“Consider your origin: you were not born to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge,” wrote the eminent Italian poet Dante Alighieri. It was counsel given during a time, the late Middle Ages, when one’s origin was not an uncommon consideration. Much of Europe, including Dante’s Italy, was in political and spiritual crisis following the Crusades and had yet to find its footing during the Renaissance for which his hometown of Florence would become best known. Dante’s counsel from his famous Divine Comedy was certainly timely, even prophetic, given the state of his country at that time. His homeland needed to—and would, shortly after his death in 1321—return to its spiritual, classical roots.
Dante’s words were also timeless. They point to a transcendent truth: that all collective progress is merely an outcrop of individual progress. For any human institution—especially one as large as a country—to recover from any crisis, its people need to return to the foundational virtues from which all enduring human institutions originate: gratitude, personal responsibility, and sacrifice.
I know no greater proof of the power of these three qualities than the rise of the American dynasty. What three qualities better describe the manner in which our founding fathers claimed our freedom in 1776, and our grandfathers defended our freedom during World War II. While other qualities were certainly present, none were more prevalent than an ever-present gratitude for freedom, an impenetrable personal responsibility for one’s own well-being, and an ongoing obligation to sacrifice for the sake of others and the institutions that provide them with freedom.
If America is to return to greatness, the path is clear. We must consider our origin and return the path of leadership made clear by our forefathers and grandfathers. From there, all details become clear.