love and hugs.
MARTHA E HERCHAK - January 21, 2021 2:00 pm
This is one for all time. Thank you, Sean!
John - January 21, 2021 2:12 pm
Karen G - January 21, 2021 2:17 pm
Oh, my goodness, Sean! Didn’t we all need this on this beautiful morning? Thank you for putting the hate and disruptiveness back in the bag for a while. “ This land is your land, this land is my land “ 🙂 Let us remember that and proceed forward- just as soon as I get a tissue to wipe my tears .
Myra - January 21, 2021 2:21 pm
Dear Sean, I thank God for giving you such a precious gift and that you share your gift with words with us! Today I blubbered all the way through your fabulous article starting with the first sentence. That sentence grabbed my heart because you put into words what my heart feels at that sight! I no longer live in the mountains and sorely miss that sight; however, you reminded me that I now have sunrises and sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico to enjoy! I live you to, my brother, my fellow American.
Sue Cronkite - January 21, 2021 2:24 pm
Awesome reminder of who we are.
Bette Ward - January 21, 2021 2:25 pm
Amen – thank you for these wonderful, beautiful and truthful thoughts and words
Eddy - January 21, 2021 2:29 pm
Beautifully expressed. Amen!
Beryl - January 21, 2021 2:38 pm
And so it is
Katrina - January 21, 2021 2:52 pm
Thank you for this piece that was strung words together in such a way as to weave a feeling of both awe and pride, gratitude and humility. You are gifted.
Ruth Klarner - January 21, 2021 2:52 pm
Wonderfully expressed. My sentiments also.
Jane - January 21, 2021 3:01 pm
And from the Ozarks….we say thank you.
Kathie B - January 21, 2021 3:05 pm
What a beautiful reminder of the country we call “home.”
Carolyn Geck - January 21, 2021 3:13 pm
Thank you for bringing back heartfelt memories of pride at places I’ve visited in our wonderful America the beautiful.💓🇺🇸
Bobbie - January 21, 2021 3:14 pm
What’s left to say?? Amen to all. I agree with the one who commented re Biden’s speech….could’ve used some of this if not all. It brought to mind when I went on a mission trip to Africa in ’08. No words to express the feeling as we got close enough to see in the distance the good ole USA!!
I pray in the days ahead people will notice, will look around them ….see this beautiful place God gave us. Thank you dear friend for your heartfelt words to lift us this morning as we go into a new season. God bless you and your beautiful family.
May we be a light to all those living in darkness. ❤️🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
Nancy Huey - January 21, 2021 3:27 pm
Love this, my late husband was determined to have family, at least ride thru all 48 states. When son graduated from Auburn, we went to Hawaii. When daughter graduated from Auburn, we went to Alaska. Love our America, and so do Trumps.
Diana Meek - January 21, 2021 3:34 pm
Thank you, thank you, thank you for reminding us of who we really are and what a great land we are blessed to live in!
Betty Kelly - January 21, 2021 3:35 pm
My heart swells with pride as I read your beautiful words! Thank you Sean for what you write about this magnificent land of ours and may we never take it for granted!!
Patricia - January 21, 2021 3:54 pm
That was so hateful and so unnecessary to say.
Patricia - January 21, 2021 3:57 pm
Trumps love the America they created on January 6th.
Patricia - January 21, 2021 3:58 pm
So hateful and so unnecessary.
S - January 21, 2021 4:03 pm
What an awesome article! Just a few changes in names and the same applies to your northern neighbor! I came to following your columns through an American friend – it’s a breath of fresh air – please keep on.
Deborah Jarvis - January 21, 2021 4:26 pm
Loved this one, Sean. Thank you for the reminders of many of the awe-inspiring places in our great land.
I’m so thankful I’m an American!
Praying for us to be as deTocqueville described us:
“great because we are good “.
Your writing speaks to our minds and hearts!
John Skelton - January 21, 2021 4:28 pm
But you know, we were invaders. Our ancestors came to this land because they needed room to grow. And to do that they had to push out and restrict the area of land Native Americans could live.
I went to summer camp many many years ago, and remember singing “This Land is Your Land” and I liked the message it said. But as I heard it sung at the inauguration, I wondered what those people think of that song today. Not only them, but I can see the African Americans would have something to say about how their ancestors got here.
Just some thoughts.
Jim Springfield - January 21, 2021 4:48 pm
From sea to shining sea! Well said “Maestro of familiar words.”
Jan - January 21, 2021 4:50 pm
Just what I needed to read today. We live in a beautiful country. If only we could just meet each person as an individual without the baggage of labels, I do believe we could go a long way toward the unity that is much discussed these days. As always you have opened my eyes to the world we live in, especially the breath taking beauty we often take for granted. Thank you, Sean!
Ann - January 21, 2021 5:14 pm
What a great reminder of this great America we live in 🇺🇸🇺🇸….it doesn’t go without discord and strife…and we have survived…let us remember all the beauty and good that we have now.
God bless America 🙏🏻🇺🇸
Carol - January 21, 2021 5:20 pm
Oh so perfect! My heart sings…
D - January 21, 2021 5:46 pm
Enjoyed learning some “new” history lessons. Hallelujah God Bless America and you!
Roxanne - January 21, 2021 5:59 pm
What a gorgeous piece of writing. Thank you for sharing it with us. It is a lovely, majestic, and beautiful land. All of those–ALL OF THOSE–who have lived between it’s flanking oceans have known what a beautiful place it is. Just like all of human history, we can point to dark moments–deeds, thoughts, actions that cannot be undone. While we cannot erase those dark moments, we cannot keep our focus there either. We must learn and move forward with gratitude–“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…” The indentured son of a strict father who educated himself, failed, succeeded, struggled with depression, and became our 16th President got it right. And so did you.
Pam - January 21, 2021 6:10 pm
You have expressed the sentiments for so many of us. Thank you!
Ken P - January 21, 2021 6:14 pm
Good one Sean!! With all that is going on, Lord help us to not to focus on it. May we focus on being thankful and enjoying this great, beautiful land we live in! Thanks for the reminder.
Janice Overton - January 21, 2021 6:46 pm
This was something we all needed to hear today. Thank you!
Paul Alge Moore - January 21, 2021 6:47 pm
Hey Sean. I know you avoid getting political at all cost. I understand. It just causes trouble. But I think you snuck one in here very cleverly. I feel so much better today. The anxiety and fear of the last few years have been dreadful for the whole country. I can see a light now and this post made me feel even better. Don’t get political on us Sean I’ll do it for you as smoothly as possible. Thanks Sean
Kathleen McAbee - January 21, 2021 7:10 pm
I love it!
Suzanne Moore - January 21, 2021 7:45 pm
What a wonderful post, Sean. It really puts things into perspective. I wish that every single American would read this today.
Marcia MacLean - January 21, 2021 8:32 pm
Wow! You make me proud to be me and a part of us. Seems like the perfect day to display my flag. God bless the USA!
Linda Moon - January 21, 2021 9:07 pm
America. The beautiful. God bless Her. I’ve been so very blessed to see many of the places that you told us about today. Aye, Sean, I love America, her spirit, and the stories you tell!
Rebecca Souders - January 21, 2021 9:31 pm
Patricia King - January 21, 2021 9:35 pm
You always make me feel better!
Virginia - January 21, 2021 9:38 pm
Loved this one. Gave me goosebumps. Thank you.😊
Helen De Prima - January 21, 2021 9:47 pm
I pray you’re right.
billprather - January 21, 2021 10:29 pm
for my money the best piece of putting words on a page that you have ever written
Bill - January 21, 2021 11:47 pm
Well said. Having been fortunate to have in my lifetime to see many of the wonders of our/my country makes me in awe of what we have. Do not take it for granted. We are all part of the problems we have as well as the solution to them. Embrace it and move forward . This is still, despite all our faults, the best country in the world.
Kim Haynes - January 22, 2021 1:44 am
Beautiful truth! Thanks, Sean! I hope you get to read these words at a future inauguration too!
Jean Stone - January 22, 2021 2:37 am
About halfway into this article it dawned on me…He is spreading Unity! He is reminding us of the pride and the power of place, and how we all are the common denominators of a vast and beautiful country. Your words both remind and inspire and I’m always so grateful for your gift. Thank you.
Alva Barksdale - January 22, 2021 4:45 am
Wow! Just WOW! There are no words to describe the sheer beauty of these words! You should have been reading this in Washington yesterday!
Joseph B Mizereck - January 22, 2021 2:05 pm
Well said young man. Thank you.
Jack L. Giddens - January 22, 2021 6:28 pm
Chasity Davis Ritter - January 22, 2021 10:38 pm
Ok had Lee Greenwood singing 🎶God Bless the USA🎶 Playing in my head while I was reading that. Beautiful as always. We should all take pride in our amazing country.
Melanie McKague - January 23, 2021 12:09 am
I’ve been reading your work for a couple of years now and, while I love them all, this is one of your very best articles. The time you spend on research doesn’t go unnoticed. And with your finger on the pulse of the public, you touch us all… unbiased. Thanks for this especially, Sean. Love, Melanie
Charaleen Wright - February 5, 2021 6:32 am
Julie - February 5, 2021 2:48 pm
Along with reader Ellouise Pennington, and others, I totally agree…you must read this at our next Presidential Inauguration…period, Amen🙏
Love from the Land of Lincoln and the Prairie❣️